Thirty-two years ago, a union forged out of mutual benefit between like-minded racers culminated in one of the greatest-ever long-shot title wins in the British Touring Car Championship.

In 1990, the final season of the glorious Group A era, Robb Gravett, his Trakstar team and David Mountain’s Mountune tuning business took on the establishment, in the form of the great Andy Rouse – and against all expectations not only beat him but did so conclusively in a mostly plain-white car on a relative shoestring budget.

Somehow, Gravett never again won a BTCC race as the series switched in 1991 to naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engines for what became the golden decade of Super Touring. But all these years later, Gravett and Mountain prefer to remember the good times over the bad – and out of the blue have forged a new partnership that once again puts their old friendship smack bang on the line.

Setting up base camp

Founded in 1980, Mountune is long-established as one of the UK’s best-known tuning houses, thanks largely to a long association with Ford. In motorsport, it has history not only in the BTCC but also globally in such series as the World Rally Championship.

Mountain traces it all back to his partnership with Gravett in the mid-1980s, when he started building the ambitious racer’s Group N production series engines.

“What I liked about David was his energy and his desire to win,” says Gravett. “In theory, back then it would have been easier to go with someone more established. Instead, we decided to have a go ourselves.”

A total of 18 race wins and a pair of titles in 1987 set both men on their way. “The next year, we suddenly had loads of customers,” recalls Mountain. “And it was our big break with Ford.”

Climbing partners

The Blue Oval association is central to Mountune’s success, but the founder reveals the relationship has changed significantly in recent years.

“Some thought we were actually owned by Ford; we never were but we were very closely linked,” says Mountain. “We were the only tuner in the world that had Ford warranty-approved status. We haven’t got it now, by the way; we lost it after Dieselgate. All the OEMs ran a million miles from modified calibrations, and Ford in particular was very nervous, so they withdrew any association with anyone modifying their road cars. But in a sense, it was great. People still connect us with Ford, but now we don’t have to pay a royalty!”