An era of British motorsport which dates back over 20 years will be brought to an end this weekend when Vauxhall bids farewell to the British Touring Car Championship. After two decades of competition in this premier British racing series the multi-champion manufacturer will contest the final three races of this season at Brands Hatch circuit. VX Racing, the manufacturer team run by Triple Eight Engineering, with drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan, will make their final appearance at the Kent track. Giovanardi remains in contention for his third, back-to-back, Drivers’ Championship title, VX Racing is still battling for the Teams’ title, while Vauxhall has already provisionally secured the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship.
Vauxhall will be bringing together the stars and cars of its BTCC campaigns for the final round of this season. The Brands Hatch round will bring together some of Vauxhall’s most successful, former BTCC drivers including Jeff Allam, Phil Bennett, Derek Warwick, John Cleland and Yvan Muller.
The venue will also be the backdrop for a display which includes the Astra B GTE, Cavalier, Astra Coupe, Astra Sport Hatch, Vectra, and one of Vauxhall’s most significant race cars, ‘Old Nail’. Old Nail is the most successful saloon race car of all time being the first ever production and race Firenza. It started life as a Firenza, driven by Gerry Marshall and went through a series of modifications, from special saloon to super saloon and others, winning 63 races and many championships.
Vauxhall’s motorsport history is rich and varied, stretching from rallying and saloon car series to junior single seater championships, although it is the British Touring Car Championship which has been the mainstay of the marque’s motor racing heritage. The British car manufacturer first entered BTCC in 1976 with the Vauxhall Magnum Coupe. Gerry Marshall won his class and third overall in that year and Jeff Allam finished fourth overall a year later. It was 12 years later when Vauxhall returned to the Championship and started their long tenure with the series, with the company focusing on the saloon car championships in the intervening years.
John Cleland drove an Astra B GTE model for the marque’s return in 1989, winning the series overall, having amassed the largest points haul in his class. Once into the ‘Super Touring’ era, with a single class touring formula and 2-litre engines, Vauxhall has competed in every season, firstly with the Cavalier II, then the Vectra B, followed by the Astra G Coupe, Astra H Sports Hatch and latterly, the Vectra C.
The Astra Coupe proved to be one of the outstanding models in BTCC history. Vauxhall was the dominant force in 2001 with its new model. The Triple Eight-engineered car won 25 of the 26 rounds and in a dramatic final round at Brands Hatch, and after a season of bitter rivalry, Jason Plato beat team-mate Yvan Muller to achieve his first title. In 2002, the Astra was again untouchable, although manufacturer entries from Honda and MG kept it on its toes. James Thompson this time beat Muller to the crown. Vauxhall would win the next two titles with Muller and, again, Thompson, the latter’s second crown in 2004 being achieved by a margin of just one point from his French team-mate (thanks to setting the fastest race lap in the season’s very last race). The Astra Coupe remains one of the most successful in BTCC history with an incredible 62 wins from 96 starts in the manufacturer’s hands.
In 2006 seven times (and three-times European) touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi joined VX Racing. After a year without a victory campaigning the Astra Sport Hatch, the Italian driver notched up Vauxhall’s 100th BTCC win. For 2007 Vauxhall switched to the Vauxhall Vectra and this, once again, dominated the championship. In its first season Giovanardi took it to his first BTCC title, including a dramatic final round showdown against Plato. The Italian Touring Car master followed this up with another title in 2008 and is now in the thick of the fight for his third straight title.
Vauxhall BTCC drivers: 1989 - 2009
1989 John Cleland, Louise Aitken Walker, Jeremy Rossiter
1991 John Cleland, Jeff Allam, Bob Berridge, David Coulthard
1992 James Thompson, John Cleland, Jeff Allam, Bob Berridge, David Coulthard
1993 John Cleland, Jeff Allam
1994 John Cleland, Jeff Allam
1995 John Cleland, James Thompson, Jeff Allam* , Mike Briggs*
1996 John Cleland, James Thompson
1997 John Cleland, Derek Warwick
1998 John Cleland, Derek Warwick
1999 John Cleland, Yvan Muller
2000 Yvan Muller, Jason Plato, Vincent Radermecker
2001 Yvan Muller, Jason Plato
2002 Yvan Muller, James Thompson
2003 Yvan Muller, James Thompson, Paul O'Neill
2004 Yvan Muller, James Thompson, Luke Hines
2005 Yvan Muller, Colin Turkington, Gavin Smith
2006 Fabrizio Giovanardi, Tom Chilton, Gavin Smith
2007 Fabrizio Giovanardi, Tom Chilton, Alain Menu
2008 Fabrizio Giovanardi, Matt Neal, Tom Onslow-Cole
2009 Fabrizio Giovanardi, Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan
NB. This list only considers 'works' drivers
*Stand-ins for James Thompson after Knockhill accident
(i) Team Egg Sport drivers: James Thompson, Phil Bennett & Andy Priaulx
(ii) Team Egg Sport drivers: Matt Neal & Paul O Neill
British Touring Car Championship success
1989 John Cleland * Astra GTE Class & O/all winner
1991 John Cleland Cavalier Gsi * Runner-up
1992 J Cleland/J Allam/D Leslie* Cavalier Gsi ** Manufacturers title
1995 J Cleland *** Cavalier GSi ** Drivers’ Championship winner
2001 Jason Plato * Astra Coupe *** Drivers’ Championship winner
2002 * James Thompson ** Astra Coupe Drivers’ Championship winner
2003 Yvan Muller * Astra Coupe ** Drivers’ Championship winner
2004 James Thompson Astra Coupe ** Drivers’ Championship winner
2005 Manufacturers’ title
2007 Fabrizio Giovanardi * Vectra ****** Drivers’ Championship winner
2008 Fabrizio Giovanardi * Vectra * Drivers’ Championship winner