Triple Eight Racing - the best BTCC team in the 2000s
Triple Eight Racing (or 888 Racing) is a British racing team, founded in 1996, that achieved its greatest results in the British Touring Car Championship.
Most recently, from 2012 to 2017, the team acted as MG’s manufacturer’s entry. In the previous years, Triple Eight was Vauxhall’s manufacturer team.
Nine manufacturers’ and six drivers’ titles in BTCC
The team captured eight BTCC manufacturers’ titles with Vauxhall (between 2001 and 2009) and one manufacturers’ title with MG (in 2014). Four Triple Eight’s drivers won six BTCC drivers’ championships: Jason Plato (2001), James Thompson (2002 and 2004), Yvan Muller (2003) and Fabrizio Giovanardi (2007 and 2008).
During the 2000s, the team was affiliated with the Australian team Triple Eight Race Engineering. British Triple Eight purchased Briggs Motorsport in 2003 and founded a team to compete in the V8 Supercars Championship. Australian team later changed the ownership a few times and these two teams are not connected today.
Triple Eight founder is Derek Warwick
The Triple Eight Racing was formed by a former Formula One and sports car driver Derek Warwick, who debuted in the BTCC with Alfa Romeo in 1995. In 1996, he founded his own team and connected with Vauxhall, which parted ways with the previous partner RML. The Triple Eight became Vauxhall’s factory team for the 1997 BTCC season, retaining a two-time champion John Cleland in the #8 Vauxhall Vectra while Derek Warwick was driving the #88 car.
The first season of TripleEight/Vauxhall Sport cooperation wasn’t successful, without podiums and wins for two experienced drivers. Both Cleland and Warwick couldn’t reach better than 5th place, finishing 12th and 14th in the championship. Triple Eight finished 8th in the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings.
Maiden BTCC win for Triple Eight at Donington Park
For the 1998 BTCC season, the team changed the aerodynamic package on Vauxhall Vectra and the car became much more competitive. Triple Eight’s maiden BTCC win came in the fifth round at Donington Park with John Cleland winning the race with #98 Vectra. Cleland scored one more win at Donington Park in the 12th round, finishing 8th in the points. Warwick added one victory at Knockhill, finishing ninth in the final standings. Triple Eight finished 5th in the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings.
At Snetterton, Cleland had a crash with a reigning champion Alain Menu and he was forced to miss the next round due to injuries. He was replaced at Thruxton round with Brazilian driver Flavio Figueiredo.
Muller joined the team in 1999, the last season for Cleland
In 1999, Derek Warwick stepped down from driving to concentrate on running the team. His replacement was Yvan Muller, who had a fantastic rookie season in 1998 with Audi. The Frenchman became the leading Vauxhall driver, scoring one victory (Brands Hatch) and four podiums and he finished sixth in the points.
John Cleland, in his last BTCC season, didn’t score wins or podiums, finishing 13th in the points. The team repeated the same result from the previous year, finishing fifth in the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings.
Jason Plato joined Triple Eight in 2000
The season of 2000 was the final year of Supertouring era and several manufacturers left the competition, so the remaining manufacturers increased to three cars. Yvan Muller was in the #6 Vectra, Jason Plato moved from Renault to drive #5 Vectra, Vincent Radermecker moved from Volvo to drive #8 Vectra.
Muller was the most successful one, winning three times and finishing fourth in the points. Plato added two wins and finished fifth in the final standings. Just three manufacturers’ participated in the championship, Vauxhall finished in third place behind Ford and Honda.
2001 – Maiden championship titles for Plato and 888
For the 2001 BTCC season, according to new touring car regulations, Triple Eight and Vauxhall designed a new car – the Astra Coupe. Plato and Muller stayed with the team, fighting for the title until the last race at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. Muller retired in that race and Jason Plato became the BTCC champion for the first time in a career. He won five races during the season, Muller was the winner eight times. Triple Eight finished first in the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings.
In the 2001 BTCC season, Triple Eight ran the second team, named egg:sport and was running two cars for James Thompson and Phil Bennett. James Thompson won four races and finished third in the championship points, while Phil Bennett won three races and finished fourth. Andy Priaulx raced at Oulton Park for egg:sport replacing Phil Bennett.
