This weekend at the Mobil1 Classic Speedfest we find 1993 and 1994 FIA Touring Car World Cup champion Paul Radisich, competing in the 2021 Archibalds Historic Touring Car series. He’s driving the same Touring Car World Cup winning Ford Mondeo that he drove in 1994 at Donnington Park in the UK.
Radisich was never really out of the lead in that race, finishing ahead of BMW drivers Steve Soper and Joachim Winkelhock.
I asked Paul, what was his over-riding memory from that race in 1994 at Donnington Park?
“Well, we did a lot of practice there (Donnington), all week leading up to the event. Starting on the Wednesday, and every session we did, I was P1, no matter what we did to the car.
“I remember thinking ‘This is my event’, which is a weird feeling. It stuck with me for the whole weekend, even though on the Friday I dropped back to P3 and thought maybe I’m not going to win this thing.
“We had done a lot of testing with the Michelin tyre. The big problem, in ’94, was that I couldn’t keep (from wearing out) the front tyres on the car. Michelin came up with a new carbon construction tyre, which everybody had, but it really helped the Mondeo. It meant that I could drive the car hard, from lap 1 to 50.
“It gave me confidence.”
Although he had won the first World Cup event in the previous year, the 1994 British Touring Car Championship had been a difficult season for the Ford Mondeo’s. Gabriele Tarquini in a Alfa Romeo had dominated proceedings with their ‘questionable’ interpretation of the rules, over a front splitter and rear wing.
“The Italians got the march on everybody with their new front splitter and rear wing which probably gave them half a second every lap.
“We had to really stretch the engine that season and had some unreliability as a result of that. Although, when we finished we did well. It was not the quickest car.
“I knew that I would be somewhere in the front. Times across the field were very close, probably half a second in it.
“We got pole which was key. I didn’t get a good start and luckily it (the race) was red-flagged. When we started again I was able to get ahead. Soper and Winkelhock’s BMWs’ were the real challenge but I was able to gap them.
“About three-quarters of the way through the race the gear box started to tighten up and I had to start using the clutch to change gear. I lost a lot of time and Soper gained quite a few seconds initially. However, once I realised that it wasn’t going to pack up I just had to change my driving style and then I was able to maintain the gap to the end.”
In 1993, it had been quite different for Radisich. It was his first time at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in Italy. It was the first running of the FIA Touring Car World Cup. The format was straight forward, with two races of 15-laps each, and points awarded to the top 20 drivers to crown a world champion.
Nine different manufacturers were represented – Audi, BMW, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Toyota and Vauxhall and 43 drivers from 12 countries, including a large number of former F1 drivers – Eric van de Poele, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Paul Belmondo, Yannick Dalmas, Julian Bailey, Ivan Capelli, Nicola Larini, Stefano Modena, Alessandro Nannini, Emanuele Pirro, Gabriele Tarquini, Slim Borgudd, Jonny Cecotto,
“In ‘93 I just about didn’t get there as you had to be in a team. There was no New Zealand team, just me! The FIA decided at the last minute that I could enter the race, probably because I was dominating the British Touring Car season.
“Monza is a big long track but I was also quickest there. The Ford V6 had the top end power, coupled with Andy Rouse building an extremely solid car. That meant I was able to keep the car up on two wheels and really ride the curbs. That was our advantage at Monza. There were all sorts of things that worked well for me in a front wheel-drive car.
“It (winning) was a bit of a surprise and put me on the world stage for Touring Cars. In ’94 we didn’t really have the car so what we did that year probably was more satisfying, to back up from ’93 and not having the advantage.
It’s not his first time reunited with his 1994 winning Mondeo. With the car now residing here in New Zealand, the pairing seem to get together at some stage over the summer season as part of the Archibalds Historic Touring Car Series, and remain a crowd favourite.
“There is no aero on it, it is a basic shell and nothing ‘trick’ about it. But it is very well balanced. It is better to drive today than in its ‘day’ as it now has power-steering. Back then it didn’t so it was always a bit of a handful to control.”