Touring car hero Steve Soper is ready to make for a very welcome competition comeback at this summer's Silverstone Classic.
The 61-year old was forced out of the sport on medical advice following a heavy crash in the final round of the 2001 MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch. However, following a recent operation on his damaged neck, he has now been given the all clear and is ready join the growing number of racing legends competing in what's firmly established as the world's biggest motor racing festival.
Soper will make his eagerly-anticipated return sharing a Ford GT40 with close friend David Cuff in the two-driver World Sportscar Masters event, which features a full 58-car grid of Le Mans-style sportscars from the 1962-74 era.
“It's going to be great to make my comeback with David racing a GT40 at the Silverstone Classic,” Soper said, “It's such a mega event. I went last year and the racing was just fantastic; now I'm looking forward to be taking part in it.”
Voted 'the greatest saloon car driver of all times' by an panel of experts in a poll conducted by Motor Sport
magazine, Soper attributes his imminent return to a combination of worsening health and medical advances.
“After the accident, I was told to totally change my lifestyle, so that's what I did,” he explained, “I totally stopped racing and concentrated on my BMW dealership in Lincoln. But, last year, I started getting pins and needles in my fingers, so I went back to see the specialist.
“To cut a long story short, he insisted I had an operation on my damaged neck which, thanks to today's technology, has replaced three of my discs and two vertebrae with carbon cages. The surgeon tells me that, after the three-and-a-half hour operation in January, my neck is now as strong as it was when I was 21 and therefore has cleared me to start competing again.”
The news came as huge relief to Soper who admitted to being an increasingly frustrated spectator.
“I'm still a petrolhead and I find it difficult to be at a race meeting and not to be involved,” he confessed, “Moreso recently, as I've seen so many of my old friends having such fun in these fabulous historic events like the Silverstone Classic and Goodwood Revival. Now I'm back and really looking forward to doing a few selected meetings such as those, when lucky enough to be invited.”
The GT40 in which Soper will be making his comeback in July is currently nearing completion at renowned GT40 experts Gelscoe Motorsport in Derbyshire.