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Special feature

Ranking the top 10 BTCC liveries

The British Touring Car Championship has always been awash with colour and style icons. But, in this latest top 10, here’s how we rank the best liveries of all time

Andrew Jordan, Eurotech Honda

Photo by: Kevin Wood / Motorsport Images

Gulf, Martini, JPS. Motorsport has plenty of great liveries and the most famous are usually found in Formula 1 or at Le Mans, but touring car racing also has plenty of iconic colour schemes.

We’ve been compiling various British Touring Car top 10s in recent weeks and now it’s the turn of the greatest liveries that have appeared in the championship since it began in 1958.

Of course, this is even more subjective than our usual rankings, so apologies in advance if your favourite hasn’t made the cut. Hopefully you’ll still like some of our 10.

One key point is that the liveries chosen must have appeared in the BTCC for a reasonable length of time. We’re not looking at one-offs (a different list?! – ed) or legendary schemes that occasionally dipped in. So that means no Texaco black-and-red, as appeared on the Eggenberger Ford Sierra RS500s on their rare raids in 1988…

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10. Triple Eight/VX Racing

Key cars: Vauxhall Vectra (Super Touring and S2000), Vauxhall Astra Coupe, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch

The red and white of Triple Eight wasn't the best but it was very successful

The red and white of Triple Eight wasn't the best but it was very successful

Photo by: Kevin Wood / Motorsport Images

It’s not the most beautiful entry on this list, but the red-and-white of the Triple Eight Vauxhall team became an intrinsic part of the BTCC. It’s associated with incredible levels of success, too, which earns it some bonus points.

Like several entries here, this covers a variety of similar schemes over a significant period of time. Triple Eight’s Super Touring Vectras, which arrived in 1997, had a slightly different look each year before the red nose, white middle and red rear became familiar at the front as the BTC-T Astra Coupe dominated in 2001-04, taking four consecutive title doubles.

A tad more black had arrived in 2004, which was carried over to the awkward Astra Sport Hatch the following year. In 2006, Holiday Inn sponsorship and green was added, which continued on the new S2000 Vectra that Fabrizio Giovanardi took to the 2007 crown.

The Vectras returned to mainly red and white for Giovanardi’s successful title defence and the neater livery enjoyed one more season at the front before Vauxhall withdrew from the BTCC at the end of 2009. But, with six drivers’ titles in just over a decade, it had made its mark.

9. BMW/Fina

Key cars: BMW 318i and 320i

The predominately white livery stood out but it was the smaller details that make this a favourite

The predominately white livery stood out but it was the smaller details that make this a favourite

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Predominantly white racing cars don’t normally make a list like this. The Le Mans-winning Martini Porsches are a rare exception, and so is the long-time BMW factory look.

The white with splashes of blue and red go back to the earliest days of BMW Motorsport and, with Mobil sponsorship, featured on the Prodrive-run M3 taken to the BTCC title by Frank Sytner in 1988.

Top 10: BMW Motorsport racers

For this list we’ve gone for the various Fina-backed versions of the Super Touring era. Run by Schnitzer and with Warsteiner plastered on the bonnet, the E36-shape 318i was the car to have in 1993 and took the title with Jo Winkelhock.

There were detail changes over the next three years prior to BMW’s withdrawal, both to the livery itself and the cars as the rear-wheel-driver challenger sprouted wings.

Despite more victories, BMW didn’t manage another title in the competitive period, but did provide a distinctive look. And we’re definitely not swayed by the fact that the BMWs wore Autosport stickers for some of the period (and we didn’t like the 1995 GoldenEye stickers)…

8. Wiggins Teape

Key cars: Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Capri

A childhood favourite for this writer

A childhood favourite for this writer

This writer had a poster of a Wiggins Teape-liveried Chevrolet Camaro on the bedroom wall as a child and the livery still looks great.

SCA European Road Services and Brut 33 were contenders for this list and also adorned Camaros, but the predominantly dark blue of the old paper-making firm wins out.

It was successful, too. Brian Muir ran Wiggins Teape on his race-winning Malcolm Gartlan Racing Camaro in 1970-71, taking the class title and second overall in the later year.

He then switched to a Ford Capri RS2600 for 1972. He won two more races and was often the closest challenger to Frank Gardner’s SCA Camaro, on pace if not reliability.

