The iconic Silverstone circuit is a favourite for drivers and British fans alike, and has always provided the British Touring Car Championship with a race weekend full of thrills and spills. We have therefore looked back at some classic BTCC encounters over the past years as we build up to the penultimate round of the season…
1989 – Rouse wins Sierra scrap, Cleland becomes champion
Still in the pre-Supertouring days of BTCC, the final round of the 1989 season produced a new champion, while another true great of the series fought hard to win at Silverstone – Andy Rouse.
In 1989, the BTCC still ran with an often-debated multiple class system, which meant that more than often the overall champion would be not always be the fastest man in the fastest car. In this situation, John Cleland took his first of two BTCC titles, racing a Vauxhall Astra in the 2-litre class after a nervous race that saw him stall and start from the back in a race which required him to take the class win to be champion.
In a grid consisting of three classes, Welshman Karl Jones put his car on pole for the first time in his career in a grid containing 14 Ford Sierra RS500 machines, Jones leading the way by fending off a charging Rob Gravett into turn one, Rouse slipping back to fifth place only to gain a place on Mike Smith at Becketts.
Jones came out of the first corner sluggishly however, falling behind Gravett and Tim Harvey while Rouse rounded Jones on the outside of Stowe corner for third. Further back, Graham Goode‘s race took a hefty knock – as did his Sierra – when Lawrence Bristow tagged him into a spin at the chicane, Dave Brodie left with nowhere to go but smack into the front of Goode’s car.
Rouse quickly passed Harvey and chased after Gravett, scything into the lead on the Hangar straight. Gravett was not finished yet however, and kept Rouse in his sights as Harvey continued to hang on in third place.
The fight suddenly came back to life in the dying laps as Gravett closed in on Rouse and challenged for the lead into the penultimate chicane, muscling alongside the #1 Sierra which would not yield, contact as they flicked the other direction half-spinning Gravett who re-joined still second ahead of Harvey.
Rouse won his sixth race of the year from Harvey who eased Gravett aside at Stowe, Bristow fourth ahead of a big fight for fifth overall won by Chris Hodgetts who passed Smith and Jones, Jerry Mahoney a casualty after a tangle with a backmarker heading up to Stowe.
Cleland meanwhile recovered in fine style to work his way to the front of the 2-litre class, enough to claim the overall title despite James Weaver doing all he needed to in the class above him by leaving a fight for second between fellow BMW drivers Frank Sytner and Godfrey Hall in his wake.
The championship soon underwent big changes, eventually leading to the Supertouring era in 1991 which saw an end to the monster machines of the 80s.
1998 – Volvo’s Rickard Rydell becomes champion
Silverstone had already produced a popular win in the second round of the season, when Will Hoy claimed the first win in race four of 1998 for the newest Ford Mondeo model thanks to tactical genius in changeable wet weather conditions.
However, it was the final meeting of the season held at the same circuit that produced some fantastic end of season scraps, and a new BTCC champion in Sweden’s Rickard Rydell. The Volvo S40 driver produced a superbly calm weekend under pressure to claim his one and only BTCC title in a straight contest with Nissan’s Anthony Reid, securing pole position for what would be a frenetic sprint race.
Rydell looked set to romp away but Reid kept the fight exciting by forcing past James Thompson at Brooklands for second.
Thompson was having none of it however and squeezed around the outside of Reid to pull his Honda ahead through the Island chicane, a corner before the Scot’s title aspirations ended when he clattered into Thompson having completely out-braked himself at Abbey.
Battles erupted down the field as Thompson slid back down the field, Yvan Muller’s Audi inheritting second spot from David Leslie, the late BTCC hero being spun out at the Island chicane by the second Honda Accord of Peter Kox.
On an oil-created safety car restart, Thompon suddenly found himself back in second by passing Muller, while behind them reigning champion Alain Menu was in the wars, being punted wide at Abbey by Kox’s Honda.
Thompson’s amazing recovery was completed when he got a better run from the exit of Copse and took the lead from Rydell, claiming what would be his fourth win of 1998, Rydell’s second place behind him sealing the Swede the championship crown.
An amazing race that epitomised the Super Touring era of BTCC continued its dice down the field meanwhile, the Renault Lagunas of Menu and newly-crowned Independent champion Tommy Rustad fighting it out with the two works Vauxhalls of Derek Warwick and John Cleland.
Menu split them and hunted for a way past Cleland, but he did not expect to see Rustad come drifting past him briefly heading through Copse, the works team newbie for Silverstone having a moment of smugness before Warwick punted him off a corner later. The fight ended in more drama when Menu bumped Cleland off the road at Abbey, a move Cleland disapproved of so much so that he had to be dragged away from a confrontation with the Swiss after the race.
2004, race three – Chilton becomes a winner, Reid becomes the bad boy
The final race of an entertaining 2004 Silverstone meeting produced a famous milestone when the then baby-faced Tom Chilton took an amazing debut BTCC win. It also, however, became famous in park ferme afterwards in a very hot-headed affair, Anthony Reid becoming the villain early on in a tight season.
Championship contender Yvan Muller produced the third race’s first plice of drama before the start when his Vauxhall didn’t even make the race thanks to mechanical failure, leaving VX Racing team-mate James Thompson on pole.
Thompson used this to his advantage to take the early lead from the WSR MGs of Reid and Colin Turkington, before SEAT’s Rob Huff dived inside the Irishman for third at the international circuit’s Abbey hairpin.
