Triple Eight Racing British Touring Car Championship

Triple Eight is dedicated to crafting championship winning machines, and having won over 130 races since the company was founded in 1996, it’s what we’re known for.

Triple Eight’s on-track performance has been the culmination of over 17 years of progressive growth, investment and development. During that time, Triple Eight has developed the resources, personnel, facilities, capabilities and experience necessary to reach the pinnacle of motorsport. Triple Eight isn’t just a race team, it has an established history taking a standard road car, re-designing it and manufacturing a proven race winning thoroughbred.

Alongside the motorsports programme, Triple Eight has also been responsible for a range of high performance road car projects with nearly 5,000 cars given the Triple Eight treatment. These include Vauxhall’s fastest ever selling vehicle – 100 Astra Coupe T8 editions.

 
triple eight john celand racing

Vauxhall Vectra B (1997–2000)

Triple Eight made its BTCC debut in 1997 by running the works Vauxhall team left by RML and providing Vectras for two-time Vauxhall champion John Cleland and team owner Derek Warwick.

The season was not successful with the Vectra uncompetitive because of aerodynamics and was not competitive against its rivals. John Cleland and Derek Warwick finished 12th and 14th in the championship with their best race results being a 5th. Triple Eight finished 8th in the teams’ and manufacturers’ (as Vauxhall) award. 1998 would be a much more competitive season, Triple Eight changed the aerodynamic package and the Vectra became a much more competitive car.
 
Triple Eight’s first BTCC win came at round 5 at Donington Park after John Cleland achieved a great start and never lost the lead. This would also be John Cleland’s first victory since his championship year in 1995, and Vauxhall’s first since James Thompson at Snetterton 1996. John Cleland would win again at Donington Park at round 12 in one of the best BTCC races ever witnessed. Derek Warwick would also take his first BTCC victory at Knockhill. While the season was successful, it was not smooth. John Cleland suffered a crash at Snetterton with reigning champion Alain Menu causing cracked ribs and heavy bruising causing him to miss the next round at Thruxton. His place was taken by Brazilian driver Flavio Figueiredo. John Cleland and Derek Warwick finished 8th and 9th in the championship. Triple Eight finished 5th in the teams’ and manufacturers’ award.

1999 saw Derek Warwick retire from full-time racing and to focus on running the team. His place was taken by Frenchmen Yvan Muller moving from Audi.
The Vectra went through some changes as well for the season. The season only saw one win from Vauxhall by Yvan Muller at Brands Hatch round 7. Yvan Muller finished an eventual 6th in the championship, however John Cleland had a much harder season finishing 13th and announcing his retirement after 11 successful seasons with Vauxhall including 2 championships in 1989 (Vauxhall Astra) and 1995 (Vauxhall Cavalier).

The 2000 season saw the final year of the supertouring era and many of the manufacturers departed the BTCC (these included Renault (Williams) – 1997 champions, Volvo (TWR) – 1998 champions and Nissan (RML Group) 1999 champions) leaving Ford (Prodrive), Honda (WSR) and Vauxhall (Triple Eight). Every team increased to three cars. Triple Eight had Yvan Muller, Jason Plato (departing Renault) and Vincent Radermecker (departing Volvo); Ford were the dominate manufacturer throughout the season with all three Fords finishing 1–2–3 (Alain Menu – Anthony Reid – Rickard Rydell) with Yvan Muller and Jason Plato finishing 4th and 5th with Vincent Radermecker finishing 10th. Triple Eight finished 2nd and 3rd in the teams and manufacturers award.

Triple Eight competed twice in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia. In 1997, two Vectras were entered for John Cleland/James Thompson and Derek Warwick/Peter Brock, while in 1998, Cleland and Warwick shared a car with Russell Ingall/Greg Murphy driving the second car.
triple eight astra coupe racing BTCC

Vauxhall Astra Coupé (2001–04)

In 2001 the BTCC witnessed the arrival of a new set of touring car regulations. This system was designed to make the cars much less expensive to build and run.

Vauxhall replaced the Vectra with the Astra Coupe for 2001 and would run the chassis until the end of the 2004 season. Yvan Muller and Jason Plato retained their seats at Vauxhall and were the class of the field. The title race came down to a hotly contested battle between Muller and Plato in the final race. After an early spin by Plato, Muller looked comfortable to take the title, until two excursions at Clearways caused an oil leak and fire for Muller, gifting Plato the championship. Triple Eight finished first in the teams and manufacturers award.

