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John Cleland, a car dealer in the Scottish Borders, was a star of the British Touring Car Championship for a decade. His racing career culminated in championship victory in 1989 and 1995 for Vauxhall.
Early racing career
He began driving Minis in rallycross, rallying and sprints in 1971 but a switch to the Production Saloon Car Championship south of the border confirmed that his future lay in circuit racing. That was also when his long association with Vauxhall began, scoring many of his 16 wins in his six years in the series with the GM Dealer Team run by his father. Cleland transferred to British Thundersaloons in 1986 with a Vauxhall Senator V8 and its later replacement – the newer Carlton. He won the title in 1986 and 1988.
Double British Touring Car Champion for Vauxhall
So it was inevitable that when he entered the 1989 BTCC it was with Vauxhall. His works Astra GTE was immediately successful for Cleland won both Class C and the overall championship at the first attempt. It was with a Vauxhall Cavalier in the largest class that Cleland attempted to defend his title.
Although unsuccessful that year, Cleland’s Cavalier was always a factor – top-five in the standings for the next few years. He eventually won his second BTCC title in 1995 when his Cavalier 16v won six times to beat Alain Menu and Renault. "Not bad for an old fleet car" was Cleland’s laconic assessment.
As well as continuing in the BTCC, albeit without challenging for the title again, Cleland raced in the Bathurst 1000Kms on 12 occasions but sixth with Tony Scott’s Holden Commodore VR on his 1995 debut proved to be his best result.
Retirement from the BTCC
He retired from the BTCC at the end of 1999 and then raced in British GTs and the Porsche Carrera Cup as well as that annual journey to New South Wales. Cleland continued to run his Volvo dealership in Galashiels while his sons Niki and Jamie competed in karts and rallying.
|2005||Australian V8 Supercar Championship||43rd||168|
|2003||Australian V8 Supercar Championship||41st||160|
|2002||Australian V8 Supercar Championship||51st||60|
|2001||Australian V8 Supercar Championship||37th||520|
|2000||Australian V8 Supercar Championship||51st||48|
|1999||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||13th||51|
|1998||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||8th||106|
|1997||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||12th||44|
|1996||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||8th||97|
|1995||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||1st||348|
|1994||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||4th||177|
|1993||Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship||4th||102|
|1992||Esso British Touring Car Championship||3rd||145|
|1991||Esso British Touring Car Championship||2nd||132|
|1990||Esso British Touring Car Championship||5th||128|
|1989||Esso British Touring Car Championship||1st||110|