Photo: PSP Images, Vauxhall

Triple Eight founder proud of success as era ends

Ian Harrison, one of the founders of Triple Eight, has expressed his pride at the success the team enjoyed in the British Touring Car Championship following the revelation that the multiple-championship winning outfit has closed its doors.

Triple Eight Race Engineering and Triple Eight Performance Vehicles Limited were both dissolved by Companies House on 13 November, bringing the curtain down on one of the most successful names in BTCC history.

Founded in 1996 by Harrison, Roland Dane and Derek Warwick, Triple Eight had originally been created with the aim of working with a Japanese manufacturer – with the number 8 being lucky number in Japan and the use of 888 being viewed as providing the chance to ‘have three times the luck’.

When that deal failed to materialise, the team instead took over the running of Vauxhall’s factory touring car programme from RML for the 1997 season – so starting a relationship that would run for more than a decade.

A first race win arrived in 1998 thanks to John Cleland before the advent of new regulations in 2001 saw the partnership between Triple Eight and Vauxhall become the dominant force in the series.

From 2001 through to Vauxhall’s decision to withdraw works support at the end of the 2009 season, Triple Eight would win the manufacturers’ championship ever year bar one, whilst it would also win the teams’ title on six occasions.

There would also be six Drivers’ titles thanks to Jason Plato (2001), James Thompson (2002/04), Yvan Muller (2003) and Fabrizio Giovanardi (2007/08).

“When I returned to the office, I received the sad news that Triple Eight has closed its doors,” the Italian reflected earlier this week. “With this wonderful team, I won two titles in the BTCC whilst with Vauxhall and it still hurts me that I missed out on a third straight championship in the last race of 2009 at Brands Hatch.

“I am proud to have been an integral part of the history of this great team and I’m sure that I would have spent even longer with them than I did the ten years with N.Technology had I been able to. Thank you to Ian Harrison and all the great people who were involved with the story; this is the end of an important part of motorsport history.”

Even after Vauxhall’s departure, Triple Eight would add the Independents’ titles to its impressive trophy haul thanks to the performances of James Nash in 2011 and then went on to secure another manufacturers’ title with MG in 2014.

Harrison departed the team after it was sold to Team BMR boss Warren Scott in 2016, with the Triple Eight name then disappearing from the grid ahead of 2018 when the two MGs were moved to AmD Tuning.

News that the company has now been dissolved brings the curtain down on a 20-year success story, with Harrison admitting he could look back with a sense of pride on a job well done.

“I’ve never really been a person to look back at things and have always preferred to take the view of looking forwards,” he told TouringCarTimes. “However, whilst I was no longer involved with the team at the end, it’s been quite nice in the last few days to see the many comments about what we achieved with Triple Eight.

“Looking back across over 20 years, we achieved a hell of a lot as a team – particularly during the Vauxhall days – and we had some bloody good people involved with the team along the way. I think we can all take a huge amount of pride from the success that we enjoyed together.

“Of course, the race wins and the championships are what people will always talk about but there was also plenty off-track that we can look back on.

“For example, I’m pretty sure that we were the first team in the paddock to have a female mechanic [Charlie Broughton – now with Power Maxed Racing], and when you consider that women in motorsport is such a big talking point now, I guess that makes us something of a pioneer. At the time, it isn’t something that even crossed our mind – she was just someone who wanted to get her career going and did a good job.

“There’s also the stuff we did with Vauxhall on the road car side in terms of the VXR brand. That was something that hadn’t been done before much over here but which Holden had done over in Australia, so we built on what they were doing and ended up putting something like 9,500 VXR cars on the road. We certainly had a good run.”

Now based in Northern Ireland where he is heavily involved with volunteering at the RNLI station in Portaferry, Harrison could yet make a return to the touring car paddock in 2019 after a few years away indulging in his other passion for sailing, having been approached about taking up an advisory role.

“Life operates at a slightly different speed in the stuff I am doing now and I’m really enjoying what I do to support the local lifeboat station,” he said. “When you consider what the RNLI do and the fact that the boats are manned by volunteers who give up their time to save others, it’s great to be involved to help in any way I can. I just wish I was ten years younger so I could go out on the boat myself!

“However, I certainly wouldn’t rule out making a return to motorsport and am very much keeping my options open. Someone has already made contact with me to see if I would be interested in an advisory role and that is the kind of thing that would suit me because I obviously have a lot of experience that I could pass on to help a team or driver. You never know what’s around the corner….”

Whilst the Triple Eight name will now disappear from the UK racing scene, the Australian offshoot of Triple Eight Race Engineering – which was formed back in 2003 after purchasing the Briggs Motor Sport outfit – will live on having enjoyed similar levels of success down under.

“Triple Eight Race Engineering Australia recently celebrated our 15th birthday at this year’s Sandown 500 in September,” team principal Dane, who has gone on to lead the Australian business after his role in founding the UK arm, told TouringCarTimes.

