But let’s not pretend they make the blood run hot. Back in the 1990s, such series were all the rage, based mainly around front-wheel-drive saloons – think the Vauxhall Vectra and, er, Volkswagen Vento. In their midst, TVR’s Tuscan Challenge was something else entirely.
Launched in 1989, the series proved the perfect promotional tool for the small, Blackpool-based sports car specialist. The Tuscans were properly hairy, at first powered by 4.5-litre Rover V8s and later by TVR’s own AJP engine pushing out more than 500bhp, just to the rear wheels (naturally). They weren’t for the faint of heart.
“Looking back over all of my career, those four years of Tuscans when it was at its height were the best,” says Flux, who won the title in 1996. “There were 12 to 14 top drivers and you didn’t know where you were going to come. As for the off-circuit activities and the laughs we had…” Time to leave it there, Fluxie!
These two had their fair share of run-ins back then. I recall a sense of trepidation each time I stepped into the paddock as a young reporter. The drivers were all of the ‘larger than life’ variety, many using the Tuscans as a stepping stone to great things further up the ladder, among them Jamie Campbell-Walter, Bobby Verdon-Roe, Phil Hindley, Ian McKellar Jr and Mike Jordan, father of current BTCC ace Andrew (coincidentally, he had brought his own Tuscan out for a play at the same Silverstone test day).
Guest drives proved a popular draw, even attracting Nigel Mansell in 1993 at Donington Park – just after he’d clinched the Indycar crown and only 12 months after he had become F1 world champion. Sadly, a famous TOCA Shootout shunt in a Ford Mondeo BTCC racer put Red Five in hospital, making him a Tuscan non-starter.
But those who did race, fought and fell out with each other have fond memories, and today it’s all water under the bridge (mostly). At Silverstone, Short and Flux were like a couple of old schoolboys after both had taken Martin’s perfectly preserved, Mole Valley-backed Tuscan out for a twirl. “By the time I had got to Becketts, it had all come back,” said a grinning Fluxie, after his first run in one for more than 20 years. “There’s just a feel, loads of front-end grip as you turn in, that leaves you thinking: ‘Oh God, this is f***ing great!’”
Short credits Flux and the late, much-missed Colin Blower for coaxing him into Tuscans. “They said ‘you need to get out of Rovers and come and do some proper racing’,” he recalls. “I tested here and spun at every corner. I was so deep into front-wheel-drive mode I was nailing the throttle at every turn. I drove the whole race with my right hand on my knee to remind myself not to nail it. Finishing third in that race changed my life, because after that I had two dealers fighting over me. That led to my career in TVRs, which found me a sponsor who was a TVR owner, and that led me directly to Le Mans.”
The rich seam of racing history means original Tuscans fetch a pretty penny today, but surely enough survive for a proper reunion with many more of the old faces. A perfect idea for the Silverstone Classic, I reckon.