The 2002 season saw the departure of Plato from the BTCC to race in the British ASCAR stock car championship. Muller retained his seat at Vauxhall and was even more determined to take the title. Plato’s seat at Vauxhall was filled by James Thompson moving up from the egg:sport team. The season saw the Astra Coupe again the car to beat against rivals MG, Honda, Peugeot and Proton, however the Astra suffered reliability issues throughout the season. Despite this, Muller and Thompson and for much of the season Matt Neal (egg:sport) fought for the championship. In the end, Thompson won the championship from Muller and Neal. Triple Eight again finished first in the teams and manufacturers award.
In 2003 the Triple Eight-run Vauxhall squad increased to three cars with Thompson and Muller joined by Paul O’Neill moving up from egg:sport. Vauxhall also changed the team name to VX Racing standing for the new Vauxhall tuning company VXR. After two dominant seasons the Astra was now being challenged by Honda and MG, however it was Muller and Thompson who would again challenge each other for the title. In the end Muller got the better of his team-mate and secured the title. Triple Eight again won the teams and manufacturers award.

The final year with the Astra Coupe was 2004 and it was yet another season to savour for Vauxhall. Muller and Thompson were joined by 2003 Production class champion Luke Hines. Now at the end of its development cycle, the Astra Coupe faced a huge challenge against Honda, MG and newcomers Seat who had the returning Plato spearheading its championship attack.

Despite not having the pace advantage of previous seasons, the Astra Coupe proved itself a consistent force and allowed Muller and Thompson to go head-to-head for the title for the third year in a row. Thompson won the title by just one point from Muller and the Astra Coupe went down in the history books as the most successful car to race in the BTCC. For the fourth year in a row Triple Eight had won both the teams and manufacturers award.
astra sport triple eight racing BTCC

Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch (2005–06)

The 2005 BTCC season saw Triple Eight introduce the Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch to replace the highly-successful Astra Coupe. While the Astra Coupe was able to soak up all the challenges it faced throughout the four years the Astra Sport Hatch faced much harder opposition including the new Honda Integra Type R prepared by Team Halfords (Team Dynamics).

While Yvan Muller retained his seat at Triple Eight and Vauxhall, James Thompson would not return to the championship to retain his title, instead facing his sights on the new World Touring Car Championship. His place was taken Colin Turkington moving from West Surrey Racing / MG, while a third car was prepared for Gavin Smith. While many expected Vauxhall to again win the championship, the Astra Sport Hatch had an able rival in the Integra Type R of Matt Neal and Dan Eaves. Try as he might, Muller couldn’t get the better of his Honda-rival; Neal managed to complete all 30 races without a single retirement.

Muller finished second in the championship with six race wins, Colin Turkington finished sixth with two race wins while Gavin Smith finished tenth. There was cause for cheer though; Triple Eight won the manufacturers award for a fifth year in a row, beating Seat who were outclassed by both Team Halfords and VX Racing. In the teams award standings Triple Eight finished second.
In 2006 hotel-chain Holiday Inn became a main sponsor for VX Racing and the driver lineup also saw new changes. Following seven successful seasons and a championship (2003) Muller left VX Racing and the BTCC to compete with Seat in the WTCC. Turkington also left the team to return to West Surrey Racing. Yvan Muller’s place was taken by Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi moving to the UK from the WTCC and Colin Turkington’s place was taken by Tom Chilton moving from Honda. Gavin Smith retained his seat at VX Racing.
 
The season was a disappointing one for Triple Eight with the Astra Sport Hatch not quite as racey as its competitors, and was beaten by the Honda Integra Type R and Seat with its new-look Leon. Chilton struggled to learn the car, Giovanardi also had issues adapting to the car and the UK tracks.

While the dominance was missing from the previous seasons there were highlights throughout the season. Fabrizio Giovanardi’s first BTCC win happened to be Vauxhall’s 100th ; the Italian then won another race at Brands Hatch before the season closed out. Triple Eight finished second and third in the manufacturers and teams award respectively.
triple eight racing btcc vauxhall

Vauxhall Vectra C (2007–09)

2007 saw the start of a new era for the BTCC as the series adopted the S2000 regulations as used in the World Touring Car Championship. The changes in regulations meant that the Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch was replaced by the Vauxhall Vectra. VX Racing down sized to a two car team retaining Fabrizio Giovanardi and Tom Chilton. 2007 saw the full potential of Fabrizio Giovanardi winning 10 races and the title against Seat rival Jason Plato. While the season was successful for Giovanardi Tom Chilton again had a challenging season without a win and an eventual 9th in the championship. For the final round at Thruxton the championship difference was 9 points (Jason Plato to Fabrizio Giovanardi) Both teams brought in a third driver. Seat brought in Tom Coronel while Vauxhall brought in Alain Menu the 1997 champion with Renault and 2000 champion with Ford. Triple Eight won the manufacturers award and 2nd in the teams award.