2002 – First title for Thompson, second for the team
After winning a title, Jason Plato left the team. Yvan Muller retained his seat and he was joined by James Thompson, who moved up from egg:sport. Matt Neal replaced Thompson in the egg:sport’s car, alongside Paul O’Neill, who moved up from the production class.
The Astra Coupe was again a dominant car, with three drivers taking three leading positions in the championship. James Thompson has won six races and became the BTCC champion for the first time. Other drivers added nine more wins, Muller was second in the points, Neal third and O’Neill eighth. Of course, with these results, Vauxhall/Triple Eight dominantly took teams’ and manufacturers’ titles.
2003 – Maiden BTCC title for Yvan Muller, third for the team
For the 2003 BTCC season, the team changed its name to VX Racing to promote new Vauxhall tuning company VXR. The team increased to three cars, with James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Paul O’Neill as full-time drivers.
The domination of Vauxhall Astra Coupe continued, with eleven wins for VX Racing’s drivers. Muller won six times and finally took his first and only BTCC title. Thompson finished second, with four race wins. O’Neill added one victory and finished fourth in the points. For the third year in a row, Triple Eight won both teams’ and manufacturers’ trophies.
2004 – Fourth consecutive title for Astra Coupe
In 2004, the last season for Astra Coupe, Muller and Thompson were joined by 2003 Production class champion Luke Hines. Muller and Thompson were again the main candidates for the championship title. The championship was resolved in the last round at Donington Park, where Muller won the race but James Thompson captured the title with a third-place finish.
During the season, Muller won five races, Thompson was a winner four times. Luke Hines added two wins and finished 10th in the points. For the fourth consecutive year, Astra Coupe brought teams’ and manufacturers’ titles to Triple Eight/Vauxhall.
2005 – only one title with new Astra Sport Hatch
The Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch came as a replacement in the 2005 BTCC season. The drivers’ line-up was also new, with Yvan Muller in the #2 car, Colin Turkington in the #6 and Gavin Smith in the #88. The team had a strong opposition in the new Honda Integra Type R and Honda’s driver Matt Neal captured his first BTCC title while Team Halfords took the teams’ championship.
Yvan Muller scored six wins for VX Racing and finished as the championship runner-up. Colin Turkington added two wins and finished sixth in the points. In 2005, Vauxhall took only manufacturers’ title ahead of Seat.
Just two wins and no titles in 2006
Gavin Smith was able only to renew the contract for the 2006 BTCC season. Two new drivers were Tom Chilton and Fabrizio Giovanardi. After a long time, it was the first season without titles for Triple Eight and the team finished third in the teams’ classification and second among manufacturers.
The best driver was Giovanardi, who won two races and finished 6th in the points, one place ahead of Tom Chilton. It’s interesting that Turkish driver Erkut Kizilirmak participated in two rounds with the fourth car, the #90 Astra.
2007 – Vectra was back as a victorious car
For the 2007 BTCC season, the regulations changed and adaptation of S2000 rules forced Vauxhall to change the car. The Vectra C replaced Astra and immediately became the championship-winning car. Fabrizio Giovanardi was a championship contender from an early phase of the championship, fighting against Seat Sport’s Jason Plato. Giovanardi won ten times, Plato six times and ended the season with just 3-points advantage for Giovanardi.
Vauxhall’s second driver was Tom Chilton, who finished ninth in the points with six podiums. For the last round of the championship, both Vauxhall and Seat brought the third driver to increase chances for a victory. Alain Menu was driving the #88 Vectra. Vauxhall took the manufacturers’ title from Seat but in the team’s classification Seat Sport UK was better than VX Racing.
Back-to-back title for Giovanardi
In the 2008 BTCC season, Triple Eight was running three Vectras again. Fabrizio Giovanardi successfully defended his championship title in the #1 Vectra, winning five races. Matt Neal moved from Honda to drive the #4 Vectra while the third driver was Tom Onslow-Cole in the #10 car.
Neal won one race, Onslow-Cole two races and finished fifth and sixth in the points respectively. Triple Eight Racing collected enough points to take both teams’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Closing a decade as the most successful BTCC team
In the 2009 BTCC season, Triple Eight concluded a year as the most successful BTCC team of a decade, winning 8th manufacturers’ and 6th team’s title. Fabrizio Giovanardi and Matt Neal stayed with the team in 2009, scoring five wins together. The third driver was Andrew Jordan.
