Triumph, tragedy and a sonic boom - 1990s flashback

Touring cars and WRC are ascendant, the LSR is smashed, but F1 deaths overshadow racing


Sutton Motorsport Images


The British Touring Car Championship adopts a single-class structure for the first time. The 2-litre era banishes the crowd-pleasing, flame-spitting Cosworth RS500s, but kick-starts a global touring car racing boom that lasts throughout the decade as manufacturers flock to take part. Will Hoy is the first champion of the new-look 2-litre BTCC in a BMW E30 M3.




Nigel Mansell finally becomes F1 world champion at Williams; its ‘gizmo’-laden active-ride FW14B and Renault V10 power are a dominant combination. Mansell is crowned by August in Hungary – only to walk away from the team for 1993 when it signs Alain Prost. His subsequent IndyCar campaign in which he becomes champion is considered the greater achievement.




F1 is rocked at Imola when first Roland Ratzenberger is killed in qualifying, then Ayrton Senna dies in the race. The first fatalities at an F1 race for 12 years trigger knee-jerk regulation change which will shape grand prix racing for years. Michael Schumacher becomes a controversial world champion after colliding with Damon Hill’s Williams in Adelaide.




In the wake of Group C’s demise, GT racing blooms. Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 road car is adapted for racing and lands the company its only Le Mans 24 Hours victory. BMW V12-powered F1 GTRs finish first, third, fourth and fifth in a rain-affected race as Masanori Sekiya becomes the first Japanese winner, in alliance with JJ Lehto and Yannick Dalmas.




Colin McRae becomes Britain’s first World Rally champion with a headline-grabbing victory on the RAC Rally at the end of a season-long duel with Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz. The combination of quietly charismatic McRae and the Prodrive-run Imprezas catapult the WRC into the limelight – even if it’s Tommi Mäkinen that claims the rest of the decade’s titles.




Retribution for Damon Hill as he becomes the first F1 world champion son of a world champion father. But it’s not enough to save Williams from dropping him for 1997, before the title is secured. The decision causes a national storm, but Williams sticks by replacement Heinz-Harald Frentzen – and the new champion lines up a TWR-run Arrows for an unlikely title defence.




RAF fighter pilot Andy Green succeeds his mentor Richard Noble by breaking the Land Speed Record in ThrustSSC. The British jet-powered machine becomes
the first (and only) land vehicle to break the sound barrier on its way to setting a new mark of 763mph in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Noble is on hand to see his 14-year-old record of 633mph smashed.




Jacques Villeneuve succeeds fellow ‘son of’ F1 racer Hill to become champion, and what turns out to be the last to do so in a Williams. The campaign marks the end of an era. Chief designer Adrian Newey has already defected to McLaren when Villeneuve becomes champion, while dominant Renault pulls the plug on its works F1 engine supply (for now).




Newey hits the ground at a sprint with McLaren, his curvy MP4/13 carrying Mika Häkkinen to the first of back-to-back F1 titles. Häkkinen and McLaren frustrate Michael Schumacher, who is striving to end Ferrari’s drivers’ title drought that dates back to 1979. But momentum is building in Maranello under the powerful axis of Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne.