So, I’ve explained how I found out about F1, BTCC and the DTM. All that is left is the WTCC…and this one gets a little chequered in my memory…so stick with me…
But… Let me make one thing clear. In Touring Cars, I have NEVER been a BMW supporter. Ford, Vauxhall always but never BMW. Couldnt stand the might of those German cars as they dominated in the BTCC… Remember that as you read on…
The year is 2000…ish. The Millenium Bug was a miserable failure, The BBC has happily been providing coverage of the BTCC to me and many others for over 10 years and ITV has the rights to F1 and highlights of the DTM. Sky Satellites on the sides of houses and flats are becoming commonplace and everyone has some sort of Nokia for a mobile phone. I had recently (at the time) become a customer of Sky’s rival in the tv channel wars, NTL, later renamed as Virgin. And this opened up more motorsport veiwing to me.
With the FIA SuperTouring rules being adopted during the 1990’s by a host of countries in Europe and the rest of the world, I discovered Eurosport. And its coverage of the European Super Touring Championship.
With the success of SuperTouring regulations came the rising costs of developement and soon the various Touring Car Championships worldwide were adopting different rules to make Touring Car racing cheaper. So the FIA decides to keep the SuperTouring regulations alive a bit longer by merging the Italian and German SuperTouring Championships into a European Championship, combining the best talents in tintop racing in Europe.
So one day as I flick through the channels, I find the ESTC racing at Estoril, Portugal, with names such as Tarquini, Giovanardi, Biela, Pirro, Morbidelli, Rustad and…Matt Neal?!?!
The cars were recogniseable as BMW 320si’s, Audi A4’s, Honda Accord’s Nissan Primera’s and Alfa Romeo 156’s and the racing as close as ever. So I followed this new series for the next few seasons as it morphed into the FIA European Touring Car Championship, far different from its previous incarnation that ran until 1988.
The regulations changed to become Super 2000 and the cars retained their “road going” racing thoroughbred look. The driver quality increased with BTCC greats joining as Muller, Rydell, Tarquini, Thompson and Andy Priaulx???
So I followed with interest this Brit who after one season as a works Honda driver in the BTCC becomes a works BMW driver racing against the worlds best at BMW Team UK. My interest grew following Thompson and Priaulx, cheering them on as they raced against the worlds best touring car drivers on many different circuits, both holding their own.
But while Thompson had team mates at SEAT to work with and later Alfa Romeo, Priaulx had to fight against his 4 BMW Team mates to get ahead. So when he won the 2004 ETCC at Macau, my support was cemented. Andy had beaten his fellow BMW Drivers and the best in their own backyard… On his own. Its also where I began the religious task of getting up early on a Sunday Morning after the end of the F1 season to watch the worlds best touring car drivers dice with the danger of racing at Macau. Worth every second. Although at the time the F1 season used to finish in early November…
It was then to follow that not only did the FIA decide to promote the ETCC to World Championship status and ressurect the WTCC (last run in 1987) but Andy work harder and and went on to win the next three World Touring Car Titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007, beating off Dirk Muller, Jorg Muller and Yvan Muller at the time. The fact that he was a BMW driver didnt bother me and still doesnt. Strange that…
So it began that the WTCC gained the same level of importance and following for me as was already in force for the BTCC and F1 and Andy Priaulx a fan for life. Since then I have watched on as he has fought against the world’s best and become one of the worlds best.
At one stage called the “Michael Schumacher” of Touring Car racing with his tactical knowledge of the points systems and how by finishing 8th in Race one and exploiting the Top 8 Reversal rule for Race two, he would keep on winning races until BMW pulled out of the WTCC at the end of 2010 amidst arguments over Diesel Turbo’s and other things. In 2012 he would be comfirmed as a DTM Driver as BMW returned to the German Series and I follow him still.
I support Rob Huff as well, as do I support any Brit drivers that take part in the WTCC and I’m bloody glad he won the title in 2012.
Anyway, I’ve bored you enough. You’ve earned that cup of tea.
Now that the WTCC is underway and by my next blog post the BTCC will have had 3 action packed races from Brands Hatch, I’ll give my views on current events.
Enjoy that cuppa…