This the second part of our lookback at the 1991 BTCC season, 30 years on. To read part one, click here!
The Debut of a Future Superstar
Read the race archive for Round 7 here.
The next round, which supported the British Grand-Prix at Silverstone, would see a number of new faces on the grid. David Leslie would return in a BMW, and saloon car expert Matthew ‘Matt’ Neal would also have a one-off drive in the Pyramid BMW.
Silverstone would also see the debut of Andrew McKenzie in his Peugeot 405Mi16 – another new car on the grid. Grahame Davis would return in his Rover 216GTi too, but he pulled-out when his Rover was found to still be off the pace.
The race would see Soper and Hoy break away from the pack, with Hoy happy to take runner-up slot. The BMWs of Harvey, Bellm and Palmer would follow them home with the Toyota of Rouse battling with Cleland all the way to the finish.
Double Header Chaos
Read the race archive for Round 8 here.
Round 8 at Donington would be the first ever double race meeting and a crowd of 40,000 lined the track in anticipation of some exciting action. The first race saw an aggressive pass by Hoy on Cleland on the first lap, with Soper passing the Scotsman a few corners later. Rouse would pass Cleland a lap later and the trio would slowly pull away at the front. Soper then let the quicker Rouse through to 2nd on lap 6 allowing him to chase down Hoy at the front. The Toyota driver was then handed the lead when Hoy made a series of miss-shifts which damaged his engine, which ultimately led to his retirement from the race. Rouse finished in front, giving the Toyota its first ever victory, followed closely by Soper. Cleland finishing some way back in 3rd.
The teams now had just ten minutes to prepare the cars for the second race of the day. The grid for the second race would be the finishing positions for the first, effectively giving Rouse his first pole of the year, with Soper, Cleland and Palmer behind. Championship leader Hoy was unable to start the second race, due to the short turnaround between the races not leaving enough time to repair his car.
The race itself would be cut into two when on lap 6, Nick Whale’s BMW engine seized at McLeans, casuing him to spin on his own oil. Whale’s team mate was next along the track and he spun too, narrowly avoiding his team mate’s stricken car. Mark Hales lost control on the oil too, crashing into the barrier. As the leaders came along, Rouse avoided the carnage, but Vauxhall drivers Allam and Cleland couldn’t, with Allam spearing straight into the BMW of Whale, destroying both cars. Mercifully, nobody was seriously injured.
The restart saw Rouse take the second win of the day, with Bellm holding onto 2nd even though his gear stick had snapped off. Gravett finished ahead of Palmer but the result was reversed when the aggregate scores were calculated. Hoy, who had failed to score in either of the days races, still managed to hold onto a 27 point lead as a consequence of 2nd placed Jeff Allam failing to finish too.
The Cavalier Class
Read the race archive for Round 9 here.
“We are really struggling here, Cleland is in a different class.” were the words of Steve Soper, as the BTCC arrived at Oulton Park for round 9 of the championship. He wasn’t wrong either, with Cleland setting a qualifying lap over 0.7s quicker than anyone else. Rouse lined up 2nd, with leader Hoy down in 6th.
Another new model graced the grid for this round, as Jeff Wilson joined the series with HWR Motorsport, running a Vauxhall Belmont, which was the saloon version of the Astra.
Cleland pulled away in the race, leaving the likes of Hoy, Soper & Rouse battling behind. Gary Ayles was putting on a strong showing in the Toyota, passing Palmer for 5th place before putting it onto the grass and into the wall, which left oil all over Island bend.
Both Whale and Neal had big moments on the oil, Matt spinning wildly and only just avoiding the stationary Toyota. With his tyres shot, he decided to retire. Cleland won the race, from Will Hoy and Steve Soper. Further back, Lawrence Bristow had a huge accident at Island, losing it on the oil. He missed Ayles’ car by mere inches and hit the wall very hard, suffering from whiplash and heavy bruising.
Kieth O’dor’s Nissan completed the point scorers, his Nissan getting better with every round.
Honours Even at Brands
Read the race archive for Round 10 here.
0.6 seconds covered the top 10 in qualifying at Brands Hatch, with Andy Rouse in the Toyota beating championship leader Will Hoy to pole position.
There were more cars on the grid for this meeting, with 8 manufacturers represented. Grahame Davis returned in his Rover 216, whilst David Brodie made his season debut with the eye catching 4WD Ford Sierra Sapphire. “We planned to start the season with RWD, then turn the car into a 4WD car later on in the season, but we changed our plans and went straight to 4WD with it,” said Brodie.
