After a short absence, BTCC Greats is back and this week we delve into the career of a driver that was good enough to be champion but never managed it, Paul Radisich.
The New Zealand born driver began his motorsport career racing in series such as Formula Atlantic and British Formula 3 – where he raced against Damon Hill. Indy Lights and Super Vee also followed before he made his saloon car bow in the 1990 Bathurst 1000. This then pushed Radisich into a career within tin tops.
It was in 1993 that the Auckland peddler made it to the British Touring Car Championship. Entering with Team Mondeo squad that was prepared by Andy Rouse, Radisich entered the series at the halfway point of the campaign. At the wheel of his Ford, he took his first podium in only his second race in the championship and at Brands Hatch later in the year he soon had his first victory.
Two more wins were to fall Radisich’s way in the 1993 season and he ended up finishing third in the overall championship. Newly introduced for the 93′ season was also the Touring Car World Cup which was first hosted at Donington Park. Radisich beat the true greats such as Frank Biela and John Cleland in the Super Touring era and made it a double as he took 1994 honors, this time at Monza.
His 94′ season saw him complete all the races – thus seemingly giving him a better chance at securing a maiden title. Five retirements, one DSQ and one DNS however put pay to any aspirations of lifting the crown. Although the remaining races saw Radisich either score points and on the podium, his two victories were not enough to challenge Gabriele Tarquini who became champion. It was to be another year of finishing third.
The team in 1995 for Radisich became Valvoline Team Mondeo and unlike the past two years, this became a lot tougher. The Ford Mondeo Ghia was either caught up in incidents or suffered many mechanical issues – leaving the New Zealand peddler to take a solitary victory and four other podiums. With the competition getting tougher every year that passed, Radisich’s chances of becoming BTCC champion seemed to consistently slip away. The 1995 season saw him finish sixth overall on 130 points.
If the 95′ season had seemed bad then 1996 was going to get a lot worse. No less than 14 retirements fell the way of Radisich during the 26-race season. The Mondeo had now become a somewhat overpowered by others around them and it was slipping towards the rear of the field. Off the back of winning races and finishing on the podium, Radisich could only manage a best finish of fifth at the third round of the season at Brands Hatch. With so many retirements, Radisich sadly never became a factor in the title batte as he only managed to pick up 27 points, leaving him in 13th by the end of the campaign.
His final season with Ford came in 1997, again in the Mondeo. With Will Hoy as his team mate, good things were somewhat expected of the West Surrey Racing squad. A strong opening weekend at Donington Park saw the Kiwi take sixth and seventh however that form wasn’t to last long as a run of retirements in the middle part of the season prematurely ended any chance of a top 10 finish. Instead it was the battle to see who could finish as close to it and for the second year in a row it was unlucky 13 for Radisich. A total of 41 points were all he could manage as Alain Menu romped to the title – it was however a strong end to the year as a 4th, 10th and 5th were recorded in the final three rounds.
For 1998, his final season in the BTCC, Radisich opted for a change of scenery, Peugeot. Alongside 1992 champion Tim Harvey, the 406 was always going to struggles against the likes of the Volvo S40 and Nissan Primera. Radisich’s best result of the season came at the fourth round of the year in mixed conditions at Silverstone. Whilst many drivers made mistakes either on the track or in the pitlane with tyre strategy, Radisich slowly tiptoed his way around the Northamptonshire circuit and took a brilliant fourth place finished whilst the car he had driven last year, the Ford Mondeo, won the race in the hands of Hoy. Radisich ended his final year in the BTCC a lowly 14th.
In the 131 races that he competed in, Radisich was able to secure 6 wins, 21 podiums, 4 pole positions and 9 fastest laps. The Kiwi had been running in the V8 Supercars series up until 2008. Since then he has not competed in any major series.
On the next edition of BTCC Greats, we delve into the career of a man who created history on a warm summers day in 2005, Dan Eaves.
PHOTO CREDIT: btcc.net