This BMW 318iS Touring Car Led Its Pack At Silverstone Classic
Photography by Jayson Fong
There’s something quite special about touring cars. It’s the recipe of essentially stripping out a road car and taking it racing with stickers all over it, all the while automakers following a “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” mentality. We’ve been blessed with some extremely entertaining racing, and cars in our own garages because of it. At the Silverstone Classic, I met one of my personal favorites.
The BMW E30, perhaps one of motorsport’s most successful touring cars, left some very large shoes to be filled by the E36 when it was replaced in 1990…and to this day, the E36 remains in the shadow of its predecessor. But in its own right, the E36 was a largely successful touring car as well, although without as much recognition. As a result, this weekend I decided to take a closer look at the ex-Tony Longhurst Benson and Hedges E36 318iS at the Silverstone Classic.
This particular car, in its 1994 livery, is one of the most recognisable Australian touring cars from the ’90s era and the one of the earliest cars I remember from weekend watching motorsport on television. Even among a collection of such colourful touring cars, it’s hard to deny the striking looks of this E36, even among E30s.
For many Australians, its fame was cemented when teammates Tony Longhurst (in this very car) and Paul Morris collided at Winton Raceway, resulting in Longhurst landing a series of punches to Morris’s helmet through the open window. Commentators in the heat of the action labelled the moment as, “bringing the biffo back into the bingle”.
Although it is more commonly seen on the other side of the world where it currently competes in New Zealand, spectators this weekend were given a unique opportunity to see Tony Longhurst himself take the fight to the Europeans. Watching this streak of yellow braking hard into Silverstone’s loop and powering out with its 2.0L four-cylinder howling was an absolute delight. Later, news of its class victory perfectly complemented the experience of seeing a childhood favourite take to the track.
With looks that are getting better with age and performance to match, the E36 is looking like it might finally be catching up with its E30 older brother. But will it ever be as popular? I guess the only problem is that it still has to compete with the existence of the E30…come to think of it, Tony Longhurst drove one of those, too, in Benson and Hedges colors, but that’s another story…