Updated: Sep 5, 2020
The second part of my new feature
For my next feature I am going to look at every driver who started my first ever British Touring Car Championship race and what they have achieved in their careers, both before and after.
As some of you may know, my first BTCC race was on the 30th March 2002 when my Dad and I went to the “Super Sunday” event at Brands Hatch, in which the touring cars were joined by the British GT championship as well as Formula 3.
I was only seven when I attended and immediately fell in love with touring cars, a passion which has failed to die down yet nearly eighteen years later!
The order I will be looking at the drivers will be the finishing positions of that race.
I first looked at Matt Neal’s career and how it has spanned over 30 years in the BTCC. It is now time for who finished second in that race, 2002 Independents Champion Dan Eaves.
Dan Eaves made his BTCC debut in 2000 in the production class championship, the inaugural season for the series which ran alongside the SuperTouring cars that year. The series was introduced as a cheap alternative to the SuperTouring rules and became hugely popular in the early noughties.
Eaves only competed in two of the rounds that season in a Peugeot 306 GTi run by Vic Lee Racing under the VIP Touring Car Club. Eaves was immediately successful, finishing on the podium in each of the four races he contested in.
Despite only competing in four races in the 2000 Production Class season, he finished the year fifth with 53 points.
Eaves’ impressive form ensured he became a factory Peugeot driver for 2001 when the French Manufacture returned to the BTCC following the introduction of the BTC regulations, aimed at bringing the costs of competing down to a reasonable level after the inflation of expense during the SuperTouring era.
Peugeot’s team was completed by 2000 Independents Champion Matt Neal, although he only contested a single round, and BTCC legend Steve Soper, who returned to the series after a seven-year hiatus. Against strong opposition Eaves impressed during his BTCC debut season. However, despite a string of impressive performances, he and his Peugeot squad were unable to match the pace of the dominant Vauxhall team, who ran away at the top, their four drivers convincingly finishing in the top four of the standings.
Eaves was best of the rest for 2001 finishing fifth in the standings although this was not enough for Peugeot to continue in the BTCC. For 2002, Eaves remained with Vic Lee Racing in a now independent Peugeot 406, partnering 1992 BTCC Champion Tim Harvey.
Once again Eaves impressed, finishing as top independent with 43 points, ensuring he finished the season 10th in the points standings. In addition to his strong championship finishing position, Eaves also won the 2002 Independents Championship, beating Aaron Slight by three points at the final two rounds at Donington Park.
It was a successful season for Eaves who hoped, along with Vic Lee Racing, to continue their upward curve into 2003. To do this, they introduced the Peugeot 307 as their new challenger for the 2003 season, designed by former Sauber F1 designer Sergio Rinland.
For 2003 Eaves was partnering with Carl Breeze, although he was replaced halfway through the year by Clio ace Danni Buxton. The first half of the season was difficult for Eaves, however as the year went on the car became more and more competitive, with Eaves eventually finishing fourth in the Independents Championship.
However, 2003 proved to be Eaves’ last with Vic Lee Racing as he moved to Team Dynamics to partner Matt Neal in the second Halfords Honda Civic Type-R. Having switched to a car with a proven track record in the BTCC all eyes would be on Eaves to see if he could regain the form he achieved in 2001 and 2002. Thankfully for Eaves, he grasped the opportunity, taking his first victory in the BTCC at Oulton Park, eventually finishing the season eighth.
I remember it well as I was sat on the banking on a beautiful spring evening with my Dad, both sitting on portable stools until my Dad’s collapsed underneath him giving everyone on the banking a good laugh!
I was lucky enough to meet Eaves a few times that season and, like his teammate Neal, he always had time for you, happily taking pictures and signing autographs.
Eaves remained with Team Dynamics for 2005 as the team switched from the Civic Type-R to the Integra Type-R. Team Dynamic’s bold move to build their car in house proved an instant success with teammate Neal winning two of the first three races however it was Eaves who stole the headlines at Thruxton during the third round of the season.
Before fully explaining why, I have to go back a season to 2004, where the race weekend was changed to three races per event rather than two, all of which being Sprint Races, with the grid for the second race of the day being determined by the top 10 reversed. In other words, if you finished the first race of the day tenth, you would start the second race on pole.
The aim was to spice up the action, with this rule in place in 2005, only that it was the third race of the day which saw the top ten reversed.
It was thought to be impossible for a driver to win all three races in a day however at Thruxton, Eaves managed it, becoming the first driver to do so, and indeed the only driver to achieve this feat until 2009.
To this day only two people have ever managed it and Eaves is one of them, and at the fastest circuit in Britain too.
It was a successful season for Team Dynamics as Neal finished the season as champion with Eaves third, only four points behind second placed Yvan Muller.
Sadly, this would prove to be Eaves’ last full season in the BTCC as he was replaced at Team Dynamics in 2006 by Scott Gordon Shedden.
I thought this would be the last time we saw Eaves in the BTCC however in late 2008 Eaves announced he would be returning to the championship in 2009 with a new team, Cartridge World Racing, driving a Seat Leon. I remember seeing Eaves in a small tent with the car at the 2008 finale at Brands Hatch and having a small chat with him about his 2009 plans.
It was a really exciting moment for me as Eaves is a driver I grew up watching and always felt it was sad to see him leave the series when he did. Although Eaves started his return well, sadly he never hit the heights that he hit previously, with reliability hampering his championship. He only scored in his first due to these issues and sadly, halfway through the season, Eaves left the championship and has not returned since.
It is such a shame that his career did not restart as he was a driver I really liked growing up, being a Honda fan because of Neal ensured I was going to admire him too.
I also felt that he was a great driver, a quiet driver who went about his business slowly but when the car was on his side, as we saw at Thruxton in 2005, he was unbeatable. Still only 44, it would be great to see him behind the wheel once more.