BTCC season overviews from 1989 to 1994

 

1989 saw the start of John Cleland's career in the prestigious British Touring Car Championship, when he secured a factory Vauxhall drive in a 16v GTE Astra, off the back of two Thunder Saloon Car Championship victories in GM Vauxhall and Opels in 1986 and 1988.
At this stage Vauxhall identified a potential class victory for the sporty hatchback and a possibility of clinching the overall Championship victory from the dominant Sierras and BMW's of the period, by gathering points and remaining out of trouble in the middle of the pack.
Their guess was right and Cleland secured the Championship by only one point from James Weaver's BMW, taking eleven class wins during the season. His team mate, Louise Aitken-Walker picked up the class wins on the two occasions Cleland failed to run true to form, at one event attempting to try his hand at three wheel racing!

 

1989 Championship Results: Class A= 2501-3000cc. Class B= up to 2500cc. Class C= 1601-2000cc. Class D= up to 1600cc.

1. John Cleland (Class C) - 110

2. James Weaver (Class B) - 109

3. Andy Rouse (Class A) - 78

4. Robb Gravett (Class A) - 74

5. Louise Aitken-Walker (Class C) - 72

6. Frank Sytner (Class B) - 70

 

 

1990 saw our hero in a BTCC with a revised rulebook which deemed the overall length of the Astra too short for the new regulations. After the success of the previous year, Cleland was behind the wheel of the new 2 litre Cavalier GSi with something to prove.
After only three races in the new car the Cavalier, in JC's capable hands, ended the 27 race, class winning streak of BMW at the Thruxton circuit.
 

The combo won four more times that year, only to be eventually beaten to Championship honours by the BMW of rival, Frank Sytner.

 

 


1990 Championship Results: Class A= over 2.0ltr turbocharged. Class B= under 2.0ltr non-turbocharged

1. Robb Gravett (Class A) - 207

2. Frank Sytner (Class B) - 180

3. Andy Rouse (Class A) - 173

4. Tim Harvey (Class A) - 132

5. John Cleland (Class B) - 128

6. Jeff Allam (Class B) - 124

 

 

1991 saw the expansion of Vauxhall's involvement in the BTCC with the addition of a second Cavalier GSi, Jeff Allam took the wheel of car No.2  in the first year of a single 2.0 Litre, non turbo Championship.
Cleland took four victories during the season, finishing all thirteen races and earning second place in the Championship.
JC was now warming up to take on the best and take his second BTCC title in the following year's titanic battle.

 

 

 

1991 Championship Results:

1. Will Hoy - 155

2. John Cleland - 132

3. Andy Rouse - 115

4. Steve Soper - 96

5. Ray Bellm - 90

6. Jeff Allam - 80

 

 

1992 was to many, the most exciting British Touring Car season before or since.
The contenders were all quality drivers and the machinery very similar on performance.
With names like Tim Harvey, Will Hoy, Andy Rouse, Steve Soper, Jeff Allam, David Leslie, Kieth Odor, Tim Sugden and new boys Alain Menu and Matthew Neal, to name but a few.... in a selection of Toyotas, BMWs, Nissans, Vauxhalls and Peugeots, the season would set the strengthening BTCC crowds alight.

Cleland started the season with a confidence boosting vengeance by taking victory in the first two rounds at Silverstone and Thruxton, stamping his authority on the '92 season.

 


Next came Oulton Park. The Toyotas were strong, with Hoy taking pole and Rouse's second Carina sandwiching Cleland's Vauxhall on the grid.
JC lead from the start but was struggling for grip on cold tyres whilst trying to stave off the Toyota twins of Rouse and Hoy...it lasted half a lap before his tyres decided they disliked tarmac and the Cavalier fishtailed off the track into the armco in a cloud of soil and debris....11th place was all he could retrieve after eventually pointing the car in the right direction, giving Rouse the lead in the title chase.
Hoy, Harvey, Cleland and Allam shared the victories in the following races with Harvey taking 5 consecutive victories by round 14 at Donington, leaving Cleland, Hoy and Harvey all within grasp of the Championship with only the final round at Silverstone to go....four points separated the three drivers.

