West Surrey Racing - Conquered F3 in the Past, Conquering BTCC Today
West Surrey Racing is a British racing team founded in 1981 by New Zealander Dick Bennetts, who is leading the team still today. WSR started its life in the British Formula 3 Championship, running cars for the future world champions such as Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Tom Kristensen, Nigel Mansell, Allan McNish and Andy Priaulx. The team captured five F3 championship titles.
In 1996, the WSR moved into the British Touring Car Championship, continuing the streak of extraordinary results while running factory BTCC programmes for Ford, Honda and MG. Since 2007, WSR is running BMW cars. In twenty years of BTCC participation, the team took five outright championship titles, nine independents’ crowns, 77 race victories and 255 podium finishes (until the end of 2017).
Bennetts worked with Ron Dennis before founding his team
Based in Sunbury-on-Thames, the West Surrey Racing was founded in 1981 by 35-year-old Dick Bennetts. Born in 1946 in new Zealand, Bennetts first came to the UK in 1972 and worked with Ron Dennis. In 1981, when Ron Dennis took over McLaren team, Bennetts founded his own team.
F3 championship title in debut season
The team had a fantastic debut season in the British Formula 3 Championship, winning the championship title with Jonathan Palmer, who won seven out of 19 races driving the Ralt RT3-Toyota. In 1982, the Argentinean Enrique Mansilla was the championship runner-up, just two points behind champion Tommy Byrne.
Ayrton Senna was the Formula 3 champion with WSR
And then, in 1983, Ayrton Senna took the F3 championship title with West Surrey Racing, in his last season before entering Formula One. Senna was also the winner of the F3 Macau Grand Prix with WSR’s Ralt-Toyota.
The next championship title came in 1985, won by another Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin. In the 1985 season, WSR was using Volkswagen-powered Ralt RT30. Gugelmin was also the winner of that year’s Macau Grand Prix. In 1986, the team made a one-year trip to the International Formula 3000 Championship, running the March 86B-Cosworth for Gugelmin. He finished 12th in the points.
Mika Häkkinen was the F3 champion in 1990
Bennetts was waiting for the next championship title until 1990. In the meantime, Bertrand Gachot was in the second place in 1987 and Eddie Irvine was fifth in 1998. In 1999, WSR drivers Allan McNish and Derek Higgins finished second and third respectively.
Finally, in 1990, Mika Häkkinen became British Formula 3 champion. The victorious car was the Ralt RT34 with Honda-Mugen engine. Team’s second driver Christian Fittipaldi finished fourth in the points.
Fifth and last F3 title with Rubens Barrichello
In 1991, Rubens Barrichello became the third Brazilian who won the British F3 title with West Surrey Racing. He beat David Coulthard and Gil de Ferran while the second WSR driver Jordi Gene was in the fourth place.
In the following years, WSR drivers were among front runners but never championship winners. Oswaldo Negri was fourth (1992), Marc Goossens third (1993), Vincent Radermecker second (1994) and Cristiano da Matta eighth (1995).
WSR became Ford’s factory team in the 1996 season
The major switch happened in 1996 when the West Surrey Racing left Formula 3 and moved into the British Touring Car Championship. After Ford and Andy Rouse parted ways, the WSR became the factory team and it was running Ford Mondeo Ghia for Paul Radisich and Steve Robertson. WSR worked in cooperation with chassis-builder Reynard Motorsport.
With no wins or podiums, retiring thirteen times in 24 races, Radisich finished 13th in the points. Robertson was far behind, in the 20th place. The Valvoline Team Mondeo finished 7th both in the Team’s and Manufacturers’ Championships.
Two more BTCC seasons with Ford
For the 1997 BTCC season, Radisich was partnered by Will Hoy. The facelifted Ford Mondeo was again far from competitive. With no podiums, Radisich was again 13th in the points, Hoy finished 15th. The team finished 7th among manufacturers and 8th among teams.
Radisich left the team at the end of 1997 and was replaced for the 1998 season by New Zealander Craig Baird, with Will Hoy remaining in another Ford Mondeo.
