If you’ve been reading the blog for the last couple of years, you’re probably well aware of my 1990s touring car obsession. The annual Gold Cup event at Oulton Park has, in recent years, given me the best chance to indulge in this passion (you can view my blog posts from past events here) and this year’s event was no exception.
Now racing under the guise of the Dunlop Saloon Car Cup, pre-1990, post-1990 and Group 1 touring cars do battle at a series of events across the UK, with one of the championship rounds taking part during the three day Gold Cup weekender.
While in some ways it’s a bit of a shame not to see a grid full of screaming late 1990s super tourers doing battle, the sheer cost of running these cars means that it is increasingly difficult for privateers to continue racing them frequently, which can result in a sparse grid. Consequently, seeing these particular cars do battle with other famous touring cars from times gone by makes for a much more entertaining spectacle.
Myself and Laurie (the man behind the camera) were both very fortunate in that the team running the 1992 Footwork FA13 Formula 1 car at the event invited us through to their pit garage to take a look at the car after one of its runs. This resulted in us being in the right place at the right time as the touring cars began to line up in the pit lane, ready to join the track for their race.
Highly strung naturally aspirated two litre engines revved freely up to 8500rpm and back down again alongside the comparably lazy sounding turbocharged lumps of the Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500s. It was certainly something to behold and I will be sure to upload some video footage from this very soon.
With many of the cars having a pit crew stood behind them to help them get going (they are apparently very easy to stall and very difficult to get going again), the entrants made their way out for a formation lap prior to the rolling start.
At this point, Laurie and I had to leg it from the pits to the other side of the track in order to secure a good spot to capture the action. We just about made it in time to watch the first flying lap from the inside of the circuit, before making our way over the bridge and down to Clay Hill and Knickerbrook for the rest of the race.
Back in the day, super touring cars continued to get more advanced and increasingly expensive to build until their demise in the year 2000. The cars from this final season are streets ahead of those from a few years prior, which was clear to see as Stewart Whyte stormed ahead in his 2000 Honda Accord.
4WD vs FWD vs 4WD vs RWD. Eclectic touring car racing at its best.
I’m sure we all know the sound of a typical RB26DETT when we hear one, so it was quite odd to hear the relatively muted soundtrack emanating from Jonathan Bailey’s R32 GT-R. It still had that unmistakeable RB26 note but I guess this is the difference between street cars and purpose built track cars from the era.
What the Sierra Cosworths lacked in cornering ability, they made up for in straight line performance. This resulted in some interesting tussles between Mark Wright’s Sierra, the aforementioned Accord of Stewart Whyte and the 1999 Renault Laguna of Mark Jones, the Accord and Laguna being able to keep up on pure handling ability alone.
While it was a shame not to see John Cleland and his infamous Vectra at the event, this particular example was still great to watch and evoked those 90s memories of “race on Sunday, sell on Monday”. I distinctly remember my dad showing me the brochure for the Vectra GSi back in the late 90s, more than likely as a result of watching Cleland and Derek Warwick going toe to toe with other repmobiles on a Sunday afternoon.
The FUJIFILM Cavalier, piloted by Tony Absolom, is definitely a fan favourite as a result of its distinctive livery and 19″ Dymag wheels tucked well into the arches.
Of course, the P10 Primera driven by Allister McMillan is a huge personal favourite due to my passion for my own P10 eGT. While its 4WD system (it being the only prototype developed by Nissan, likely as an idea to challenge the 4WD Audi S4s) prohibits its speed somewhat, it was still a joy to watch on track.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see too much of Jake Hill in the CALSONIC R32 G-TR due to a mechanical fault, but for the laps it did complete it was still incredible to experience such an iconic livery and soundtrack in person.
While the touring cars were undoubtedly the highlight of my day at Gold Cup, there was still plenty of other action taking place. Stay tuned for some vintage open wheel/single seater and F1 content shortly.