"The cliché about Finnish people being good drivers seems to be true. Look at the statistics. As a country of a mere 5.5 million people, we have produced many drivers who have won world class races and several world championship titles. "
Tim Harvey – M3 Master
In an era of Touring Cars when grit, determination and delicate handling were required - Tim Harvey showed his class
It’s often the ones you least expect. Isn’t it?
Pass Tim Harvey as he walks through a paddock, you’ll see he’ll probably be smiling from ear to ear, chatting amiably to Nomax-clad sponsor-heavy racing drivers, or leathery-palmed mechanics, or slick-coiffured promoters… Or VIP guests. Or race-mad kids, or… ok you get the picture. The open and approachable voice of the UK’s current BTCC coverage is a far cry from the stereotype you’d expect of an M3-taming elbows-out champion racer. But he carries the dual identities with ease.
As often separates the open-armed touring car boys from the heavily fenced-in single-seater racers, the engagement with fans is a key part of a successful racing driver, a part Harvey does with a natural ease and an experienced smile.
The other key part of a successful racer, of course, is to be lightning-quick behind the wheel of a car. And that’s another established part of his game.
Until very recently, Harvey had been showing younger drivers the rear end of a Porsche as he won races and a pair of championships in a 911, supporting the BTCC. The BTCC, of course, being the series he’d then run to the comm box and commentate on just a few minutes later, to homes across the UK. And he knew what he was talking about, as the BTCC is a championship he has won himself.
You don’t win the BTCC championship without a bit of grit, determination, aggression and a bucketload of car control – especially in the era Harvey won his title.
Following huge success in Fords – battling for silverware in the iconic Ford Sierra RS500 in the late ‘80s – he was clearly able to handle a powerful brute, especially one with power pushing you from behind, and successfully switched to BMW and their famed E30 M3 in 1991.
The car was the dominant force that year. Will Hoy, at the time a much more experienced racer, took overall Drivers’ Championship honours, but Tim Harvey grabbed the final win of the season at Silverstone. His final position in that championship, 8th, should be taken with a pinch of salt – Tim Harvey had been penalised a huge 48 points for his M3 being too loud at one of the Donington Park rounds. Noise regulations are a big part of motorsport, of course, so even on a circuit a few hundred yards away from an international airport, the M3 was just too loud.
He went on the next year to win the championship with BMW –and the title of Autosport National Racing Driver of the Year, too. A new model meant the M3 wasn’t the right fit for BMW’s marketers in 1992 and so the official moniker of the car he raced was the 318iS – although any comparison to the roadgoing 318iS is stretching things a bit. This garish Shell and Listerine-backed racer was more M3 in spirit than a 318, packing enough punch to stay ahead of the Independent Championship competitors like Matt Neal, who were still using the old M3.
Harvey continued to enjoy success in BTCC for a decade or so and after a few years’ sabbatical moved into GT racing with huge success, showing once and for all that when the racing gets tough, the tough get winning.
But you know what? In spite of all that, Tim Harvey appears… whatever the opposite of otherworldly is. Wordly? Thiswordly? Whatever – he appears to be one of us – with a cheery smile and a friendly spirit containing a past that pretty much every racing driver in the UK will never be able to match.
Tim Harvey – a master of the M3, of touring cars, and of being a successful racing driver.
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