Priaulx and Plato beat Formula 1 drivers Sebastien Vettel and Nicol Hulkenberg 2:1 to give England the Nations Cup title over Germany in last weekend’s star-studded Race of Champions (ROC) at London’s Olympic Stadium.
In the past 20 years or so both have become touring car legends – Plato in Britain and Priaulx on the European and World scene. It was with Renaultsport in the UK, however, that their racing careers really took off…
Rewind to 1996 and the first season of competition in the UK for Renaultsport’s Spider sportscar. Plato had previously been a leading light in Formula Renault – winning the European title in 1991 and also finishing runner-up that same year in the UK championship (notably with the Manor Motorsport team – run then by current Manor F1 team boss John Booth)! A spell in British Formula 3 followed before a brief return to FRenault in 1995 but then came a chance to really resurrect his career with the open-topped, rear-wheel-drive Spider category.
Plato needed no second invitation and dominated proceedings with 11 wins in 14 races but that record would eventually be beaten in the final season for the Spider by Priaulx in 1999. Priaulx, with a strong background in hillclimbing, had contested most of the ’98 season and in ’99 utterly crushed the opposition with wins in all 13 races. He also started them all from pole position.
After his Spider success Plato moved straight into British Touring Cars with the Renault UK team and its Williams-engineered Laguna model. Pole position on his debut was a sign of things to come and he has since gone on to win the title twice – in 2001 and 2010 – and achieve more race victories than any other driver in the championship’s history.
Priaulx’s career also continued with Renault in the UK following his Spider triumph with a season in the manufacturer’s team in British F3. From there he would move into international touring cars and later win not only the European championship but also the World title three times…
Vettel? Hulkenberg? Who they?
Before the Spider came along in 1996, Renault’s single-model racing championship – just as it has been since – was the UK Clio Cup (1992-95).
Just as now, the championship was full of excitement and unpredictability, albeit arguably a little bit more bruising. With so much incident there is little wonder that it helped hone the skills behind the mic of Messrs Edwards and Huewen who today rank among the finest commentators in the worlds of F1 and MotoGP.
Plug in your earphones and CLICK HERE to find out what we mean. Ideal for those of you on a coffee break at work, commuting to or from work or with seven minutes to spare generally…