7. Dealer Team Vauxhall

Key car: Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300

Dealer Team Vauxhall had a relatively fleeting run in the series

Dealer Team Vauxhall had a relatively fleeting run in the series

Photo by: LAT Photographic

A strange inclusion, perhaps, because the silver, green and red of DTV that became so famous in the 1970s featured much more heavily in Special/Super Saloons and rallying. But, rather like lead driver Gerry Marshall is often thought of as a big British Saloon Car figure despite relatively few appearances, it made its mark. And it looks pretty cool.

Already a well-known squad, DTV’s Marshall and ace engineer Bill Blydenstein turned their attention to the championship in 1976. The Firenza Magnum was immediately a force in the 1601-2300cc pack, Marshall sweeping to the class crown and third in the overall standings.

Things were tougher in 1977. Tony Dron’s Triumph Dolomite was too quick in Class C and took the 2.3-litre crown, while Marshall also faced stern opposition from Jeff Allam’s Vauxhall.

PLUS: The forgotten tin-top great that battled the Capris

Marshall joined the Ford Capri ranks for 1978, while DTV switched its focus to rallying and the Chevette.

6. Halfords Honda

Key car: Honda Civic

There's been plenty of iterations of the Halfords orange and black design but 2016 stands out

There's been plenty of iterations of the Halfords orange and black design but 2016 stands out

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

The distinctive orange of Halfords initially appeared on Peugeots in the BTCC but became synonymous with Team Dynamics Hondas. First seen on a Civic in 2004, Halfords adorned the Integra Type Rs that Matt Neal took to consecutive titles in 2005-06.

The colours remained near the front as Dynamics switched to the eighth-generation Civic from 2007.

Neal and Gordon Shedden then scored titles with white-and-red, Yuasa-liveried Civics in 2011, 2012 and 2015. That scheme, which also featured on the striking Civic Tourer estate, was another candidate for this list, but a black-and-orange Halfords livery returned in 2016.

Shedden took his third BTCC crown that season with what was arguably an even more striking machine than the orange Integras. He and Neal won races in the car again in 2017, and the new FK8 Civic that Neal used to take victory in the special BTCC 60th anniversary race in 2018 had a similar look.

Dan Cammish narrowly failed to score a fourth ‘Halfords Honda’ drivers’ crown at the Brands Hatch finale in 2019 and the motoring services company continued to support Dynamics until the end of 2022.

5. Kaliber

Key cars: Ford Sierra RS500, Toyota Carina

Kaliber really stood out from the pack

Kaliber really stood out from the pack

Perhaps the Industrial Control Services colours that Andy Rouse’s cars wore for much of the 1980s and three BTCC titles should take this slot, but we reckon his similar Kaliber scheme is that bit more iconic.

The low-alcohol lager appeared on the Ford Sierra RS500s of Rouse and team-mate Guy Edwards in 1988, just as the BTCC really started to gain traction on TV.

Although Rouse lost out to Class B dominator Sytner for the overall crown, he was the pacesetter at the front. He won nine of the 12 rounds and was also involved in some of the most famous tin-top dices against the Texaco-backed Eggenberger-run works RS500s on their rare appearances.

The following year, the Kaliber Ford driver fought a tough, season-long campaign with the Trakstar example of Robb Gravett. After an unfortunate start to the season, Rouse fought back to snatch the class crown at a controversial Silverstone finale, scoring six victories to Gravett’s four.

The ICS colours returned to the Rouse RS500s for 1990 and looked great, but Gravett was now on top and took the overall title. Kaliber and ICS then appeared together on the Toyota Carina Rouse used to win three races in 1991.

An honourable mention here to the Labatt’s blue sported by, among others, Tim Harvey’s Rouse-prepared RS500 in 1989-90 and his 1991 Vic Lee Motorsport BMW M3.

4. 100+ Wheels/Dynamics

Key cars: BMW 318, Ford Mondeo, Nissan Primera

100+ Wheels was eye-catching and successful with Neal in the 1990s

100+ Wheels was eye-catching and successful with Neal in the 1990s

Photo by: Gavin Lawrence

Before they were major players for overall success, Neal and the family Team Dynamics squad was a top independent contender in the 1990s.

Aesthetically, we like the black-and-silver 100+ Wheels livery that Neal’s BMW M3 wore in 1992, but it’s the subsequent various red versions that are much better known.

The red 100+ Wheels first appeared on his BMW 318 in 1993 and returned, with more white, on Neal’s Ford Mondeo in 1995. Neal was Independents’ champion both years.

