Racing estate back on track at Silverstone
Hailed as one of the most iconic touring cars of all times, the Volvo 850 Estate is the latest addition to the special BTCC Diamond Jubilee Parade taking place at this summer’s Silverstone Classic. The parade will feature 60 great cars to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ever-popular MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Adding to the sense of occasion, the Volvo wagon will be reunited with Rickard Rydell who, along with team-mate Jan Lammers, raced the pair of idolised headline grabbers back in 1994.
Moreover, Rydell will be marking another key tin-top milestone at the Classic. Exactly 20 years after winning the BTCC title, the Swedish touring car legend will be coming out of retirement to race the very same Volvo S40 which took him to the coveted crown back in 1998.
The title winning S40, which was built by the legendary TWR team, was subsequently raced by privateers in various Scandinavian championships. In 2014, however, it was purchased by experienced historic racer Jason Minshaw and painstakingly restored before returning to the track to win one of the spectacular JET Super Touring Car Trophy races at last year’s Silverstone Classic.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” confirmed the personable Swede who became a fans’ favourite during a super-successful seven-year spell in the BTCC during which he won 21 races, a winning record only topped by Alain Menu in the hallowed Super Touring era.
“I retired from being a professional racer a few years ago but I’m always happy to do some more races for fun and this, for all the obvious reasons, will be a very special occasion for me. We are hoping to get some of the 1998 TWR team back together for a reunion, too.”
While the Swede’s crowning moment came with the S40, his BTCC introduction came five years earlier racing one of the two 850 Estates. Back then Rydell had little to lose when signing-up to spearhead an exciting new Volvo attack on the illustrious BTCC… though wisely no one told him exactly what he was going to be racing.
“It was a pretty unique step,” recalled Rydell now aged 50. “I went straight from having dreams of being a Formula One driver to racing an estate car! When I signed up around Christmas 1993, I had no idea about these secret plans to use the estate – had they told me, I might have thought twice about making the switch. I’d never driven anything quite so big.”
The cumbersome beast proved to be quite a handful, though Rydell did qualify third at Snetterton and posted a top five finish at Oulton Park. But, while never a victor on track, the decision to race an 850 cargo carrier was certainly a big winner when it came to grabbing the headlines.
“Publicity-wise it was an incredible stunt by Volvo,” recalls Rydell. “Indeed, people still talk to me today about racing the 850 estate. It was pretty scary at first as we had done virtually no pre-season testing, but we made it more driveable and somewhat more competitive as the season progressed.”
More importantly, joining Volvo turned out to be a career defining moment and Rydell stayed with the TWR-run team for a further five seasons peaking with in his title-winning campaign in 1998.