Updated: Sep 5, 2020
The tenth part of my series looking at each driver from the season opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch in 2002.
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.
The next driver I am going to be looking at is the penultimate driver who retired from the race, 1992 British Touring Car Championship Champion Tim Harvey.
Harvey retired from the race after being clouted up the back and into the Druids gravel by debutant Tom Chilton, who went on to finish third. Harvey finished seventh having started towards the rear of the field in the second race of the day.
2002 saw Harvey returned to the BTCC full time for the first time since 1998, partnering Dan Eaves in a pair of Peugeot 406’s. The duo was joined by 2001 Formula Renault Champion Carl Breeze halfway through the season. It would prove to be Harvey’s final season in the BTCC before retiring from the championship. Harvey’s final season yielded a single podium as he finished eleventh in the standings, equal on points with teammate Eaves after both of them accumulated 43 points.
Prior to the 2002 season, Harvey only missed two seasons during the 2-litre-era, making his BTCC debut in 1987 for John Maguire Racing in a Rover Vitesse. It was a hugely successful debut season for Harvey who won the Group A title that year as well as taking three overall race victories. It was enough to finish the season fourth overall in the standings.
Harvey was not able to repeat this success in from 1988 through to 1990 in what was a hugely confusing era for the BTCC as there were four different classes (or Groups) competing in the same race, with the winner of the championship often not winning the races outright.
For 1991, the group system was dropped entirely and replaced with the SuperTouring regulations, based on Group A regulations, although these were a tamed down version of the beasts which raced beforehand. Group A cars from 1990 were still allowed to compete although they had to be tuned in accordance with the new regulations.
With the new rules introduced, Harvey joined satellite BMW squad Team Labatt’s, partnering Laurence Bristow. It was a difficult season for Harvey who ended the season eighth with 42 points, although he did finish on the podium three times, ending the season with a win at Silverstone.
For 1992, Harvey remained with BMW, now being joined by the hugely experienced Steve Soper and Ray Bellm. Soper would miss rounds that season as it clashed with his BMW DTM commitments. At first it looked as though 1992 was going to be more of the same for Harvey as he finished the first two races of the season in eighth, taking until the seventh race of the season for Harvey to finish on the podium, winning the second race of the day at Donington Park, beating defending champion Will Hoy.
Amazingly following this triumph, Harvey only failed to finish off the podium twice all season, going on a five-race winning spree to propel himself into championship contention heading into the final race of the season at Silverstone.
He still had to beat John Cleland who entered the weekend as championship leader with reigning champion Will Hoy also in the hunt for a second consecutive crown.
Due to a wet qualifying session the day before, the grid was unusual in that all three title contenders started in the midfield, with Jeff Allam, David Leslie and Andy Rouse at the front, leaving Cleland, Harvey and Hoy to fight through the field.
It was a race that has gone down in BTCC history as being an absolute classic, all three drives charging through the field and in with a shot at the title. At the front, Soper and Leslie closed early on ensuring Soper also found himself on a mid race battle. All race the four were battling for position, with Soper diving up the inside of Cleland on the penultimate lap, much to Cleland’s anger. Harvey also went through in all the commotion before Soper and Cleland came to blows at Luffield ensuring Harvey finished fourth, taking the title in the process.
It led to the famous interview in which a furious Cleland said of Soper, “I just have to say... the man chopped a couple of times and then runs into me and takes me straight into the barriers, I mean what are we doing here? Is this stock cars or motorsport? He might get away with that in Germany where he might be Mr Superstar, but this is clean! The man’s an animal!”
It was a fantastic turnaround for Harvey who struggled at first in 1992, to come away with the title was an amazing story.
For 1993, Harvey joined the new factory backed Renault team in a Renault 19, partnering Alain Menu, after BMW withdrew from the championship as the German manufacture felt a regulation change handicapped them. In addition to this Harvey’s old team Vic Lee Motorsport was liquidated after Vic Lee was jailed for 12 years for drug offences, that is a feature in its own right!
Harvey struggled in his first season with Renault, finishing the season fourteenth, winning once at Donington Park as BMW continued to dominate the series. Harvey remained with Renault for 1994 with the team switching to the Laguna for the new season as Menu remained as Harvey’s teammate.
Menu finished runner up as Harvey finished ninth with 78 and a single victory. It would prove to be Harvey’s final season with Renault as he switched to the fledgling Volvo team for 1995, partnering Rickard Rydell in a pair of 850’s.
In a new team which had only just stopped using the 1994 Volvo Estate, Harvey had a strong season, ending the year fifth with 176 points and two victories, both at Brands Hatch. It would be his only season with Volvo as he moved to Peugeot for 1996, joining Patrick Watts in a pair of Peugeot 406’s.