Neal switched to his first Nissan Primera during 1997 and in 1999 he got his hands on the 1998 version. The car lost the 100+ Wheels stickers, but the livery stayed ostensibly the same, so we’re including it here.

It looked good on every car, but the Primera was perhaps the best-known wearer of the colours. It was in this form that Neal took his famous £250,000 win as a privateer against the works teams at Donington Park. He also took two more class titles in the Primera.

All that is significant because the factory Vodafone scheme that won races in 1997-98 and dominated in 1999 was another candidate for this list. But it wasn’t the Primera’s best livery, nor was it the most iconic of the Super Touring era – that’s higher up this 10…

3. Alan Mann Racing

Key cars: Ford Falcon, Ford Lotus Cortina, Ford Escort

Alan Mann Racing's red-and-gold look can be considered the best look of the 1960s

Alan Mann Racing's red-and-gold look can be considered the best look of the 1960s

Photo by: LAT Photographic

Alan Mann Racing was one of the top touring car (and sportscar) outfits of the 1960s and had a strong relationship with Ford. In BTCC terms, it prepared the Mustang in which Roy Pierpoint took the 1965 crown, but it was with Frank Gardner that it really made a mark in the championship.

Gardner’s Falcon, resplendent in Alan Mann’s red-and-gold livery, thumped the opposition in 1967, the five-litre supercharged V8 machine scoring seven wins.

Ford insisted on a switch to the Escort for 1968 but the Twin Cam wasn’t ready for the start of the season, so Gardner raced a Lotus Cortina. Once the Escort was available, Gardner dominated the 2000cc class and even took a couple of outright wins against the V8s at Brands Hatch.

It’s the Escort that probably gets the livery this high, providing one of the iconic sights of the late-1960s. Gardner won the overall crown in 1968 and also topped the big class – the Escort now supercharged – the following year.

2. Pirtek

Key cars: Vauxhall Vectra, Honda Civic, MG6, Ford Focus, BMW 125i M Sport, BMW 330i M Sport

The Pirtek livery looked great on every car it covered

The Pirtek livery looked great on every car it covered

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey/LAT Photography

Some liveries just look good on everything. That’s true of the Pirtek colours that adorned, among other motorsport campaigns, Andrew Jordan’s various BTCC machines throughout the 2010s.

The largely blue scheme of the hydraulic and industrial hose provider appeared on Jordan’s family run Eurotech Racing Vauxhall Vectra in 2010-11 but really became synonymous with the team and series on the NGTC Honda Civic.

Jordan became a thorn in the side of the factory Hondas in 2012 and scooped the overall crown the following year. He was a race winner in 2014, but a Snetterton crash knocked the wind out of his title challenge.

Jordan took Pirtek to the Triple Eight MG squad in 2015, then to the Motorbase Ford Focus the following year before landing at West Surrey Racing in 2017.

Both the metallic and blue-yellow versions looked great on the 125i M Sport and Jordan almost scored a second title in the 330i M Sport in 2019. Were those BMW liveries Pirtek at its best? Perhaps, but it was on the flanks of the Civic that it made its biggest impact.

1. 1996-97 Williams Renault

Key car: Renault Laguna

The 1997 Laguna was the coolest car, driven by one of the greatest drivers in the BTCC's best era

The 1997 Laguna was the coolest car, driven by one of the greatest drivers in the BTCC's best era

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Renault’s original Laguna was one of the best-looking tin-tops of the 1990s. The blue front/yellow rear livery of 1995 looked great but it’s the reversed effort that arrived the following year that makes it onto this list.

That’s probably partly because success often subconsciously makes us think things look better. And the yellow-blue Laguna was successful.

Alain Menu took second in the 1996 standings behind the rampant four-wheel-drive Audi A4 of Frank Biela, but the Williams-built Laguna was unstoppable in 1997. Menu swept to the crown with 12 wins from 24 races, with rookie team-mate Jason Plato picking up a brace.

The 1998 Laguna looked pretty good in the green of Nescafe Blend 37 but didn’t have the impact or success of its predecessor.

An honourable mention goes to the Rapid Fit Ford Mondeo 1999-2000 but there’s only space for one yellow-and-blue Super Touring livery here. The 1997 Laguna was the coolest car, driven by the period’s greatest driver, during the championship’s all-time high point and involved a legendary F1 team – it genuinely is a BTCC icon.

Do you agree with this top 10?

Do you agree with this top 10?

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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