Nigel Mansell’s masterful performance with Ford Mondeo
After five events, Baird was replaced with Nigel Mansel for the sixth round at Donington Park. The event was remembered by Mansell’s masterful performance in the second race, which he started from the back of the grid after a crash in the first race.
Mansell charged through the field in his #55 Mondeo, even taking the lead. At the end, he finished in the fifth place. Later in the season, Mansell participated in two more rounds (Brands Hatch and Silverstone), finishing 18th in the final classification, two places better than Craig Baird, who participated in nine rounds.
Maiden BTCC victory at Silverstone
The team finished a season in the seventh place both in the Teams’ and Manufacturers’ championship. It was the last season with Ford.
Switch from Ford to Honda in 1999
Thompson had an excellent start to the season, winning the opening race at Donington Park from pole position. He added three more wins to finish fourth in the points. Kox was the winner in the night race at Snetterton, finishing 7th in the points. Gabriele Tarquini was a guest driver in two events, taking the podium with second place at Knockhill. The team finished second both in the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ classification.
2000 – seven wins in the last season of Supertouring era
The season 2000 was the last year under the Supertouring regulations. As the number of teams decreased significantly, each team was allowed to run three cars. WSR partnered with JAS Motorsport to run the factory Honda Accords, hiring Tom Kristensen and Gabriele Tarquini as full-time drivers alongside James Thompson.
Tarquini was the strongest Honda driver, claiming three wins and finishing sixth in the points. Kristensen finished seventh, with three wins also. James Thompson was ninth in the points with one victory. He was replaced in two rounds by Peter Kox and David Leslie after a crash in the opening round at Brands Hatch GP Circuit.
West Surrey Racing ended the Supertouring era second in the Manufactures championship, behind Ford and ahead of Vauxhall.
WSR took over MG factory team in 2001
In the 2001 BTCC season, the grid was full of new cars. West Surrey Racing joined the party in the last three rounds of the championship, coming as the MG factory team with two MG ZS cars for Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes. They were not eligible to score points but Reid won the race at the closing round at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.
It was a good announcement for the full-season campaign in 2002. The team continued a cooperation with Reid and Hughes but also was running two cars for Colin Turkington and Gareth Howell in the independent MG team sponsored by the pop group Atomic Kitten. Anthony Reid was the best MG driver, finishing fourth in the points with one victory. MG finished second in the manufacturers and teams’ championships, behind Vauxhall.
Turkington joined MG works team in 2003
In 2003, the Team Atomic Kitten was dropped but Colin Turkington joined MG works team as the third driver alongside Reid and Hughes. Each driver scored one victory, taking 6th (Reid), 7th (Hughes) and 8th (Turkington) place at the end of the season. In the manufacturers/teams standings, MG dropped to third place behind Vauxhall and Honda.
Independent entry and first title in 2004
Financial troubles forced MG Rover to pull its support but West Surrey Racing continued to run MG ZS cars as the independent entry. The team cut down from three to two cars, the #6 for veteran Anthony Reid and the #8 for youngster Colin Turkington.
WSR drivers were dominant in the Independents’ classification, with Reid taking the title ahead of Turkington. It was the first BTCC title for West Surrey Racing. In the Teams’ championship, WSR finished third behind VX Racing and Seat Sport UK.
Rob Collard joined the team in 2005
In 2005, WSR was a single-car independent entry. Rob Collard was driving the #21 MG ZS to two victories and three more podiums, finishing seventh in the championship and third among independent drivers.
In 2006, two MG ZS cars were again on the grid, one for Rob Collard and another for returnee Colin Turkington. The team secured title sponsorship from the RAC. Colin Turkington finished third in the championship standings, scoring two wins. Collard was ninth in the points. The Team RAC finished fourth.
West Surrey Racing switched to BMW in 2007
With three outright wins, Turkington finished fifth in the drivers’ standings but as the champion among independent drivers. Independent teams were also awarded, the Team RAC took the title.
World Touring Car Championship debut in 2007
During 2007, the team fielded BMW 320si for Colin Turkington in two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship, at Brands Hatch and Macau. Sponsored by Aviva, Turkington finished on the podium in the first race at Brands Hatch, taking third place behind Alain Menu and James Thompson.