For 2008 Triple Eight returned to a three car operation. Fabrizio Giovanardi retained his seat as defending champion, Tom Chilton and Matt Neal exchanged seats at Triple Eight and Team Dynamics with Tom Chilton moving to Team Dynamics and Matt Neal to Triple Eight. The third car was taken by Tom Onslow-Cole moving from Team RAC (WSR). The season was somewhat 
Untroubling for Giovanardi to another championship ahead of Jason Plato. Matt Neal finished 5th with one win and Tom Onslow-Cole finished 6th with two wins. Triple Eight finished 1st in the manufacturers and teams award.
 
2009 saw new changes to Triple Eight. Triple Eight were the only team with manufacturer support. Fabrizio Giovanardi and Matt Neal retained their seats at VX Racing while Tom Onslow-Cole moved to drive part-time for Team AON Ford. His place was taken by Andrew Jordan. Despite the success of the Vectra and Giovanardi it would not continue into 2009. While Giovanardi challenged for the title he was outclassed by Colin Turkington in the RAC BMW (WSR) and Jason Plato with RML Chevrolet. Fabrizio Giovanardi finished the season 3rd while Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan finished 4th and 10th in the championship.

Triple Eight finished 1st in the teams and manufacturers award. 2009 would also witness the final year with a works Vauxhall team. Vauxhall pulled out of the sport due to lack of official manufacturers and the economic crisis.
mg6 gt racing triple eight btcc

MG6 GT (2012–Present)

In early 2012 it was announced that Triple Eight would return to manufacturer-backed status with MG Motors, running a pair of MG6 GT cars to the latest Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) specification. Jason Plato re-joined the team from Chevrolet, along with Andy Neate, who had joined from the privateer Ford outfit, Team Aon. This meant that although Triple Eight were the reigning Independent Driver and Team champions, they would be ineligible to defend their titles due to the manufacturer support from MG.

Four days before Christmas 2011 there was no deal and it wasn’t until February 2012 that the team received a shell to work with. Going for the title in year one – the first season the majority of the field ran NGTC machinery – was always going to be a tough ask, but this was by any means ideal. The car made its debut at Brands Hatch after hardly turning a wheel during its build and development. Nevertheless, the MG6 was on the pace straight away, scoring a third place in race two and the car’s maiden win at the hands of Plato in race three; a result that gave the entire team cause for cheer.

Throughout the rest of the first half of the 2012 season, MG-powered Plato scored a further six podium positions including a second win at Croft just before the mid-season break. This left Plato third in the drivers’ championship and the team fourth in the teams’ championship. Plato’s team Andy Neate however did not fare as well with his debut, often struggling to get his MG into the top ten. The second half of the year saw Plato add four more wins to his tally, at Snetterton, Rockingham and Silverstone placing him third in the final standings, while Neate ended up a distant sixteenth. The team finished fifth in the overall championship and came second in the manufacturers’ standings; the MG was the top non-Honda by a long margin it what was its development year.
Plato stayed with the team for 2013, while Neate was replaced by Porsche Carrera Cup race winner Sam Tordoff. The second year with the MG6 GT proved more successful, with both drivers securing more top spot finishes. Plato took more wins and twice as many pole as champion Andrew Jordan, but suffered a lot more drama along the way.

There were still positives. Consistency in wet conditions improved and the MG6 GT was usually one of the quicker cars in a straight line. Plato finished third in the drivers championship, with the team finishing as runners up to Honda Yuasa Racing in both Teams and Manufacturer’s championships.

The 2014 season saw Triple Eight undertake more aerodynamic work over the winter. A radical design was tabled that would’ve provided a gain of 0.2s per lap, but required a complete bodywork change, which was costly and unfeasible in the modern BTCC. The team found a half-way solution that was less radical, but provided around 0.18s a lap improvement over the 2013 challenger.

As a result Plato beat all the Hondas in the title race, but both marques were jumped by the rear-wheel-drive BMW of Colin Tarkington. Every race weekend saw the debate about the advantages of rear-wheel-drive in the NGTC era rage on and on, as Turkington made the most of his car’s advantage. Plato finished second to the BMW driver, but a healthy 50 points ahead of Gordon Shedden’s Honda Civic Tourer. Tordoff was a lowly seventh after a campaign besieged by bad luck.

In December 2014 MG and Triple Eight announced they would continue for at least one more season, but without either Plato or Tordoff and in January 2015 announced the return of 2013 BTCC champion, Andrew Jordan.