Volvo cars may have a reputation for safety first, but they have also proved themselves in top-level touring car racing throughout the world.
The Swedish manufacturer is one of the few to have tasted victory in the discipline's hallowed triple crown - the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the legendary Bathurst 1000 in Australia.
Until 1984, Volvo's most notable motorsports activity had come in the late Fifties and early Sixties, when its 122 (Amazon) model was a success in the grueling European rallies of the day, held over marathon courses all over the continent.
Encouraged by the efforts of Swedish privateer Thomas Lindstrom, Volvo entered the ETCC in 1984 with its 3-litre turbocharged 240 Turbo. It was a learning year, which was capitalized on spectacularly in 1985, when the 240 defeated works teams from Rover and BMW to win the title.
The 240 Turbo notched three more victories in 1986.
The ETCC was on the skids by now, but over the course of the next decade the BTCC exploded in popularity. Volvo entered the series in 1994 with a most unusual weapon - the 850 station wagon.
Entered by the TWR motorsports organization, the wagon opened some eyes due mainly to some storming performances from Volvo's talented young Swede, Rickard Rydell.
With a conventional 850 sedan the following year, Rydell and TWR used their lessons from the wagon to take a record 13 pole positions and third place in the championship, a position they matched in '96.
The more aerodynamic S40 replaced the boxy 850 for '97. It was a learning year, Rydell taking fourth in the championship before sweeping all before him in '98 and winning the coveted BTCC title. For good measure, he teamed up with Australian veteran Jim Richards to win at the Bathurst 1000 as well.
Rydell again led the attack in '99 in his bid for a second title, winding up in third place in the championship, in what proved to be Volvo's final year in the BTCC.
In 2001 and 2002, Volvo took its new sedan, the S60 into the ETCC with the UK-based Prodrive team and, after a developmental year, secured a creditable eight podium places in the second season, with Rydell again leading the charge. At the end of 2002, Volvo announced its withdrawal from the international racing scene.
Volvo Cars of North America
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