How To Super Tourer, The Nissan Way
If Mark’s recent story of three race replicas hitting the streets of Japan doesn’t prove that the BTCC Super Tourer era really does break down language and distance barriers, nothing else will.
The Super Tourer racing series of the late 1990s was developed to boost sales of four-door sedans for everyone. But while the cars loosely resembled their street-going counterparts, under the skin they couldn’t be more different.
Budgets for each car ranged well into the seven-figure range, with high-profile motorsport teams more associated with Formula One and the World Rally Championship all vying for the Super Tourer podium.
When I saw one of the cars from that period at Race Retro a few weeks ago, it only confirmed my obsession with them Great Machinery.
The car in question was a Nissan Primera from the 1998 BTCC Super Tourer season as driven by David Leslie and built by RML (Ray Mallock Limited).
RML, which had achieved numerous successes in numerous motorsport categories since its inception in 1984, was commissioned by Nissan to produce a competitive Super Tourer from the modest second generation front-wheel drive P11 Primera GT sedan.
First used in 1997, the Primera Super Tourer retained the road car’s power folding mirrors, which offered a real high-speed advantage by reducing drag. This was unsurprisingly banned in 1998. Revised aero packages, larger flared front wings and an upgraded dashboard and ECU were also added to the 1998 car.
These changes helped, and that same year the Primera became the first Japanese car to win a BTCC championship. The team won the manufacturers’ and teams’ championships in 1998 and also took home the most important award in 1999, with Laurent Aïello winning the drivers’ championship.
The Primera’s SR20DE engine featured an inverted cylinder head, along with a dry sump to allow it to sit as low and far back as possible.
By the time RML was complete, the 2.0-litre engine was producing a healthy 326hp, but this high-strung powerplant had some drawbacks. The engines had to have preheated oil pumped through their veins before starting, and being so low in the well also meant the steering column didn’t fit, hence the bevel gear mounted on the driver’s side wheel pan.
Externally, the car stands on center-locked RAYS Volk Racing Touring Evolution Fortesst 19×9-inch magnesium wheels. They’re stowed in the rear, with the rounded front arches allowing for a little more clearance through the 1.25 turns of lock-to-lock steering.
The only other noticeable changes from stock are the front apron and rear wing.
The interior is very similar to the Prodrive BTCC Mondeo we previously featured at Speedhunters, with the driver’s position moved further back and slightly inboard to improve weight balance.
While the sheer audacity of the late ’90s super tourers is no less insane today, the ingenuity and creativity their monumental budgets afforded will likely never be seen again in production car-based motorsport. Today’s cost-cutting measures have meant fewer opportunities for this type of thinking, but have been a necessary evil in keeping races close and entice teams to participate.
Luckily someone put this particular car back in the competition fold. The Classic Touring Car Racing Championship (CTRCC) may not have the stamp of approval of the BTCC, but the Primera owner is not alone, with over a dozen Super Tourers competing in the 2023 racing season.
So if the next-gen hybrids aren’t for you, being able to watch some older-gen cars battle it out on the track softens the blow at least a little.