1995 turned out to be a turbulent year, full of spectacle and controversy but consistency reigned
John Cleland made an excellent start to the season in the opening rounds at Donington Park with a win from pole in race 1, coming home in front of arch rivals Menu, Radisich and Rydell. This was followed by a second place in race 2, behind Mr. Pole Position himself... Rickard Rydell and team-mate Tim Harvey
Round 3 and a rain-soaked, disastrous Brands Hatch meeting. In round 3, Cleland out dragged Rydell at the start but entertained an attraction for the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap early on lap 2, finding it fairly easily to locate in tricky conditions, leaving Harvey and Rydell to the spoils.
After a restart because of a particularly standard Patrick Watts confrontation which took out Paul Radisich, Cleland started well again in round 4 but slid off the track at the Surtees/McLaren kink battling with Rydell early on... our rather disgruntled hero rejoined slightly ahead of the pack as they came round again...John seemed to get the power down well, narrowly avoiding going a lap down, and approached Paddock with Harvey door to door with the Cavalier...the rest is history............ the sequence of events were described by Tim Harvey after the event : " Yeah, I think the old red mist descended a little bit on John, the old Scottish red mist came down from the hills...because he hadn't scored any points in the first race and had gone off on the first race and in fact I was coming round to lap him...and I don't quite know what he was doing racing me, because he hadn't completed a flying lap but he went into Paddock so quick, trying to out-brake me...but it was quite a spectacular shunt, I hope he's all right but I nearly went off laughing myself "....competitive support indeed!
Image: "The Big Off", the result of what was later found to be a lack of brakes.
Thruxton and Round 5 saw JC's young team-mate, Thompson on pole but all went horribly wrong coming into the chicane at the end of lap one...current BBC BTCC commentator Charlie Cox cunningly barrel rolled his privateer Mondeo from a launch speed of around 130 m.p.h, shi!*%ing the life out of me, for one. Luckily the lad lived to fight another day. After the only other entertainment of the race (JC very professionally punting Watts off the track) , Thompson went on to win the race in just his third Championship meeting.
Menu won the next round putting him 8 points clear of John in the Championship.
Five winners from six races.
On to Silverstone and the 5th pole from 7 races for Volvo and the sad sight of the Alfa Romeo team driving away from the track after aero kit disputes. Race 1 saw Rydell tailing a very quick Ford of Paul Radisich until the Mondeo's tyres faded allowing Rickard to bring the 850 home in front, gaining himself a well deserved Championship lead. Round 8 saw Watts put half of the field in the Copse gravel. The restart saw a repeat of the first race with Rydell trying to overhaul the Radisich Mondeo to build on his Championship charge but to no avail. This gave Ford it's first victory since Andy Rouse . A solid 3rd and 5th from our hero.
Oulton Park and another red flag incident after a big shunt involving Warwick's returning Alfa 155 and Leslie's Accord. The restart saw Rydell leading Cleland's Vauxhall quite convincingly making it 5 wins in 9 races for the TWR team.
Race 2 and Rydell takes his 7th pole in front of Thompson and Cleland but was outpaced by Menu at his favourite circuit with JC third.
Back to Brands Hatch and even more rain...a Thompson puncture on lap one caused half the field to spin at Graham Hill Bend resulting in another Menu win after the race was stopped with Sugden's flattened Toyota on it's roof, followed by JC and Harvey.
Round 12 saw a double restart...first Nigel Smith's privateer Cavalier off and then Rydell rolled after a stuck throttle. A one, two victory for Cleland and Thompson's Vauxhalls with the pack depleted...or was it keeping your head when all around you...you know the rest. Cleland leads the championship for the first time.
Donington, Cleland's favourite U.K track (or is that winningest) saw a double header victory for John giving him a 28 point lead over Menu and 38 over Rydell...the championship had turned.
The Silverstone F1 GP support race is a race that everyone wants to win and John showed his class by outsmarting Paul Radisich in a series of bluffs and double bluffs to pass the Mondeo (watch it again, it's the reason Cleland is the man) and lead the pack home with Menu and Rydell not scoring a point...woohoo!....and now, on to JC's home track, Knockhill.
