John Cleland - Good Old Boy ?
Interviewed November 1999 by Dave Willetts.


John Cleland, Touring Car Legend, retired from the BTCC at the end of 1999.

His last races at a rain-soaked Silverstone will be remembered for many reasons....a surprise tartan livery, ginger wigs, a convenient saltire for the final slowing down lap and the phrase "go raffle yerself."

 

Having asked John to partake in this interview, I was concerned that a financial reward may be involved....but I eventually agreed with Mr.Cleland that I would not accept his money.

 

Image: Post race 2 cooling down lap,  Silverstone 1999.

 

The questions...

DW: What were the most memorable moments from your BTCC career?

JC: Winning the championship in 1995 and beating Alain Menu !.......... and the low point was 1992 and losing the Championship after a fight with Steve Soper at Silverstone.

 

DW: Over the past 11 seasons you have seen great, and not so great drivers come and go from the series...who, in your opinion were the talented drivers? who were not? and who are the one's who were winners because they had the right car at the right time?
JC: Winkelhock, Tarquini and Biela were all great Champions and good racers, Menu is a good winner from the front but a very average racer in the mid pack....poor at overtaking under pressure and gets involved in lots of panel bashing.

 

DW: After the ultimate success of the Cavalier, can you identify the reasons for the lack of overall effectiveness of the Vectra since 1996 in the U.K., considering the car has been reasonably successful in the German STW with a different aerokit?
JC: The Vectra did not lend its self to being a good race car due to the suspension configuration on the standard car compared to some others. The regs in Germany allow for a lot more mods including a flat bottom which helps the overall grip level and making it more competitive.

 

DW: Where do you see the future of the BTCC and are the new regulations really the way to go?
JC: Year 2000 is going to be a very difficult one for the BTCC with only three manufacturers and a load of privateers...but hopefully the year 2001 regs will entice more players back into what is still the best in the world.

 

DW: Given the choice, which International Championships would you consider?
JC: Porsche Supercup...G.T. long distance racing...DTM2000 and Nascar are all great events and I would love to get involved in any of them since they all look like producing good racing on circuits I have never been on before.

 

DW: Can you tell us which are your favourites and why?

a. Race circuit?
JC: Bathurst in Australia because it is the most exciting, fast, dangerous track in the world.

 

b. Race car?
JC: A competitive rear wheel drive car with 750bhp !

 

Image: Bathurst Pitlane 1997.

 

c. Road car?
JC: Porsche 911 Carrera 2 ........since I already own one.

 

d. Heroes...motorsport or otherwise?
JC: Daley Thompson and Jim Clark........both fantastic sportsmen of their time who will always be remembered for their contributions.

e. Movie?
JC: "The Rock" with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage.... a real all action movie.

 

f. Music?
JC: Dire Straits or Oasis.... real good driving music

 

g. TV show?
JC: Have I Got News For You....great sense of fun show, with quick wit.

 

h. Team-mates?
JC: Jeff Allam, my old team mate from a few years ago .......a good guy.

 

i. BTCC competitors?
JC: Rickard Rydell, Will Hoy and Jason Plato....good fun on a golf course

 

DW: And even more interestingly.... what are your least favourites:

a. Race Circuit?
JC: Snetterton.... I hate it, cause it bores the pants off me.

 

b. Race car?
JC: Vectra, cause I didn't win enough with it.

 

c. Team-mates?
 

JC: Derek Warwick, because he was also my boss as well as my team mate.....a very difficult situation.

 

d. BTCC competitors? (A list in descending order will suffice !!)
JC: Alain Menu, cause he is never wrong and never admits a mistake.....all the rest I like.

 

DW: Can you tell us what options you have for 2000 and beyond and if you have reached a decision yet?
JC: I have not yet reached a decision on what to race .....but I will be setting up a john cleland touring car race experience....watch out for this exiting new venture.

 

DW: Would you consider coming back to driving or team management in the BTCC if the right opportunity arose in the future?
JC: I would jump at the chance to race under the new 2001 regs.......or be Vauxhall Motorsport's team manager.

 

DW: Do you regret having committed to Vauxhall for the entire 11 seasons and were you offered any other drives by other manufacturers during this time, if so which ones?
JC: I never once regret committing to Vauxhall for the last 11 years because the nearly always gave me a car to win races with.....Honda is the only manufacturer out of the 12 to have been involved with the championship that have not offered me a drive at some stage.

 

DW: Some time ago, you suggested that to get a good drive in the BTCC your name must end in a vowel, do you believe that each team should have at least one British driver, or has the International line up been a positive contribution to the "best touring car championship in the world"?
JC: It's good to have such an international flavour in the championship but a lot of emphasis has been placed on being young and foreign......but there are still a few of the good ol boys left !!!!!

 

Some out-takes which were not intended for airing, but what the hell!!!

a. Can I take you home with me? (luckily from a female contributor)
JC: Please send a picture before I answer !!!!!

 

b. Did you practice standing on the door frame for the parade lap and have you ever fallen off?
JC: My balance has always been excellent luckilly, so I have never been close to falling...but my team manager used to hate it.

 

c.Can I have your autograph?
JC: Autographs are free!

 

d.Are you retiring because you are pissed off with Warwick telling you how to drive a touring car?
JC: I have forgotten more about touring car racing than Derek Warwick will ever know....so that's not my reason....but you're pretty close.!!!!!

  • My thanks to John Cleland and the staff of John Cleland Volvo for making this interview possible.

This article must not be reproduced in full or in part, without prior written consent.

 

Copyright : Dave Willetts 2000 - 2005