Classic BTCC races – Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch – one of the most famous race circuits in the country. Famed for its many unique corners including the daunting ‘downhill Eau Rouge’ that is Paddock Hill Bend, the Kent-based strip of tarmac was once the venue for the British Grand Prix where Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell have tasted success.

To this day it still hosts many a tense Touring Car race, and here are a few classics that have taken place over the years…

1988 – Rouse and Soper’s thrilling Sierra battle

This was a fantastic race that was practically Touring Car perfection, featuring a race-long dice between what several fans will choose as two of the greatest Touring Car drivers – Andy Rouse and Steve Soper – both in what was one of the most famous and popular cars in the sport’s history – the Ford Sierra Cosworth.

(Originally uploaded to Youtube by )

Topped off by unpredictable weather and commentary from the briliant Murray Walker, the pair swapped places lap after lap in a battle which was intriguing due to the power of Rouse’s Sierra over the spectacular more nimble car of rival Soper.

The battle was won by Rouse in the end despite Soper’s frustration to get around him keeping the battle exiting in the latter laps, a race that both apprieciated themselves being a part of.

1992 – Toyota team-mates take each other out

By 1992, the championship had moved into the much-loved Super Touring era, and Rouse was again a key figure this season as he partnered the reigning champion Will Hoy at Toyota, an inter-team battle that blew up at Brands Hatch. 

(Originally uploaded to Youtube by )

The pair started on the front row and were rubbing door handles already heading into Paddock Hill for the first time, with Hoy coming out in first position before being overtaken by Rouse coming out of Graham Hill Bend.

Hoy retaliated two corners later by sliding inside Rouse at Hawthorn bend allowing John Cleland through into second place, before it all boiled over on lap two, starting when Hoy ran wide heading onto the back straight and lost the lead to Cleland, with Rouse getting a run and trying to take second around the outside of his team-mate at Hawthorn.

Then came one of the most iconic images from the series in its many years when the pair squeezed each other for space, neither giving in to one another, and the two blue Toyotas speared into the barriers at Westfield, Rouse wandering around the wreckage wondering what had just happened afterwards. 

2003 – Turkington sntaches late first win

The young Irishman was in his second season of his BTCC career, and the 2009 champion took his first win at Brands Hatch in a great fight between MG and Vauxhall.

(Originally uploaded to Youtube by )

Yvan Muller lead Turkington all the way until a late restart gave the quicker MG driver a chance to attack the leader with a lap to go. Muller cracked when he braked too late into the first corner, allowed Turkington through to win and more dramatically, best friend (not) Anthony Reid to dive bomb the Vauxhall and put them both throught the gravel.

Turkington celebrated, while in parc ferme afterwards Muller confronted Reid and grabbed the Scot by the scruff of the neck in rage.

2004, race three – Huff wins crazy one-lap shootout

A safety car for an incident late in the final race of the day at a superb round at Brands Hatch left the race with only one lap of racing to go on the restart. What followed was the most dramatic action-packed lap in touring car racing…

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By this point, Jason Plato – not entirely out of championship contention – had brilliantly made his way to the lead of the race after slipping a few places despite carrying maximum ballast from performing his tradition that year of winning the reverse grid race. But a slow getaway meant that championship leader James Thompson and MG’s Colin Turkington jumped the SEAT driver at the start before spectacularly running side-by side for virtually the entire 40 second opening lap of the indy circuit.

Plato then began to pick up his pace, and passed Thompson’s Vauxhall at Clearways before repeating the move and slipping up the inside of Turkington at Paddock Hill bend to take the lead. Thompson then began to struggle and found himself battling with team-mate and championship rival Yvan Muller, only to run wide through the gravel at Paddock Hill later in the race and drop down the order dramatically.

Plato entering the closing stages was looking comfortable, but he was being closed on by Matt Neal who had made his way up to second place after taking advantage of a moment at Paddock Hill between Muller and Turkington and lapping much quicker then the leader. Then as Thompson had his off, the worst case scenario for Plato unfolded as the field was bunched up behind the safety car to remove James Kaye’s Honda Civic which went straight on at Druids.

This resulted in the race being restarted with only one short lap to go, and nobody could have seen what was coming next.

As they started the last lap dash Neal immediately tried to pressure Plato at the first corner but outbraked himself and tagged the back of the SEAT, sending the pair into a huge slide where Muller weaved through the pair to lead into Druids. This should have sealed it but he then braked too late and ran wide into the corner where he was tagged by the equally late-braking Plato, delaying them which sensationally allowed the other SEAT of rookie Rob Huff to slip through and take the lead and a popular first BTCC win.

Behind, mayhem was still breaking out as cars were either side-by-side or on the grass, with Plato taking second ahead of another unexpected podium finisher, Michael Bentwood in his privateer Astra.


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