Another to impress, was John Llewellyn – the Welshman qualifying 10th on his return to the series in the Techspeed BMW vacated by Nick Baird.
Tyres were talk of the town in the heat at Brands Hatch – with Yokohamas being the tyre to beat. The Dunlop-shod Vauxhall of John Cleland was 6th on the grid.
At the start of the first race, Hoy got the better of Rouse and Cleland jumped from 6th to 2nd, the championship’s top 2 looked like they were going to do battle again, but nobody told Rouse, who passed Cleland on lap 2. Harvey then spun trying to overtake Cleland, spinning into the gravel at the bottom of Paddock.
Meanwhile, Gary Ayles was on a fine run, his Toyota really suiting the hot conditions & he soon got by Cleland for third place and would finish there, his first podium finish of the season.
Ayles’ run would end there though. After stalling on the warm up lap, he tried to fight his way back through the field and collected Frank Sytner as he warmed his tyres. Sytner was furious, but the Toyota was damaged and parked up before the race started.
Race 2 was a race of attrition, with only 7 cars finishing. The hot weather causing a variety of mechanical issues for several teams. Hoy won comfortably from Gravett & Cleland. The Scotsman incensed with Gravett, who he had felt had used him as a brake in the final few laps. It was the reigning champions best result of the season so far.
Cleland Hangs On
Read the race archive for Round 11 here.
John Cleland kept his title hopes alive at Donington Park, with a convincing win – after dominating the whole of the race weekend.
However, it was BMW’s Tim Sugden who led into Redgate on Lap 1, with Cleland having a poor start and dropping from pole position, instead Cleland would be second, followed by Palmer and Harvey. Cleland soon took the lead back though & immediately pulled away.
Hoy in fourth soon found a way past Palmer and held third until the finish. With 2 races to go, he held a 20 point lead over John Cleland.
Harvey’s second place meant that he was back into positive points – his engine disqualification earlier in the season losing him 48 points.
Read the race archive for Round 12 here.
With only 2 races left in the fight for the BTCC title, Hoy could clinch the title at Thruxton with a win. Stakes were high and Vauxhall drafted in Bob Berridge, whilst Vic Lee’s BMW squad put Armin Hahne into a car.
Palmer took pole, but only 2 tenths covered the front three rows of the grid. He was leading a BMW 1-2, as Soper was second on the grid. Things were very tense indeed.
Unbelievably, at the race start, both BMW’s were slow away from the line & Cleland pulled off into the lead. Soper started to hotly persue Cleland, with Steve outbraking the Vauxhall into the Club chicane on Lap 1. The two crossed the line side by side & remained that way until the complex. As Soper held Cleland wide, Will Hoy ducked past both of them and into the lead.
The Scotsman fell to fifth and appeared to be struggling to keep pace with the front runners – until Lap 10, when Palmer attempted an optimistic move on Hoy, who spun and dropped back to seventh, behind Cleland!
Cleland was really struggling with his tyres and Hoy was soon attempting a pass, but with two bits of contact between the pair in quick succession, the BMW was soon out with damage. Cleland’s BMW limped home to 8th, keeping his title hopes alive going into the final meeting.
Steve Soper won from team-mate Jonathan Palmer, whilst debutant Hahne rounded off the podium with an impressive race to third.
Read the race archive for Round 13 here.
A wet qualifying saw Andy Rouse place his Toyota on pole position for the season finale, over 1 second quicker than John Cleland, who was alongside him on the front row. Will Hoy lined up third out of 25 qualifiers, the biggest grid of the season.
Rouse took the lead at the start, with Hoy jumping Cleland and taking 2nd place, until Stowe, where Cleland snatched 2nd place back. Middlehurst was 4th in his Sierra, with Palmer and O’Dor following behind.
By lap 3, Rouse had over a 2 second lead and Cleland was clearly holding up the pack, struggling with his tyres to the extent that Rouse was a second a lap quicker than him. Middlehurst did the Scot a favour by passing Hoy for 3rd place, with Harvey doing the same a lap later, with him then getting past Middlehurst and Cleland not long after and taking 2nd.
Harvey began reeling in Rouse, who was powerless to defend Harvey’s pass into Priory, meanwhile Cleland was really beginning to struggle with tyres. He dropped behind Middlehurst, Hoy and Leslie – his title chances now looked finished.
As the battles continued, Jeff Wilson escaped unharmed after rolling his unique Vauxhall Belmont after contact with Godfrey Hall.
With Cleland dropping to 9th at the flag, Hoy was the champion. Hoy had been ahead all season & deservedly took the title, even if Cleland and Vauxhall had pushed him all the way.