The duo struggled all season with reliability, as Harvey retired from half the rounds with a best result of fourth at Snetterton. It ensured he finished his first season with the French manufacture fifteenth in the standings with 20 points.
Harvey remained with Peugeot in 1997, again partnering Watts in a pair of 406’s. 1997 was a much stronger season for Harvey, visiting the podium twice on his way to ninth in the standings with 66 points.
1998 would prove to be Harvey’s final season in the BTCC before a two year sabbatical again driving for Peugeot, now being partnered by New Zealander Paul Radisich who joined from Ford. It was a disappointing end to his time with Peugeot as Harvey managed 10 points with a best result of eighth, ending the season seventeenth.
Peugeot withdrew from the BTCC at the conclusion of the 1998 season, ensuring Harvey was left without a drive, it would prove to be the last time he drove in the SuperTourer era before returning on a part time basis in 2001, for the team he co-ran in a BTC spec Alfa Romeo 156. Harvey achieved a podium in only his second race in the car, a result he described as “winning the FA Cup!” He would end the season eighth, an impressive effort considering he only competing in half the events that season.
During his BTCC hiatus, Harvey competed in the British GT championship in 2000 and 2001, starting the new millennium with Bob Watson Motorsport in a Porsche 911 GT2 before switching halfway through the season to a Dodge Viper GTS-R. He finished his first season in the championship eleventh with 51 points.
His second season in the series however yielded much greater success as he joined Hayles Racing, continuing in a Dodge Viper, in which he finished the season second in the points, taking four wins overall and a further six podiums. Amazingly, Harvey only finished off the podium twice all season.
Harvey returned to the BTCC full time in 2002, rejoining Vic Lee, now named Vic Lee Racing, after Team Dynamics purchased Vic Lee Motorsport's assets following the 1992 discovery and resulting convictions.
Once his BTCC career ended he found himself behind the mic, making his commentary debut at Brands Hatch at the start of the 2003 season. He dovetailed his new commentary commitments with his racing commitments in the new Porsche Carrera Cup GB, in which he competed in from the series’ debut in 2003 up to 2011.
During this time, Harvey finished second in 2004 and 2005 to Richard Westbrook and Damian Faulkner respectively, driving for Team RPM, before switching to Motorbase Performance for 2006.
Harvey switched teams again in 2007, joining Redline Racing, however he once again finished second, this time behind James Sutton. 2008 would prove to be Harvey’s year however as, after finishing second three times, he went one better and claimed the 2008 Porsche Carrera Cup GB title, beating nearest rival Michael Caine by twelve points.
2009 saw Harvey finish third in what was one of the closest fought seasons the championship has seen with the top three fighting for championship honours all year. Rivals Tim Bridgman, James Sutton and Harvey all went into the final round with a chance of claiming the title, however it was Bridgman for claimed the crown, winning by four points. Agonisingly, Harvey ended the season only six points off title honours.
A year later, Harvey once again took overall honours winning his second title in 2010, beating Caine ho again finished second. It was a dominant title victory, only failing to finish off the podium twice all season, finishing either first or second other than that.
It would prove to be his final triumph and indeed his final full season racing as by Oulton Park in 2011, he had retired from the series, citing difficulties in adapting to the new rules and to give promising driver Kieran Vernon his drive at Motorbase Performance.
Harvey did return to the championship one last time for the years trip to the Nürburgring for the Porsche World Cup where he finished first in class, beating many of the Supercup drivers in the process. Although it was thought this would be the last time Harvey stepped foot in a Porsche, 2012 saw him return full time once more with Trackspeed in the British GT Championship, finishing eleventh with two podium finishes in a Porsche 991 GT3-R.
Since 2012, Harvey has competed as a guest driver in numerous championships as well as in Historic Racing, where he is still a regular winner.
As well as his racing, Harvey has continued to commentate on the BTCC championship since making his debut in the booth in 2003, becoming a full-time co-commentator in 2004 for Ben Edwards. Since then he has worked with the likes of John Hindhaugh, Toby Moody and David Addison. Harvey is also ITV4’s top pundit, discussing all topics with Paul O’Neill and presenter Steve Ryder.
Now 58, Harvey’s love for the BTCC is still as enthusiastic as it was the moment he joined the series way back in 1987. It is great to see him trackside at the events and he is always a joy to talk to when he is not on camera.
For me, he is a driver I have known about the entire time I have been into motorsport, I remember watching him on my old review videos when I was younger and thinking how he always had the pace to compete, but maybe did not have the luck of his competitors, often finding himself on the sidelines when the potential was there for some fantastic results.
Away from the track, his voice is one I have grown up with, as I was eight when he first started commentating. It is amazing to think that was seventeen years ago now and that he is still at the top of his game.
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