ETC Drivers 1984
For Steve Soper, 1983 was something of a dream year. His first race in the AE,Hepolite Rover Vitesse resulted in a surprise win - it surprised not only regular Rover pilots Jeff Alam and Peter Lovett, but also Steve himself - and there were a further four outright wins to take Steve on his way to victory in the British Saloon Car Championship.
It was the first time in memory that the winner of the prestigious title had come from the top capacity class.
But Soper's remarkable string of success did not stop there. He took a decisive victory in the world's oldest motor race - the Silverstone Tourist Trophy - when, sharing with Rene Metge, he and Rover defeated the might of Jaguar and BMW on a streaming wet track. It was Rover's second TT wins..the first came in 1907.
Piloting his Rover Vitesse may have been Steve's main occupation last year, but he still found time to come second in class at Le Mans in a Mazda sportscar and develop and test Austin Rover's MG Metro Turbo.
Although winning the British Saloon Car Championship represents his biggest win to date - and one which netted him a Grovewood Award last year - it is by no means his first championship title.
After developing an interest in motor racing at an early age - his father used to race and rally - Steve's first race came in 1971 in a Ford Escort. Indeed, most of his racing has been in saloons and, after a stint in Hillman Imps, he turned to Minis. His first title came in 1977 when he won the National Mini 1275GT Challenge and two years later he won the National Mini Challenge outright.
In 1980 he contested two championships - occasionally using helicopters to fly between circuits to fit two races into one day - and won the Ford Fiesta Challenge and the 1500cc class of the STP Modified Sports Championship in a Radbourne Fiat X/19.
For 1981 he continued with Fiat, winning his class in the Motoring News GT Championship at Donington, and moved from Fiesta to Metro to win the inaugural Metro Challenge to boot. The cream on the cake was a Grovewood Awards Commendation and the Donington Driver of the Year Award.
Six race wins in the Metro Challenge grabbed the attention of Austin Rover and they helped Steve's move up to the British Saloon Car Championship, also with a Metro.