If 1992 was the season to end all seasons, the final meeting at Silverstone was the clash of the titans.
The unusually(?) inclement Silverstone weather started the chaos by lashing down during qualifying, shaking up the grid. Cleland had the title edge starting in 7th, with Hoy in 9th spot and the on form Harvey languishing back in 12th.

 

Early in the race itself, Steve Soper was on the receiving end of a "nowhere to go" shunt which saw the back of his 318is changing shape dramatically. This was to be the start of one of Soperman's renowned drives from the back of the field, culminating in one of the most controversial BTCC incidents ever.
Allam, Leslie and Rouse battled it out up front, slowing each other down as the title hungry threesome followed by a frighteningly quick Soper forced their way through the field.
On the penultimate lap, Harvey tried to take Hoy which ended in tears, the pair of them dropping back behind Cleland and the resurgent Soper. Soper's BMW took Cleland with a clean out-braking manoeuvre and soon after, Harvey followed through at Club and was soon waved through by his team-mate to take fourth.. At this point, JC was probably wondering what he could do to get those valuable points back to win the title...so...he went for it as Soper braked for Brooklands, turning in and almost using Soper as a cushion, he pulled alongside, his nearside wheels at least two feet off the tarmac.
From a non-biased point of view, what happened next was that Soper now had the inside line for the next right hander into Luffield, Cleland was probably a yard or two ahead when he turned in and Soper turned in as tightly as he could considering he was on the same payroll as Tim Harvey and "accidentally" harpooned Cleland putting the pair out of the race.
An angry and unbelieving JC, his Championship hopes gone in the gravel trap, suggested of Soper...."the man's an animal"
I have it from the horses' mouth that John and Steve are now talking!
Rouse went on to win the race and Tim Harvey's fourth place was enough to give him the Championship laurels.
Another near miss for the Scot!

Image: John looks despondently at his Cavalier after the controversial clash with Steve Soper at Silverstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1992 Drivers Championship Results:

1. Tim Harvey - 152

2. Will Hoy - 149

3. John Cleland - 145

4. Jeff Allam - 137

5. Andy Rouse - 128

6. Steve Soper - 77

 

1993 was the year that the BTCC came of age.
No longer was a performance or handling development measured in seconds per lap but in 10ths of a second....the moment had arrived when you either had it at the beginning of the season or it was difficult to catch up.
The season was notable for the competition of Ray Mallock's Ecurie Ecosse Cavalier being dangerously competitive against the works Vauxhalls and the ultimate Championship victory from an impressive BMW team led by Smokin' Jo Winkelhock.
Cleland was fourth in the championship tables at the end of the season.

 

 

1993 Drivers Championship Results

1. Joachim Winkelhock - 163

2. Steve Soper - 150

3. Paul Radisich - 110

4. John Cleland - 102

5. Julian Bailey - 88

6. Kieth O'dor - 82

 

1994 saw a noticeable change in livery for the Cavalier but did not make the car or JC ready for the onslaught of the mighty Alfa Romeo 155 in the hands of Gabrielle Tarquini.
The Italians had done their homework and showed up with an Aero-kit which all but flaunted the new aerodynamic rules with what was essentially an homologation special.
The Alfa won when it wanted to and no-one, even the BMW's, could even consider an assault on the red monsters.
Two wins was all Cleland could achieve, although his consistency gained John a fourth place driver's championship position.

 

 

1994 Drivers Championship Results:     
 1. Gabriele Tarquini  - 298    
 2. Alain Menu - 222   
 3. Paul Radisich - 206    
 4. John Cleland - 177    
 5. Giampiero Simoni - 156
 6. Joachim Winkelhock - 147
 7. Steve Soper - 102
 8. Patrick Watts - 98
 9. Tim Harvey - 77
10. Jeff Allam - 76

 

Copyright : Dave Willetts 2000 - 2005