If Mark’s recent story of three race replicas hitting the streets of Japan doesn’t prove that the BTCC Super Tourer era really transcends language and distance barriers, nothing else will.
The Super Tourer series of the late 1990s was designed to increase sales of four-door sedans. But while the cars bore a loose resemblance to their road counterparts, under the skin they couldn’t be more different.
Budgets reached seven figures for each car, with top motorsport teams more often linked to Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship for a Super Tourer podium.
Seeing one of the cars from that era at Race Retro a few weeks ago only cemented my obsession with these. amazing machines.
The car in question was a Nissan Primera from the 1998 BTCC Super Tourer season driven by David Leslie and built by RML (Ray Mallock Limited).
RML, which has achieved success in many motorsport categories since its foundation in 1984, was commissioned by Nissan to turn the humble second-generation P11 Primera GT sedan into a competitive Super Tourer.
First campaigned in 1997, the Primera Super Tourer retained the road car’s power-folding mirrors, which provided a real high-speed advantage by reducing drag. This was unsurprisingly outlawed in 1998. The 1998 car was also updated with revised aero packages, larger flared front wings, and an improved dashboard and ECU.
These changes helped, and in the same year the Primera became the first Japanese car to win a BTCC championship. The team won the manufacturers’ and teams’ championships in 1998, and in 1999 it also took home the most important award, Laurent Aïello won the driver’s championship.
The Primera’s SR20DE engine was fitted with an inverted cylinder head and a dry sump to sit as low and as far back as possible.
When the RML was completed, the engine produced 326 horsepower from the 2.0-liter, but this highly stressed powerplant had a few drawbacks. The engines had to have preheated oil pumped through their veins before starting, and being so low there was no room for a steering column, so the bevel gearbox was mounted on the driver’s wheel hub.
On the outside, the car sits on 19×9-inch center-locked RAYS Volk Racing Touring Evolution Fortess magnesium wheels. They’re set back, with flared front arches allowing for a bit more clearance through the 1.25 turns of lock-to-lock steering.
The only other noticeable changes from stock are the front air dam and rear wing.
The interior is very similar to the Prodrive BTCC Mondeo previously shown at Speedhunters, where the driving position has been moved further back and slightly inwards to improve weight balance.
While the audacity of the late 90s Super Tourers is no less insane today, the ingenuity and creativity afforded by their massive budgets is something we will likely never see again in stock car-based motorsport. Cost-cutting measures meant less opportunity for that kind of thinking these days, but it was a necessary evil to keep racing close and entice teams.
Fortunately, someone brought this car back to the competition. The Classic Touring Car Racing Championship (CTCRC) may not have the BTCC, but the Primera owner is not alone, with more than a dozen Super Tourers competing in the 2023 race season.
So, if the next-gen hybrid cars aren’t for you, it will at least soften the blow a little to see some of the older generation cars hit the track.