Oulton Park’s BTCC meeting last weekend saw an extra couple of touring car races but it wasn’t the BTCC itself getting some extra track time, but the return of Super Tourers to a BTCC meeting for the first time since 2000.
The HSCC Super Touring series caters mainly for the 90’s era Super tourers but also allows touring cars from the 1970’s up until some of the early Super 2000 specification cars. There were examples of all of these in the large field that raced at Oulton Park. Many of the cars raced in period colours with two featuring their original drivers as well. John Cleland has one of his Vauxhall Vectras from 1997 that his son Jamie found advertised on Facebook and has restored. Also competing was Patrick Watts in a Peugeot 406 although it was originally his team mate of the time, Tim Harvey’s car. They were joined by many other well-known cars from all through the various eras.
Qualifying was held in wet condtions and John Cleland looked every bit as quick as the driver he was in the 1990’s as he took an early fastest lap. A broken down car then caused a red flag and by the time the session restarted the rain was falling again meaning Clelands time couldn’t be beaten. So, just like in the old days Cleland had pole at Oulton Park! Clelands nearest rival James Dodd put his Honda Accord in second.
But it turned out that the Vectra had done the time with a broken wishbone and it was now clear it would have to be changed before the car could race. After lots of phone calls, a spare was located attached to the sister car driven by Derek Warrick in period. This was down in Milton Keynes and John Cleland himself set off to meet the owner and retrieve the vital part.
The rest of the car was prepared so as soon as the wishbone was delivered it just needed to be fitted and the tracking etc adjusted before the car was ready to go. This happened well before the race and so John could take up his spot on pole position.
At the start John got a great start whereas his nearest rival, james Dodd dropped behind the Alfa Romeo 156 Super tourer of Neil Smith. This gave Cleland a bit of breathing space but Dodd was soon past and in pursuit. Dodd’s car was quicker than Clelands in period and it soon became clear it was quicker today too.
Despite all of Clelands experience he couldn’t keep Dodd behind and instead tried to keep on his tail. Behind the lead pair Smith was passed by Graeme Dodd (James Dodd’s dad!) in a Nissan Primera. He caught the lead pair as Neil Smith tried to repass and instead spun. Derek Palmer was gaining in another Nissan Primera along with Simon Garrad in a Renault Laguna from 1999 and in the closing stages Garrad got ahead of both Primeras to snatch third. So race one went to Jjames Dodd, two seconds ahead of Cleland with Garrad completing the podium. Fourth was Derek Palmer in his Nissan Primera ahead of Dodd senior in an similar Nissan. Rounding out the top six was Stewart Whyte in a Honda Accord. Whyte also took the fastest lap.
Race two on Sunday was delayed until the end of the day due to a heavy rain shower. At the front it was again Dodd battling with Cleland for the win but behind them was a huge battle for third involving Stewart Whyte, Patrick Watts and Neil Smith. Garrad in the Laguna had initially held third but fell all the way back to sixth as the battle passed through. Watts looked set to claim third but slid off the track at Hislops. He managed to avoid hitting anything and recovered to fourth at the flag as Smith also slid, this time at Cascades although he managed to keep it on track. So Dodd again won from Cleland by nearly three seconds this time with Whyte completing the podium ahead of Watts. Smith and Garrad. Whyte again set fastest lap.
The series now continues away from the BTCC but the organisers hope the massive exposure gained from running at the Uk’s biggest car racing event will boost their crowds. With racing as close as it was in the 90’s and big grids, it’s a series well worth catching if you can.
Full results for both races can be found on TSL by Marc Waller