Anthony Reid has been crowned BTCC Masters Champion after winning a spectacular race which more than lived up to its star billing.
In the final TOCA race of the 2004 season, 16 identical SEAT Sport UK prepared Leon Cupra Rs lined up on the Donington Park grid. The thousands of fans who waited for the final race of the day weren’t disappointed as an amazing race, which included two Safety Car periods, erupted.
The grid for the BTCC Masters race was drawn out of a bag by BTCC Series Director Alan Gow and saw an all-Scottish front row of John Cleland and Reid. The unluckiest driver was Gabriele Tarquini, who was drawn 16th and last. In theory this should have ended any hopes the Italian had of a good result, but in the drive of the race the 1994 BTCC Champion set the fastest lap and overtook Frank Biela (the 1996 Champion) on the final lap to finish an amazing 3rd!
Having made a mess of the start, front-row sitter Reid allowed Cleland, Jason Plato and Tim Harvey through and soon Alain Menu joined in to make it a five Leon Cupra R battle for the lead. Having swapped places several times, Plato eventually got clear of Cleland to open up a narrow lead, before the Safety Car came out half way through the 20 lap race for gravel to be cleared off the racing line.
After a great re-start, Plato was then pursued by Reid at great pace before Kelvin Burt slammed sideways into the tyre barrier on the inside of Starkey’s, bringing out the Safety Car for a second time. Before the pack had caught the Safety Car however, four cars turned into Redgate together at racing speed, with Johnny Cecotto and Tim Harvey spinning into the gravel – keeping the Safety Car out for even longer while their Leons were recovered.
The Safety Car had just returned to the pits when Plato was pushed wide and got half a wheel onto the grass on the run out of the Old Hairpin. He rejoined the track at Starkey’s only to be hit hard from behind by Patrick Watts (who earlier in the race had pushed Julian Bailey onto the grass), putting both out.
Reid held off a charging Menu to win by 0.537 seconds, while a stunning final lap saw Tarquini take 3rd. Gabriele also stopped on the slowing down lap to pick up the stranded Plato and gave him a lift back to the pits!
Alan Gow presented the magnificent BTCC Masters trophy to a delighted Reid, bringing to a close a truly wonderful BTCC season.
Reid said: “I’m amazed to have won! It was fantastic of Alan Gow to invite me to race, so a great thanks to him and to SEAT, and to win is a bonus. I completely messed the start up because when the lights came on I slipped the clutch and shot forward. I’d only just finished braking when the red lights went out and the race started! The BTCC Masters was a brilliant race, I really enjoyed it.”
Menu said: “For me the most important thing was to have fun and I had lots of it. It was great to see so many old friends and I think the race really lived up to expectations. It was just fantastic fun.”
Tarquini said: “To start at the back of the grid and to join the podium is fantastic. I survived the first half of the race and then I decide to attack in the second half. The last lap was fantastic, a real good fight with Frank Biela and I’m so happy to be on the podium. I make a really good race and I want to thank everybody, especially SEAT. I hope to repeat this experience one day.”
Plato said: “What a fantastic race! It was really nice to line up on such a prestigious touring car grid and although there was a little bumping and barging it’s all fair in love and war. I’m happy that I led for half of the race, but when I got pushed out towards the grass I knew what would happen if my tyre touched the green stuff. I got no more than half a tyre on the grass and off I went. I got back on heading the way I wanted to go, but I was obviously well down on speed and got punted from behind. It was a fantastic race, and it’s always a pleasure to get a lift with Gabriele!”
Scott Dennis, SEAT UK Motorsports Manager, said: “I was starting to worry whether we’d put enough fuel in the Safety Car as it stayed out so long that I was just about to ‘phone a dealer and book it in for a service! All the drivers put on a great show, the racing was superb and it was a real pleasure to work with every one of the sixteen drivers involved.”
BTCC Masters – race result
1. Anthony Reid…29:30.338 (79.54mph)
2. Alain Menu…29:30.875
3. Gabriele Tarquini…29:32.280
4. Frank Biela…29:32.577
5. Matt Neal…29:34.831
6. John Cleland…29:35.745
7. Paul Radisich…29:37.055
8. Jeff Allam…29:37.444
9. Julian Bailey…29:38.288
10. Robb Gravett …29:38.562
11. Frank Sytner…29:42.414
Patrick Watts …DNF
Fastest lap: Gabriele Tarquini 1:17.767 (90.60mph)