Scotland’s Knockhill circuit is one of the shortest tracks on the calendar, but famed for its classic corners and undulating nature that makes it a high-speed rollercoaster, producing tight, often aggressive action and many memorable races over the years in BTCC, some of which we look back on in this feature…
The Fife track is home ground of local favourite Gordon Shedden, who has won here three times in the past (2007, 2010, 2011), while one of his championship rivals Jason Plato has won round this circuit eight times since 1997.
1994 – Tarquini roll sparks classic Murrayism
The 1994 visit to the Knockhill circuit was proving to be a difficult one for the all-conquering Alfa Romeo team and their number one driver – the eventual champion of that particular season – Gabriele Tarquini.
Marred down the field during a somewhat mid-season slump for the team, Tarquini found himself in the middle of a fight he wished he had not been in among, a long way away from the Renault Laguna of eventual winner of this particular race, Alain Menu.
Menu’s team-mate Tim Harvey was making his way through the field further down the order and eventually found his way up to the rear bumper of seventh place man Tarquini, where he then misjudged a late-braking lunge into the tight Scotman’s corner.
The resulting contact tipped the Alfa into a dramatic barrel roll, which left the thankfully unhurt Tarquini looking somewhat dazed at the side of the track and his Alfa 155 in tatters.
Cue a piece of memorable enthusiasm (as ever) from Murray Walker in the commentary box as he gasped at what he was witnessing.
2004 – Homeboy Reid brilliant through chaos
The 2004 trio of races were full of entertainment, starting from when James Thompson suffered a crash with Matt Neal the previous day, but the real story that weekend was the home heroics from Scot Anthony Reid – who re-ignited his championship chances with a win in race one and a superb win in race three by charging through the field.
After claiming pole position, Reid beat Tom Chilton in the foggy opening race, Chilton fending off a train of cars in a tight battle for second place with Reid’s team-mate Colin Turkington and Thompson.
The three battled over the opening laps, with Thompson driving round the outside of Turkington for third with a great move at Duffus Dip before sliding past Chilton for second on lap three. Turkington soon fought back however, cutting inside Chilton to take third into the chicane before nicking the place from Thompson who fell behind Chilton, a 1-2 finish for the MG ZS pairing denied by a penalty after the race for Turkington.
Race two saw a famous BTCC image of Chilton almost rolling his Star Wars-sponsored Arena Honda Civic with some over-enthusiastic kerb-hopping stunts, stuck in a war with the two WSR MGs of Reid and Turkington which ended in contact at the hairpin as Reid squeezed inside both of them and Turkington’s car left crabbing with suspension damage from the trio’s collision.
Thompson meanwhile had run into yet more trouble when he was tagged into a half spin at Butcher’s corner heading downhill, sending the Vauxhall through the grass and down the order. Jason Plato dominated the race from the front of the pack, after taking advantage of his 2004 favourite tactic of claiming the reverse grid pole.
The third race saw Reid charge through the field in a great show for WSR, Turkington coming through from the back of the grid to third, while Reid made his way up to second past the battle for the spot lead by Plato. Reid chased down leader Dan Eaves and made his move when he caught the Halfords Honda, making it two wins in a day for the Scot.
Elsewhere, a crazy scrap between the SEATs of Jason Plato and Rob Huff and the Vauxhalls of Yvan Muller and Thompson ended in drama as the quartet all fought over the same piece of track exiting Scotsmans, where contact saw Muller this time ironically spinning off in the same place that title rival Thompson had earlier that day in the second race.
2005 – Neal stakes title claim through the rain
2005 saw three thrilling – and at times controversial – races in soaking Scottish conditions, where Matt Neal and Yvan Muller’s championship fight really heated up.
Muller and Neal made their way to the front in race one, where it was the Honda man who upped the pace and caught Muller for the lead, making a bold move stick on lap 20.
Muller retaliated with a controversial shove up the rear that put Neal off the road two corners later, going on to win despite another late recovery surge from Neal.
Rob Collard superbly won race three for the WSR MG squad, which saw Muller’s championship chances damaged badly by a mechanical retirement. However, this created further drama as the slowing Muller tactically held Neal back, which prompted madness as Plato almost tipped Neal off the road in the bottleneck that sent cars scattering.
Neal survived to claim yet more vital points, helping him towards claiming a maiden BTCC crown that season.
2006, race two – Giovanardi holds them off for Vauxhall’s 100th win
The second race in 2006 will be one of the BTCC’s most memorable races, and it had a historic result at the end of it when multiple World touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi took his first victory of his debut BTCC season, as well as his Vauxhall team’s 100th race win in the championship which had been a long time coming.
However, he had to do it the hard way in a sluggish Astra by fending off a train of cars all race that eventually ended in the BTCC version of NASCAR’s ‘big one’ breaking out on the last lap.
From fourth on the grid the Italian got himself up behind Jason Plato before snatching the lead from the SEAT man, then shortly afterwards Plato and Matt Neal had a tangle at Clark when the eventual champion Neal tried an optimistic lunge on his rival that sent Plato sliding wide and down the field.
Neal and SEAT’s Darren Turner then spent the entirety of the race swapping places whilst trying to find a way around Giovanardi, but the door was always shut.
The Astra was struggling on its tyres and the queue got more and more bunched, leading to Gordon Shedden being fired into the tyre wall late in the race and then Plato returning the favour on Neal at Clark curve accidentally when everybody tripped over each other behind the struggling leader, the pair spinning and resulting in a wreckage site as Mike Jordan and Tom Chilton both piled in too.
‘Gio’ took his first and Vauxhall’s emotional 100th win at last, while Plato’s championship hopes were destroyed as he retired with three wheels on his wagon that sent him skating off the road at the final hairpin while trying to nurse the battered Leon home.
Whether the Italian can repeat the result in 2014 is a different story, but Knockhill is a circuit that invites the opportunity.