British Touring Cars’ 1994 season - Motorsport Moments

From Volvo 850 estates to Alfa Romeo aero controversies and fierce on-track rivalries, the peak of Super Touring had it all

As the world of racing shuts down in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Auto Express is looking back at some of the great cars, drivers, races and moments from motorsport history. Our second instalment takes us back to the British Touring Car Championship’s momentous 1994 season.

Many fans love F1 for its soap opera, but I prefer motorsport with a side order of paint rubbing, close-quarters racing and cars relatable to ones you see on the street. The British Touring Car Championship, in other words. And in 1994, it reached new heights.

It blended the very best tin-top racing with West Wing-esque political intrigue. It made superstars of cars and drivers, and deep-pocketed manufacturers spent big.

The drama kicked off before a wheel was turned in anger, with the launch of a very unlikely hero. There was nothing unusual about Volvo entering, but with an estate? 

Volvo and TWR, which ran the effort, knew an estate car was wrong for many reasons, not least because of the weight behind the rear wheels, plus a high centre of gravity. But the marketing power of this wagon outweighed any dynamic losses. Even in the hands of talent like Jan Lammers and Rickard Rydell, it rarely finished inside the points, but the marketing job was done – the firm’s image in the UK was changed forever.

Volvo wasn’t the only team ripping up the rulebook in 1994, though. Alfa Romeo’s return to the series was shrouded in controversy. Its 155 was undeniably pretty, but in its homologated ‘Silverstone’ trim, it sported a large rear wing. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but it wasn’t a rule that the rival teams had sought to exploit.

The issue, claimed every other team, was that the road car was sold with the wing in its retracted position and extension plates in the boot, but the race cars had their extension plates installed. Rivals claimed an unfair advantage, and Alfa’s total dominance of the first five rounds of the series that year suggested they were right.

At round seven at Oulton Park, the series organisers instructed Alfa Romeo to remove the aero parts, and the team left the circuit in protest. A compromise was reached, and the team returned – with the rear spoiler in its retracted position. By the time of round 12 at Silverstone, other teams had found aero aids of their own, and balance was restored. It wasn’t just these shenanigans that entertained, though. The racing was closer than ever, spurring Murray Walker to his best. And in race trim, even the humble Ford Mondeo, Nissan Primera and Toyota Carina looked a million dollars.

As audiences grew, so did the pockets of manufacturers; by 1998, Super Touring cars could cost more than £1million to build, and £5million a year to race. Highlights were many and varied, and the season review was barely out of my VHS player. 

Later seasons had more manufacturer support and bigger-name drivers, but 1994 is the one I’ll always remember.

What's your favourite BTCC memory? Let us know in the comments below...

Continue Reading

Recommended

New 986bhp Mercedes-AMG One confirmed for 2022 launch
Mercedes-AMG One - 'ring
Mercedes

New 986bhp Mercedes-AMG One confirmed for 2022 launch

Production of F1-engined Mercedes-One hypercar will finally commence next year
14 Oct 2021
BMW 3 Series review
BMW 3 Series - front
BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series review

The BMW 3 Series offers the perfect blend of performance, driving dynamics, low running costs, technology and refinement
8 Oct 2021
New 2021 Nissan Z sports car launched with 400bhp
Nissan Z sports car
Nissan

New 2021 Nissan Z sports car launched with 400bhp

Nissan Z sports car has made its debut in New York, sporting a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard
18 Aug 2021
Best used sports cars 2021
Best used sports cars - header
Best cars & vans

Best used sports cars 2021

Our top used sports cars for those looking for a fun but usable second-hand car
18 Aug 2021

Most Popular

New Ford Focus unveiled with 2021 facelift and tech updates
Ford Focus ST Line - front
Ford Focus Hatchback

New Ford Focus unveiled with 2021 facelift and tech updates

Ford has given the Focus hatchback a refresh for 2021, with a new design and an improved infotainment suite
14 Oct 2021
Nissan launches combined PCP finance deal for electric car and charger
Nissan Leaf
Nissan

Nissan launches combined PCP finance deal for electric car and charger

The unusual new offer is available on the Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 van – and it includes the cost of installing the wallbox charger at your home
13 Oct 2021
Volkswagen ID.3 Pro S Tour: long-term test review
Volkswagen ID.3 Pro S Tour long termer - first report header
Volkswagen ID.3 Hatchback

Volkswagen ID.3 Pro S Tour: long-term test review

First report: the impressive Volkswagen ID.3 EV joins our fleet fresh from winning an award from our sister title
15 Oct 2021