Silverstone Classic: touring car greats

touring cars selection - Silverstone Classic 2016 promo image
Touring cars of all types will converge on Silverstone for some close-fought racing

Few grids in historic racing are as popular as the saloon cars, and this year’s Silverstone Classic will have four of them. From the Lotus Cortinas of the Sixties to the hi-tech Super Touring racers of the Nineties, the capacity grids are set to deliver spectacular, close racing on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, writes James Page.

The Super Touring Trophy was, in fact, born at the Classic following the success of the 2009 David Leslie Memorial Trophy. It evokes that famous period when the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) rivalled Formula One in terms of popularity.

Tim Harvey, the 1992 BTCC champion, said: “There were nine manufacturers all promoting the BTCC, with cars recognisable to the public, international drivers and fantastic racing. It had the whole package.”

The series attracted the very best saloon-car racers, from Harvey and Steve Soper to Gabriele Tarquini, Jo Winkelhock, Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell. In 1993 and 1998, even Formula One legend Nigel Mansell took part.

The Super Touring regulations led to unprecedented manufacturer involvement. Volvo even entered a brace of 850 estates

The race at the 2016 Classic will feature John Cleland – who lost the 1992 title to Harvey in an unforgettable televised climax – and Patrick Watts, racing their respective Vauxhall Vectra and Peugeot 406 Super Touring cars.

At the other end of the age range, the Under Two-Litre Touring Car brigade always puts on an unforgettable show. These well-matched, pre-1966, saloons include the likes of the Lotus Cortina – raced so brilliantly at the time by Jim Clark, John Whitmore and others – Alfa Romeo GTAs, BMW 1800s and, of course, the giant-killing flock of Minis.

The under 2.0-litre touring cars always provide spectacular, close racing

Last year, BTCC veterans Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal won. With their Lotus Cortina now in the hands of Steve Soper, it’s sure to once more feature at the front during the 40-minute, two-driver race.

The thriving Historic Touring Car Championship will follow the same format for its Classic debut, with a diverse field that should provide some exceptional sights and sounds. Anyone who can remember seeing Frank Gardner or Stuart Graham racing a Chevrolet Camaro at Silverstone in period will relish the presence of two of these mighty V8s at the Classic. Then there will be a howling V12 Jaguar XJ-S, while Henry Mann, son of famed Ford entrant Alan, will be racing an Escort Mk1.

As you’d expect from a grid representing the Seventies and Eighties, Ford Capris will be much in evidence. Among the 12 taking part, Jeff Allam will be reunited with his 1979 example, while former World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff will be in a 3.0-litre version. They will face eight Rover SD1s, the British contender that enjoyed so much success during the early days of the Group A era in the hands of, among others, Andy Rouse. His title-winning car is among those taking part.

The closely matched Super Touring cars of the Eighties and Nineties are always popular at the Silverstone Classic

Patrick Watts, meanwhile, is preparing all three MG Metro Turbos that are entered – one of which he’ll be driving. Famed marques such as BMW and Alfa Romeo will also be represented, with the creamy six-cylinder engines of their CSLs and GTV6s providing yet another aural treat.

Finally, there are the pre-1966 Big-Engined Touring Cars, which were last seen on the Classic bill in 2014 as part of the Ford Mustang’s 50th birthday celebrations. During the early part of the Sixties, the American saloons battled with the smaller home-grown cars in the British Saloon Car Championship – Mustangs, Galaxies and Falcons had huge power on their side, while the Minis were more nimble. With the wide, fast Silverstone Grand Prix circuit enabling these cars to really get into their stride, it should be a memorable race.

That quartet of full grids adds up to the biggest celebration of saloon car racing ever. Close racing is guaranteed.


This summer’s Silverstone Classic will, for the very first time, feature top-class bike track action as well as the usual plethora of car races.

Stellar riders will include world champions Wayne Gardner, Freddie Spencer and Phil Read.

The impressive motorcycle grid comes from World GP Bike Legends, which was set up in 2015 to enable fans new and old to experience the spectacle of former Grand Prix stars grappling with the ultra-powerful two-strokes which reigned in the Eighties and Nineties.

“It’s an honour for the bikes to be invited to such an unbelievably successful car event,” said popular Aussie Gardner, who is an ambassador for the series. “We’re putting together a field of 500cc and GP bikes, which will provide a spine-chilling spectacle when they start up and roar past – it will be an absolutely fantastic show.”

The Silverstone Classic will be held from 29-31 July. For more details and to book tickets (which must be booked in advance), go to the event’s website at:

James Page is the editor of Classic & Sports Car magazine

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Credit: Simon Clay