Tin-top legend Soper heads Peugeot attack

Peugeot has enlisted tin-top legend Steve Soper to head its three-pronged attack on the new-look British Touring Car Championship

Tin-top legend Soper heads Peugeot attack

Soper, a driver synonymous with BMW since 1989, comes out of semi-retirement to partner former BTCC independent king Matt Neal and National Saloon Car Cup front-runner Dan Eaves in a trio of Touring class 406 Coupes.

The 48-year-old has not raced a touring car for three years, having switched to BMW's sportscar programme in 1998. He raced only once in 2000, finishing fourth in the Sebring 12 hours, but believes he has a realistic shot at taking his first BTCC crown.

"I'm expecting to be successful," he said, "and I'll be very irritated if I'm not.

"I was undecided whether to continue with BMW, or continue to race overseas, or even stop completely," he added. "[Peugeot sport boss] Mick Linford and [team boss] Vic Lee are good talkers, but once I saw the drawings of the car, I realised it'd be a lot of fun to do the BTCC again."

He drove for Lee in 1991 and '92 as team mate to eventual champions Will Hoy and Tim Harvey. His best BTCC result was second overall in 1993 driving for the Schnitzer team. Soper, who owns a BMW dealership in Lincoln, was briefly BTCC champion in 1983 until his Rover Vitesse was declared illegal.

Despite having no recent experience of racing front-wheel drive cars, Soper believes that his ability to quickly sort a car will be a key factor in the new-look BTCC, which severely restricts testing.

"Steve's really up for it," said Linford. "I'm really pleased and he's an extremely good development driver."

Neal's inclusion in the team is a full works driver. Several members of his successful independent outfit Team Dynamics are set to be absorbed by Lee's VLR works squad, although Dynamics may still run an independent entry in the series.

Peugeot's main opposition in 2001 is set to be the works Vauxhall duo of Jason Plato and Yvan Muller, racing Triple Eight-built and run Astra Coupes.

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