It all started in 1970.
The first car was a Ford Escort GT which was a modified road car and entered by the 18 year old Steve Soper in a Silverstone A clubs event. Happiness soon turned to sorrow when in the first corner a collision with a Jaguer XK150 brought Soper’s first outing to an abrubt end.
In 1971 a Mini Cooper was purchased with the intention of competing in the Special Saloons Championship. As with the first race, Silverstone was chosen as the circuit at which to ignite the career. Unfortunately the car didn’t make the grid as a crash in practice delayed any sort of race start. After repairing the car it was time to try again. Now cautious but determined, Steve began completing race distances and surprisingly not at the back of the field but in fifth or sixth places. All of this against such names as Bill McGovern and Ray Calcut.
For 1972 Steve got a Hillman Imp. With an 850cc George Bevan engine in it, he was able to win 5 races. Quite a good return so early in a racing career considering he never competed in every race of the championship.
For the next season and looking to capitalise on his now race winning status Soper made a return to Mini’s. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be a successful return, as half way through the season the money ran out. It was a similar story for ’74. Started, got nowhere and ran out of money.Some wise decisions needed to be made, as it was clear that so fierce was the competition, that it was not, from a financial point of view, possible to compete in Special Saloons. What was needed was a one make series that was more about the driver than how much money was needed to throw at a car.
In 1976 Steve entered the Mini 1275 GT Championship. He had some good races that year, winning one and finishing reasonably high in others. This gave him a 6th position finish in the championship.
The 1977 and ’78 seasons produced limited success. But for 1979 Steve decided it was time for maximum attack. A style which would he would become known for throughout the rest of his illustrious career.The Mini in which he had been racing in for the last few seasons was rebuilt with a new bodyshell and Steve concentrated on fitting the right parts to help get the weight down.
This paid off because he achieved a well earned championship win. It was a great end to this first decade of racing, but for the next season there was a new championship, with a new manufacturer to try out. A time for the Soper talent to really shine through.