“At the round before that, the inaugural The Bend SuperSprint, we’d become the most-winning team in Australian touring car history which is something that the boys and girls of Triple Eight took immense pride in; especially when you consider that the team we claimed that accolade from took from 1990 to clock up their 180 championship race wins.

“We’ve run cars under several guises, most notably Team Vodafone and Red Bull Racing Australia, but the Triple Eight name has been constant throughout and there’s certainly an element of pride in that amongst the crew.

“Thinking into the future, I certainly hope it will continue for a long time to come.”

Triple Eight through the years:

Taking over Vauxhall’s programme from RML, Triple Eight endures a tough debut campaign running two Vectras for John Cleland and Derek Warwick. Neither driver is able to make it onto the podium or finish inside the top ten of the championship standings.

Revisions to the Vectra over the winter mean Triple Eight return with a more competitive package in year two, with Cleland winning twice and Warwick also taking to the top step of the podium. Despite missing the Thruxton round as a result of an accident at Snetterton, Cleland takes eighth in the standings.

Warwick’s retirement leads to Triple Eight signing Yvan Muller from Audi, and the Frenchman takes the only victory of the season to end the year sixth in the standings. Cleland meanwhile brings the curtain down on his successful career as he retires at the end of the season.

In the final season of Super Touring, an expanded three-car team takes five victories – three of which go to Muller and two to Jason Plato, who end the year fourth and fifth in the standings. Assisted by Belgian racer Vincent Radermecker, Triple Eight takes second in the teams’ title race and third in the manufacturers’ championship.

The start of the BTC era sees Triple Eight running two teams, with the factory Vauxhall squad joined by the off-shoot egg:sport outfit. There are wins for Plato, Muller, James Thompson and Phil Bennett, whilst future World Champion Andy Priaulx also makes his touring car debut with the team – securing pole in the process. The Astra Coupe delivers all three championship titles, with Plato taking top honours after a season long battle with Muller.

A revised line-up again delivers all three titles, with Thompson this time beating Muller to the title, and Matt Neal and Paul O’Neill both taking wins for the egg:sport side of the garage. A 1-2-3 in the drivers title race is a highlight.

Muller, Thompson and O’Neill return in what is now a three-car factory effort and the success continues; Muller this time beating Thompson to the title as all three titles are defended.

The Astra Coupe bows out with one of the most dramatic season finales in recent memory sees Thompson beat Muller to the title by a single point, with Luke Hines helping to ensure a hat-trick of titles for a fourth successive season.

The Astra Sport Hatch debuts on track but can’t deliver the same level of success as the Coupe. Whilst Muller and Colin Turkington both win races, Muller is beaten to the title by Neal, and the team has to settle for second in the teams’ title. The manufacturers’ crown is secured however.

A difficult second season with the Sport Hatch yields just two wins, both for Fabrizio Giovanardi – the first of which is the 100th for Vauxhall in the series. It means a rare season without a championship title.

Success returns with the arrival of the Super 2000-spec Vectra, which carries Giovanardi to the title on the back on an impressive season with ten wins. The manufacturers’ title is also reclaimed from SEAT.

Giovanardi defends the title as Triple Eight takes a clean sweep of all three championships, with the returning Neal and Tom Onslow-Cole also taking victories over the course of the year.

The drivers’ title goes to Colin Turkington as Giovanardi fails to make it a hat-trick of championship crowns, but Triple Eight wins both the teams’ and manufacturers’ championships before Vauxhall withdraws from the series as a result of both the global economic downturn and a lack of manufacturer competition.

Running as an independent team, Triple Eight wins twice in the season opener with Giovanardi but the loss of the planned title sponsor hits the programme and the Italian departs. Multiple drivers race for the team but there are no championship titles.

James Nash carries Triple Eight to both independents titles and also helps the team to third in the teams’ title in what is the final year for the team running Vauxhall machinery.

Triple Eight brings the MG name back to the BTCC with the introduction of the NGTC regulations, with the returning Plato winning six times en-route to third in the championship standings, while the team is beaten into second spot in the manufacturers’ championship.

Plato again finishes third in the standings with eight wins, with the support of new team-mate Sam Tordoff helping Triple Eight to finish as runner-up in both the teams’ and manufacturers’ championships.

Plato and Tordoff combine again to take Triple Eight to the manufacturers’ crown – with Plato runner-up in the drivers title.

There is just a single win for a revised line-up of Jack Goff and Andrew Jordan as Triple Eight ends the season third in the teams’ title race and second in the manufacturers’ title race.

With the team changing owner, Ash Sutton secures what will be the final victory for Triple Eight in the series at Croft but the team ends the year fifth in the teams’ title and fourth in the manufacturers’ championship. Sutton also lifts the Jack Sears Trophy as top rookie.

The final season for the team proves to be a trying one, with the MG struggling for results and the campaign being overshadowed by Aron Taylor-Smith being caught up in the huge qualifying accident at Croft. At the end of the year, the MGs are taken over by AmD Tuning and Triple Eight fails to appear on the entry list for the following campaign.