Paul Radisich retained his FIA Touring Car ‘World Championship’ at Donington Park on October 16 and, as at Monza a year ago, his Ford Mondeo was never out of the lead. It was a decisive performance against 38 of the world’s best touring car drivers, all of whom did their best to oust the New Zealander from supremacy, but failed.
BMW drivers Steve Soper and Joachim Winkelhock came closest, but the blue and white Ford controlled the 100 km race and crossed the line 1.9 seconds ahead of Soper, at the helm of BMW’s 1995 development car.
“I thought he was playing with me.” said Soper, “until the last couple of laps, when I suspected there might be something wrong with Paul’s car. My tyres were still good and I attacked, but he had enough in hand.”
The Mondeo’s gear selection was playing up in the closing stages, and a 3.9s lead was whittled down. “My heart was in my mouth for the last four laps,” said Radisich. “I was afraid I’d finish up with no drive, but the problem didn’t get any worse.”
Just to crown his success, Radisich later went on to claim the £12,000 prize for winning the TOCA Shoot-Out, a light-hearted event from which no car emerged without body damage. . .
The FIA Touring Car World Cup at Donington was no place for angels. In clashes that would have brought the Wimbledon stock car crowds to their feet, four cars were eliminated in a startline accident, Alain Menu hit an Audi with such force that the Renault’s engine bay caught fire, newly crowned BTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini eliminated John Cleland’s Vauxhall and Emanuele Pirro’s Audi on the first lap of the restarted event and still managed to finish fourth! – and Winkelhock passed Frank Biela’s Audi with one of the most physical assaults seen all season.
Local knowledge was no bad thing, either. Last year Radisich went to Monza for the first time in his life and drubbed the Italians, the Germans and the French. He defended his title on home ground, and if you count Soper, Winkelhock and Tarquini as a home team, their experiences of the past season were enough to sway the results In their favour.
Radisich had been through two months of misery in July and August, and presumed he was the victim of the mid-season homologation processes which tilted the balance firmly in favour of BMW and Renault, not to mention Alfa Romeo whose dominance was somewhat retarded.
Andy Rouse had explained, at Silverstone on September 11, that “we’re out of it until we get the 1995 wing package”, yet a week later Radisich was building the foundations of a faultless performance, winning the 20th round of the BTCC.
The rear-drive BMWs and 4wd Audi 80 quattros were supposed to have an advantage in conserving their tyres for the final five laps, the extra five that BTCC contenders are never asked to contest, yet the latest Michelin compounds went the full distance for Radisich without losing their edge. In the space of four weeks the top teams improved their grid times by approximately 1.5 seconds, an astonishing increment which was explained as a credit to tire development. Michelin, Yokohama and Dunlop all shared this improvement though, and the first 18 cars on the grid all went faster than Winkelhock’s pole position record (1 m 39.66s) established on September 17.
There were six different makes of car on the first three rows of the grid, all covered by four-tenths of a second. One second covered the top 11 cars, down to Yvan Muller’s BMW, and 1.64s covered the top 21, down to Hans Stuck’s Audi 80 (1m 39.73s).
After qualifying, Jonathan Ashman was demanding to know why anyone wanted to change the regulations for 1995! The parity was largely the result of strict guidelines being laid down, and pre-scrutineering by the RAC’s Peter Riches.
Those contesting the German and Italian championships had to forego their big wing Packages, and some of the French decided that they were so far removed from the FIA Class 2 regulations that it wasn’t worth entering.
The Audis came to Donington as outsiders, with no experience in Britain in two-litre form, and their hour of glory came on Sunday morning. On a decidedly damp track Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro were clearly quicker than Johnny Cecotto (BMW) and Tim Harvey, having probably his last drive in the Renault Laguna.
Could lohn Cleland have won the FIA World Cup? The Scotsman had the satisfied look of inward confidence after qualifying fourth, and he made the best start of the season to out-accelerate Soper and Radisich to Redgate.
The Vauxhall led the first lap and would have been hard to dislodge, but for the red flags. Two-thirds of the Renault team had been dashed in separate accidents, and clouds of white smoke from Harvey’s exhaust signalled imminent retirement with a suspected head gasket failure.
Cleland’s second start was pretty good too, but he had to settle for third place behind Radisich and Soper, pursued by Tarquini and Pirro.
The British champion, Tarquini, made an untypical braking error at Goddards, hitting the Vauxhall Cavalier and then Pirro’s Audi. Surprisingly Tarquini alone was able to carry on, eventually to claim fourth place. Moments later Stefano Modena failed to brake for the Esses and struck Anthony Reid’s Vauxhall a mighty blow, wrecking the Alfa Romeo’s front end. Reid carried on with a leaking oil tank, and set the second fastest lap of the race with lubricant dripping onto his rear tyres. Eventually Reid oversteered off at the Old Hairpin, but his reputation was enhanced by the event.
Radisich and Soper sped the distance without a hitch, but there were some rude happenings behind them. Biela, Tarquini and Winkelhock were duelling hard for third place and the 1993 British champion, driving his Schnitzer BMW in Britain lot the last time, settled the matter by barging Biela out of the way at the Esses.
According to Winkelhock, the Audi’s brake lights were not working and since Biela refused to blame Winkelhock, the stewards took no action, After all, Winkelhock’s third place secured the Nations Cup for Germany, and BMW was clear winner of the Manufacturers Cup.
Victory for Radisich also won him the RAC’s Tourist Trophy. Perhaps the best compliment came from Winkelhock, though: “I hope he goes into F1, then we can do this race next year without him!” MLC
FIA Touring Car World Cup, Donington Park, October 16 1994
1 Paul Radisich (NZ) Ford Mondeo Ghia 41m 56.73s
2 Steve Soper (GB) BMW 318iS 41m 58.66s
3 Joachim Winkelhock (D) BMW 318iS 42m 03.84s
4 Gabnele Tarquini (I) Alfa Romeo 155 Twin Spark 42m 04.69s
5 Hans-Joachim Stuck (0) ) Audi 80 quattro 42m 26.23s
6 Johnny Cecotto (YV) BMW 318iS 42m 27.95s
7 Yvan Muller (F) BMW 318iS 42m 28.85s
8 Markus Oestreich (A) Ford Mondeo Ghia 42m 31.29s
9 Marc Duez (B) BMW 318iS 42m 35.08s
10 Roberto Ravaglia (I) BMW 318iS 42m 37.38s