If Mark’s recent story of three race car replicas hitting the streets of Japan doesn’t prove that the BTCC Super Tourer era truly transcends language and distance barriers, neither can anything else.

The Super Tourer racing series in the late 1990s was designed to boost sales of Volkswagen sedans. But while these cars are broadly similar to road-going cars, under the skin they are quite different.

With budgets running into the seven figures for each car, the top racing teams associated with Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship are vying for the Super Tourer podium.

Saw a car from that era on Race Retro a few weeks ago and reconfirmed my obsession with these Astonishing machine.

The car in question is a Nissan Primera from the 1998 BTCC Super Tourer season driven by David Leslie and built by RML (Ray Mallock Limited).

RML has enjoyed great success in numerous motorsport categories since its founding in 1984, commissioned by Nissan to produce a competitive super tourer from the humble front-wheel drive second-generation P11 Primera GT sedan.

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First hit the market in 1997, the Primera Super Tourer retained the power-folding mirrors of the road bike, offering a real high-speed advantage by reducing drag. Unsurprisingly, this was outlawed in 1998. The 1998 car also added a revised aerodynamic package, a larger flared front wing, and an upgraded instrument panel and ECU.

These changes helped, and that same year the Primera became the first Japanese car to win the BTCC championship. The team won the Manufacturers’ and Constructors’ Championships in 1998 and, in 1999, took home the all-important honor, Laurent Aïello winning the Drivers’ Championship.

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The Primera’s SR20DE engine features an inverted cylinder head, and a dry sump to keep it as low and rearward as possible.

When the RML was done, the engine produced a healthy 326 horsepower from the 2.0-liter unit, but there are some downsides to this high-strung powerplant. The engines needed warmed-up oil pumped into their veins before they could start, and being too low in the cabin meant the steering column wouldn’t fit, so the helical gear transmission was mounted on the hub on the driver’s side.

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On the outside, the car rides on 19×9-inch center locking RAYS Volk Racing Touring Evolution Fortesst magnesium alloy wheels. They’re tucked away in the rear, and the rounded front arches allow for more clearance with 1.25 turns of lock-to-lock steering.

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The only other notable changes from stock are the front air dam and rear wing.

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The interior is much like the Prodrive BTCC Mondeo we showed earlier at Speedhunters, with the driving position moved further back and slightly inward to improve weight balance.

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While the audacity of the Super Tourers of the late ’90s is just as wild today, the ingenuity and creativity their big budgets afforded is something we’re unlikely to see again in production car-based motorsports. Today’s cost-cutting measures mean there is less chance of that happening, but it is a necessary evil to keep the race close and attract teams in.

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Thankfully, someone brought this particular car back to the fray. The Classic Touring Car Racing Championship (CTCRC) may not have the cachet of the BTCC, but the Primera owner is not alone, with a dozen Super Tourers entering the 2023 season.

So if next-gen hybrids aren’t for you, being able to watch some older-generation cars duel on a race track at least softens the blow a little.

Chardon Ford
Instagram: Chai Ke

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