2010 – Difficult season as an independent team
In 2010, due to financial difficulties, Triple Eight continued to run Vauxhall Vectras as an independent team. The team combined services of six drivers during the season. James Nash was the only one who participated for almost full season (nine rounds) in the #14 car, other drivers with one-off appearances were Fabrizio Giovanardi, Phil Glew, Daniel Lloyd, Sam Tordoff and Jeff Smith.
The only one who scored wins was Giovanardi, who won two races in the opening round at Thruxton, but left the team after Uniq stopped its sponsorship before the second round. Triple Eight finished 5th in the Independents Team Trophy.
2011 – Independents’ trophies for James Nash and the team
For the 2011 season, James Nash was hired to drive #14 Vectra with a new NGTC engine for the full season. He was joined by three different drivers throughout the season: Tony Gilham, Aron Smith and Ollie Jackson.
With Collins Contractors as the main sponsor, Nash won one race and finished fourth in the overall standings and the best among independent drivers. The 888 Racing with Collins Contractors took third place among teams and won the Independent Teams’ Trophy.
MG factory team since 2012
Entering the championship as MG KX Momentum Racing, the team was second in the manufacturers’ standings (behind Honda) and fifth in teams’ classification. Plato was among the front-runners, scoring six wins and finishing third in the championship.
Plato stayed in the #99 MG for the 2013 BTCC season, while Neate was replaced by Sam Tordoff in the #88 car. The second year with the MG6 GT proved to be more successful, with nine wins for the team (Plato 8, Tordoff 1). Plato again finished third in drivers’ classification and the team finished in second place, behind Honda, in both Teams and Manufacturer’s championships.
2014 – Manufacturers’ title for Triple Eight/MG
For the 2014 BTCC season, team’s name changed to MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save and both Plato and Tordoff stayed with the team. The third car (#888) for Marc Hynes entered the championship as an independent entry under the name Quantel BiFold Racing.
Although they scored fewer wins than the year before, the final results were better for Plato and Tordoff. With six wins, Plato finished second in the points, Tordoff added one win and finished 7th. The team was third in the teams’ standings and captured manufacturers’ trophy, beating Honda. It was ninth manufacturers’ title for Triple Eight since its inception.
Just two wins in three seasons
The completely new line-up of drivers came in 2015, with Jack Goff in the #31 MG and Andrew Jordan in the #77 car. Goff managed to win one race, finishing ninth in the points. Jordan was fifth in the final standings, scoring no wins. MG/Triple Eight finished second among four manufacturers and third among 19 teams.
For the 2016 season, MG and Triple Eight renewed a deal for another three years in the BTCC. A new line-up was formed again, with Josh Cook in the #66 car and rookie Ashley Sutton in the #116 car. Sutton scored one victory at Croft Circuit and took the Jack Sears Trophy as the best rookie. MG/Triple Eight finished fourth among manufacturers and fifth among 19 teams.
Triple Eight left BTCC in 2018
In 2017, Aron Taylor-Smith was the full-time driver in the #40 MG with Daniel Lloyd driving another car in four rounds and Josh Cook in six rounds. The team was winless in the overall classification, taking fifth place among manufacturers and 16th place among teams.
In 2018, AmD Tuning took over MGs and Triple Eight was out of the championship for the first time since the foundation of the team.
Missing a success in other competitions
Besides racing in the British Touring Car Championship, Triple Eight had occasional appearances in other British championships. In 2010, Uniq Racing with Triple Eight was running a car for Malaysian driver Sazlan Sirajudin in the Formula Renault BARC. He finished 16th in the points.
For the 2011 season, it was announced that Triple Eight will enter Porsche Carrera Cup GB and Ginetta GT Supercup but that didn’t happen.
Two seasons in the British GT Championship
However, the team entered GT racing two years later, fielding two BMW Z4 GT3s in the 2013 British GT Championship. It was a joint venture project with Optimum Motorsport, so the team entered the championship as 888Optimum. Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle were sharing the #8 car, Daniel Brown and Steve Tandy were sharing the #888 car. With two podiums, Brown and Tandy finished 7th in the GT3 standings.
In the 2014 British GT season, three BMW cars appeared in some events. Driving pairs were Joe Osborne/Lee Mowle, Derek Johnston/Luke Hines and Warren Hughes/Jody Firth. Triple Eight finished 7th in the teams’ championship. The team also participated in selected races of the Blancpain Endurance Series.