1997 Volvo S40
THE S40S PROVED A POTENT PACKAGE FOR THEIR DEBUT SEASON
Mention ‘Volvo BTCC car’, and, nine times out of 10, people will immediately respond with, ‘ Oh yeah, the wagon!’ In 1994, Volvo burst onto the Super Touring scene with the unlikely 850 ‘estate’ (to use the correct UK terminology) prepared by the experienced Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) team and packing a barking 2.0-litre five-cylinder. Switching to an 850 sedan for ’95 and ’96, Volvo attacked the ’97 BTCC with an all-new car using the 850’s showroom replacement, the uncharacteristically swoopy S40.
While the bodywork was fresh, mechanically, these S40s were otherwise an evolution of the 850, and retained the howling five-cylinder engine. Unique to the 1997 S40, the engine rotation was reversed to run anticlockwise, something TWR engineers theorized would assist traction. Unlike most other front-wheeldrive (FWD) super tourers, the cylinder head wasn’t reversed; rather, the entire engine was. Pumping out circa 224kW at the mandated 8500 rev limit through an Xtrac six-speed sequential box, the S40s proved a potent package for their debut season, with both cars finishing in the top 10 by the season’s end.
Retaining that signature Super Touring aesthetic, the S40s sat close to the deck on Ohlins remote-reservoir suspension and bespoke uprights. The 19-inch BBS centre locks sank into stock-appearing arches covering giant brake rotors, and, while some contestants in the series employed dual-caliper front arrangements, Volvo elected to use eight-pot front and four-pot rear calipers. Kerb weight? A mere 975kg!
Now owned by Lindsay O’Donnell, this particular car started life in the ’97 BTCC. It’s stamped with chassis tags with the number R7-004. Briton Kelvin Burt occupied the driver’s Recaro for the ’97 season, bringing the car home 10th in the standings after finishing as high as fourth on a couple of occasions. For 1998, the car was sent to Australia with ex-pat Kiwi tin-top specialist Jim Richards in the hot seat for the local Volvo team to battle its BMW and Audi rivals.
Despite taking race wins at Phillip Island and Eastern Creek, Richards’ FWD Volvo was unable to conquer the barnstorming all-wheel-drive (AWD) Audis (by then outlawed in Europe), and he finished third in the championship behind the pair of Quattros.
Recently recommissioned in the UK by touring car engineer Jonny Westbrook, the S40 proved a pacesetter at the 2016 Brands Hatch Super Prix, snagging pole in the Historic Touring Car class by a full second, before being swept across to New Zealand shores, where the car will be campaigned among the Historic Touring Car collective.