Racing lines: Looking back at the drama of BTCC 1989
Sytner and Weaver ruled BTCC Class B in the late 1980s
Today’s fast-paced leadership battle brings back memories of when Sierra RS500s chased BMW E30 M3s for the top spot
The handsome new BMW 3 Series is flying high in its first British Touring Car Championship season. Colin Turkington is set for a record-equalling fourth title, team-mate Andrew Jordan is chasing him and another makes title beckons.
The cars look splendid in BMW’s traditional white, blue and red. But they’ve triggered a memory. Ahead of the BTCC’s second visit of 2019 to Thruxton, let’s scroll back 30 years. Have tin-tops ever looked better than Prodrive’s boxy M3 E30s?
YouTube is a great time-waster. Here’s a BBC Grandstand gem, complete with the soothing tones of Steve Rider (still at the helm) and FANTASTIC commentary from the one and only Murray Walker.
Those were the days of four classes, when a bevy of Sierra Cosworth RS500s ruled on boost. And on top at Thruxton was devilish club racing legend Dave Brodie. Whispers he was running illegal fuel sparked a pre-race TV tirade drivers wouldn’t give today: “They prance around in their overalls all day long, but when it comes to getting the business done they’re a bunch of wallies,” sneered ‘Brode’. “Apart from Andy.”
Ah, Rouse, whose title record Turkington could equal. Andy ended up with another of his 60 BTCC victories that day, but only after early contact with Brode, who led easily until a tyre blew out. Rider then tells us Dave was running illegal fuel after all…
Back in Class B, James Weaver and Frank Sytner – “he’s had more rolls than Joe’s caff”, slammed Brode – went to war again in the M3s. But this time the sting was taken out by Sytner hitting trouble. Cue more TV gold. When asked about their famously fractious relationship, a droll Weaver says: “Normally when we get back to the motorhome the atmosphere is atrocious… but once we’ve sat down and had a cup of tea, Frank and I get on very well. There’s no animosity…” The twinkle in his eye is almost blinding.
The race was shortened by a massive shunt for Robb Gravett’s RS500 after he clipped Phil Dowsett’s Toyota Corolla at Segrave. No safety cars in those days. The race rumbled on as a blue BARC van parked in front of the carnage to ‘protect’ the marshals. Only a sea of fire extinguishant finally forced an early finish. Ah, when racing was lethal.
John Cleland’s Vauxhall Astra won Class C easily, as he did all that year, to win the overall title. That always seemed unfair. In some ways motor racing has lost some of its earthy charm, but in others it’s so much better today. Turkington’s title will be much harder won.
Source: Autocar Online