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Friday favourite: The "lazy V8" Rover that took on Europe's giants

Both on home soil and in Europe, the Rover SD1 proved a potent weapon in the hands of Jeff Allam during the 1980s. One of the most underrated tin-top racers around reflects on his favourite car

Jeff Allam, Rover

Jeff Allam was part of the famed Super Touring era of 1990s tin-tops but it is the earlier rear-wheel-drive Group A Rover V8 that he selects as his favourite racer.

Allam, who scored 17-time British Touring Car Championship wins, helped end the Ford Capri domination and took the 1982 Class A BTCC crown with a TWR 3500 S. He then raced the Vitesse version in the epic 1985-86 European Touring Car contests against Volvo and BMW.

“The Rover was a special car and a special time in my career,” says the 68-year-old. “To do it with Tom Walkinshaw, travelling to places like Monza, Anderstorp, Estoril and Brno – it was the heyday of my career.

“I did the Spa 24 Hours many times, and Bathurst. I had a colourful time with Tom and was very fortunate. The Rover was a lazy V8 with lots of torque and a smooth delivery. It was a big car to drive and there was a big throw on the gearchanges.”

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Allam took six third places in the 1985 ETCC, mainly sharing his TWR Rover with Armin Hahne, before scoring a famous victory in the 1986 Silverstone RAC Tourist Trophy alongside 1967 Formula 1 world champion Denny Hulme. But despite his greater success in sprint events, Allam feels he was better suited to the longer contests.

“Those races were 500km or more, so you had to be kind to the car,” reckons Allam. “That was one of the formats I could do – I was quite gentle and smooth with it. You’ve got to approach it slightly differently, you’ve got to bring the car home. It’s a different war.

Six podiums in the 1985 ETC gave way to a win in 1986 at Silverstone in the RAC Tourist Trophy

Six podiums in the 1985 ETC gave way to a win in 1986 at Silverstone in the RAC Tourist Trophy

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“In the BTCC [in the 1990s], I used to come in from a race and my brake pads were half worn, [Vauxhall team-mate] John Cleland would come in and the pads would be absolutely destroyed. To go to the sprint format and front-wheel drive it took me a bit if time to dial in. I had my good days and I had my bad days.”

In terms of team-mates, Spa 24 Hours and Bathurst 1000 winner Hahne and two-time BTCC champion Cleland stand out for Allam.

"Those races were 500km or more, so you had to be kind to the car. That was one of the formats I could do – I was quite gentle and smooth with it" Jeff Allam

“In the longer races you have to get on with your team-mate and I worked well with Armin,” he says. “We had a special relationship and worked well together.”

“But in racing terms and being competitive, it would be John,” adds Allam of his 1991-94 Vauxhall team leader. “We never hid anything from each other.

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“It was difficult because he was the main man and they expected him to win. I was there to back him up. I wanted to win but I was happy to drive for a works team and you were paid well. I’ve got no regrets.”

The Rover was a

The Rover was a "special car" for a "special time" in Allam's career

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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