Thompson started the weekend with a huge practice shunt and was replaced by JC's old team-mate, Jeff Allam. Race one saw Menu have it all sewn up before a gearbox failure and no points... with Rydell showing the rest the way home in stunning style with John putting in a late charging 5th. Rydell yet again on pole for race 2 but Menu pulled off another win ahead of the Volvos with JC 6th...who was it that said that drivers always go well with a home crowd? Still 34 points in front with 8 races to go.
A return to Brands with Charlie Cox back and fit and Mike Briggs in the second Cavalier fresh from his South African Championship victory and Rydell on pole again in dry conditions....if only Rickard could have turned those grid positions into race wins!!.. more weight over the front end or start lessons methinks. Hoy (his first win for the Williams Renault team), Rydell, Cleland, Menu in that order was the result with our John complaining about Rydell's modifications to the back of his Cavalier. Race 2 saw Rydell converting his pole into a good start for a change swiftly followed by a charging Cleland which resulted in Rydell being pushed sideways at Clearways he had it coming...all's fair in love and war and retaliation for race 1) and John taking the win to lead the fray by 40 points. Both drivers had their licences endorsed for the incidents but no further action was taken against either driver.
Snetterton was the venue for rounds 20 and 21....weather changeable.
Harvey smartly takes off Menu on lap one of race 1 after a steering failure with Cleland and Rydell starting well but dropping back as the tyre choices showed through leaving JC 13th but ahead of Rickard. Race 2...Rydell on pole, making it 13 times out of 21 races....Menu off again and his Championship hopes gone. Rydell confidently out in front until he slid off with no brakes, narrowly missing an ambulance and it's crew. Cleland finished a healthy 3rd with only one point for Alain....looking good for John as we move onto Oulton Park.
The Fosters circuit at Oulton was the venue to potentially provide the climax to the 1995 British Touring Car Championship. Our man was ahead of Rydell on the grid for both races and had a 52 point lead over his nearest rival. JC started well and led most the first lap with Menu familiarising himself with the rear bumper of the Cavalier and passed the Vauxhall at the first available opportunity (Lodge corner), pulled away and cruised to victory and a 16 point gain on Rydell.Hoy finishes 2nd and Cleland finishes 3rd for 12 points... Matt Neal sews up the Privateer title for a £25,000 pot. JC needs 6 points to clinch the Championship.
Menu romped home with John a safe second and grabbed the crown in jubilant Cleland style.
"I think this year, I've worked harder in this Championship than I've ever worked"
After the victory an emotional John had little to say due to a strange gagging feeling in his throat: "Delighted, it's just ...I dunno what to say now, it's been a long year coming, and er, it's just great, really good....John Cleland, News at Ten, Oulton Park !
John...lost for words...I don't believe it!
And so to the final round to decide the manufacturers Championship. Renault were up for it big time, Menu and Hoy were first and second in the race with John 6th, trying (too) hard after an off due to exhuberance. Rydell's car caught fire and dropped out...a fitting end to the season that should have been but wasn't. Cleland showed impressive fight to regain 3rd only 3 seconds behind but it was not enough for the team...oh well, the drivers champ will not be too sad with a 43 point advantage over his friend Menu.
1. John Cleland - Vauxhall - 348 points
2. Alain Menu - Renault - 305
3. Rickard Rydell - Volvo - 255
4. Will Hoy - Renault - 195
5. Tim Harvey - Volvo - 176
6. Paul Radisich - Ford - 130
7. James Thompson - 124
8. Kelvin Burt - 117
9. Julian Bailey - 94
=10. Patrick Watts/David Leslie - 61
1. Renault - 419
2. Vauxhall - 414
3. Volvo - 359
4. Ford - 236
5. Toyota - 172
6. BMW - 144
7. Honda - 136
8. Alfa Romeo - 132
9. Peugeot - 127
1. Vauxhall Sport - 510
2. Williams Renault Dealer Racing - 500
3. Volvo 850 Racing - 431
4. Valvoline Team Mondeo - 247
5. Team Toyota GB - 142
6. BMW Motorsport Team - 97
7. Honda Team MSD - 87
8. Alfa Romeo Old Spice Racing - 75
9. Total Team Peugeot - 70
10. Team Dynamics - 12
Total Cup Privateers:
1. Neal - 430
2. Richard Kaye - 342
3. Nigel Smith - 298
4. Hamish Irvine - 188
5. Robb Gravett - 160
6. Charlie Cox - 110
Copyright : Dave Willetts 2000 - 2005