Tom Onslow-Cole left the team at the end of the 2007 season, being replaced by Stephen Jelley for 2008. Colin Turkington clinched one more Independent drivers’ championship title, being fourth in the overall classification. He was the winner in four races.
2009 BTCC title for Colin Turkington
After being the best independent driver for two years in a row, Colin Turkington reached his first outright championship title, also first for the team, in 2009. The victorious car was the #4 BMW 320si. With six wins, Turkington took the title collecting five points more than Jason Plato.
Stephen Jelley added two more wins for WSR in the #44 BMW, finishing seventh in the points. The third car was entered for the final three rounds of the season, driven by the returning Anthony Reid. Among teams, Team RAC was second in the overall classification and the best among independent entries.
Running without a title sponsor in 2010 and 2011
The tough season followed in 2010 after RAC stopped the sponsorship. Colin Turkington left the team to compete in the World Touring Championship with eBay Motors. West Surrey Racing resigned Rob Collard and signed Andy Neate, a director of team sponsors Ceravision. With seven podiums, Collard was 8th in the points.
In 2011, still without a title sponsor, WSR was running two BMWs for Rob Collard and Nick Foster. Similar to the season before, Collard finished 8th in the points, scoring six podiums.
eBay Motors as a partner since 2012
For the 2012 BTCC season, eBay Motors partnered WSR as title sponsor. The team was running three BMW 320si fitted with NGTC-spec turbocharged engines. Collard and Foster were joined by Tom Onslow-Cole.
The season was successful, with the team finishing second in the Team’s championship and Rob Collard finishing as a runner-up among independent drivers. Collard won the opening race at Brands Hatch and then two more times at Knockhill, finishing fifth in the overall drivers’ classification.
Turkington’s return in 2013, championship title in 2014
In 2013, Collard and Foster remained with the team for the third consecutive season, but the biggest change was a return of Colin Turkington. The team also replaced the BMW 320si with the BMW 125i M Sport. Turkington was in the championship fight until the final round, finishing fifth at the end.
The trio Turkington-Collard-Foster remained with the team in 2014. Turkington’s #5 BMW was a winning-car eight times and he clinched his second BTCC title, again ahead of Jason Plato, same as in 2009. Collard added one victory and finished 8th in the points. eBay Motors took Teams’ championship title.
Historic Sunday at Croft Circuit
With his second BTCC trophy in a pocket, Turkington left the team. Andy Priaulx and Sam Tordoff joined WSR, Rob Collard remained with the team for the sixth consecutive season. In the fifth round of the championship, at Croft Circuit, West Surrey Racing had probably the best weekend in team’s history. In the first race, the team secured their first ever 1-2-3 finish, with Andy Priaulx winning ahead of Tordoff and Collard. To make the day even better, Tordoff won second race and Collard was the winner in the third race.
In the final classification, Tordoff was 6th, Priaulx 8th, and Collard 10th. The team was eligible for Manufacturers/Constructors points, finishing third behind Honda/Team Dynamics and MG/Triple Eight.
2016 – two titles for the team, losing drivers’ trophy
In 2016, Andy Priaulx switched to GT racing so he was replaced by Jack Goff in the IHG Rewards Club car. The other two cars, under the banner of Team JCT600 with GardX, were driven by Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard.
Tordoff was in the championship lead for most of the season but at the end, he lost the title by two points to Gordon Shedden. Collard finished fifth, Goff was eleventh.
BMW and West Surrey Racing clinched the Manufacturers/Constructors’ championship title, beating Honda, Subaru and MG. In the Teams’ championship, the Team JCT600 with GardX won the title.
Manufacturers’ champions again in 2017
For the 2017 BTCC season, West Surrey Racing added the 2013 BTCC champion Andrew Jordan and his Pirtek Racing to the team. Jordan was driving the #77 BMW 125i M Sport, scoring three wins ninth in the points. He was less successful of three drivers as Rob Collard (one victory) finished fifth in the points and Colin Turkington (foir wins) was a vice-champion.
Good results of all three drivers secured a new Manufacturers’ title for WSR/BMW. The Team BMW captured a title among teams.
The same line-up of driver will race for WSR in 2018.