The lead MG of Reid meanwhile was on the tail of Thompson very quickly and made a late dive at Becketts that didn’t pay off, before rudely bumping Thompson out the way at Brooklands to take the lead, Thompson’s Astra sustaining suspension damage that hindered him from then on.
The real threat however came from race one winner Matt Neal who had been scything through the field in this race, passing Turkington and then Huff with a bold move at Becketts on the SEAT rookie, the Halfords Honda man now up to second and closing in on Reid rapidly.
Behind them, Chilton had driven a very canny race, picking off his battling rivals having started a long way down in 10th place. The Arena Motorsport Honda Civic youngster had been quietly following Neal through the field, contact between Jason Plato and Thompson at Abbey hairpin sending both – and Turkington – wide to allow Chilton to sneakily jump up to fourth.
Soon the Civic pair were all over leader Reid, Neal getting a great run on the Scot coming onto the back straight. Both squeezed each other and ran out of room, bouncing through the grass and allowing Chilton to suddenly emerge in the race lead.
Neal dropped back down the order with front splitter damage, while Chilton held on to take a memorable maiden BTCC race win ahead of Reid and Plato, becoming the youngster series race winner at just 19 years old. Carl Breeze also shone in the chaos, the Alfa Romeo Independent finishing fifth on a weekend that also saw Kelvin Burt return to lead race two.
Chilton’s success was only one of the stories, as scenes then erupted in the post-race interviews when Reid and Neal had a war of words in front of the television cameras, Reid extending his growing list of penalty points from a fiesty start to 2004 on a weekend that Thompson quoted: “the bloke’s a clown – he should be juggling balls in a circus somewhere.”
2005 – Hines and Howell hide from the madness
The BTCC’s first visit to the new national circuit came in 2005, and it proved a very messy and unpredictable weekend for most of the field.
Championship leader Matt Neal for example had a rough weekend in which he seemed to attract trouble from all corners at the short layout, but he was far from being the only one.
Tom Chilton had took the spoils in race one, but he was the innocent victim of a crazy and quite scary incident with Jason Plato on lap five of race two when Plato clipped the rear corner of the Honda Civic and sent Chilton into a huge spin heading down the back straight, Chilton’s car somehow not firing into the barriers or being collected by the oncoming field as his Honda slid backwards into Brooklands before rotating back the right way and remaining in the top 10 astonishingly.
The race then came alive and got extremely physical, James Pickford sliding off from fourth before MG’s Rob Collard lost out to both Luke Hines and Neal into Brooklands.
The SEAT and Honda pair made hefty door-to-door contact at Luffield before Collard finished the job on Neal and sent the championship leader spinning almost head-on into the barriers. Neal somehow recovered the moment to return the fray, continuing what would be a 100% finishing record in his first title-winning year.
Yvan Muller would have taken big points out of Neal’s points lead with third, but he too ran into trouble of a more unlucky nature when he was forced to retire his Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch with engine failure.
Plato won the race, but was excluded for the contact with Chilton, meaning that team-mate Hines inherited his first SEAT victory by finishing second after Gareth Howell suffered terrible luck with a mechanical failure that effectively robbed him of a first BTCC win after the Halfords Honda addition fought his way up to second place.
He made up for it later that day though, brilliantly winning race three in fine syle. Howell charged from 12th on the grid to fourth after an amazingly tight first lap, becoming third after team leader Neal dropped back after a mistake at Copse corner.
After a safety car interloped proceedings, Howell passed Chilton for second before securing a hard-fought debut win with a bold move on Collard at the second part of the Luffield complex.
2012 – Jackson and Plato go back to front
2013’s visit to Silverstone also qualifies for this list, and quite comprehensively so thanks to two sensational drives from the back of the field by Mat Jackson and Jason Plato, the former claiming a milestone first win for his Motorbase team’s new NGTC Ford Focus.
Jackson and the new in-house-built Focus were mightily fast at the National circuit all weekend, and the 2008 runner-up proved to be Plato and MG’s only real rival at Silverstone on Sunday.
Battling for the lead in race one, Jackson grabbed the lead from the Triple Eight driver, but was cruelly denied the win by a driveshaft failure that gifted Plato the maximum points. It did however set up a scenario for race two that played itself out so perfectly, Motorbase would have thought it was scripted…
Jackson started 17th, and was into the top 10 by lap five before making a move for ninth on Andy Neate, a lap later taking advantage of Tom Onslow-Cole into Becketts while the BMW driver battled with Gordon Shedden before instantly driving by the Honda Civic driver for seventh place.
The Redstone Ford driver’s charge continued as he slid up the inside of Nick Foster into Copse corner on lap eight, before out-braking Rob Austin‘s Audi for fifth two corners later at Brooklands.
On the restart following a fire for Matt Neal’s Honda, Jackson immediately took team-mate Aron Smith for fourth and then Dave Newsham for third at Brooklands on lap 18 of 25, before senastionally leading on lap 20.
In a reversal of fortune from race one, Plato’s MG crawled to a stop on the main straight, handing the lead to Jackson who was powering past Rob Collard on the main straight to the delight of the whole team in the pit lane, Jackson winning the race for the team’s new NGTC Focud in the best fashion possible.
Not to be outdone, Plato produced an even more amazing fightback from the back of the grid in race three, scything through the field with consument ease. By lap three the MG was up to ninth, passing Smith and Onslow-Cole before dispatching Jackson shortly afterwards, the lighter MG6 accelerating out of Luffield corner with more grip than its rivals.
The double champion then overtook Newsham and took advantage of the battling Collard and Shedden, before taking the lead from Foster on lap 13 at Luffield for a remarkable win.
Read all about that race right HERE.