Gordon Shedden claimed his second British Touring Car Championship title on Sunday in a dramatic season finale on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Honda Yuasa Racing man Shedden entered the final round with 23 points in hand over Jason Plato. Colin Turkington, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan were in with a mathematical chance, albeit a remote one.
For the third time in succession Mat Jackson put the Motorbase Ford Focus on pole for Race 1 and sprinted off to a untroubled win. Aron Smith and Adam Morgan went with Jackson, but he was able to pull out an unassailable lead.
Colin Turkington jumped up to fourth at the start, past Gordon Shedden. Jason Plato tried to follow suit at the first corner, making light contact. Another nudge later in the lap opened up the gap Plato needed to slot ahead of the championship leader.
Plato then spent the rest of the race blocking Shedden’s advances and, crucially, not giving him enough room to set a fast lap time for the Race 2 grid. The tactic worked, Plato lining up eighth for the second counter, while Shedden was mired in 13th.
Matt Neal played rear gunner to teammate Shedden after nipping by Andy Priaulx, holding off any would-be attackers. JCT600 Racing pair Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard battled hard over tenth place, the more experienced Collard eventually prevailing. But he could do nothing to overcome Josh Cook, continuing his rookie-class domination in ninth.
BTCC Brands Hatch GP Race 1 top ten after 18 laps
- Mat Jackson — Motorbase Performance/Ford Focus ST — 31:15.989
- Aron Smith — Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagen CC — +0.715
- Adam Morgan — WIX Racing/Mercedes A-Class — +1.889
- Colin Turkington — Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagen CC — +3.920
- Jason Plato –Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagen CC — +5.696
- Gordon Shedden — Honda Yuasa Racing/Honda Civic Type R — +7.260
- Matt Neal — Honda Yuasa Racing/Honda Civic Type R — +7.783
- Andy Priaulx — Team IHG Rewards Club/BMW 125i M Sport — +8.213
- Josh Cook — Power Maxed Power/Chevrolet Cruze — +8.631
- Rob Collard — JCT600 Racing w. GardX/BMW 125i M Sport — +8.965
Mat Jackson claimed victory in Race 2 as well, winning for the fourth time in 15 races. There have been suggestions that the Focus’s EcoBoost engine has quite a lot more power than the other cars, and there is no denying it has a straight-line speed advantage. If it can put together a full programme for 2016, Motorbase’s prospects look very good, enough to worry the established order.
Jackson had to work for his win, though, defending from Adam Morgan and Tom Ingram. The pair argued intensely over second place, Ingram eventually making the decisive point with a brave pass.
Equally brave was Dave Newsham’s on-the-limit pass on Jack Goff at Paddock Hill, moving up to fourth. Jason Plato moved up to sixth after being let through by teammate Aron Smith, who was ultimately unable to defend against Matt Neal. Andy Priaulx and Rob Collard rounded out the top ten.
Crucially, Gordon Shedden was relegated down to a non-scoring 19th, the legacy of contact that led to a rear brake sticking on. The title race would go down to the wire.
BTCC Brands Hatch GP Race 2 top ten after 18 laps
- Mat Jackson — Motorbase Performance/Ford Focus ST — 31:04.610
- Tom Ingram — Speedworks Motorsport/Toyota Avensis — +0.350
- Adam Morgan — WIX Racing/Mercedes A-Class — +1.460
- Dave Newsham — Power Maxed Power/Chevrolet Cruze — +2.904
- Jack Goff — MG 5 Star Cases Racing/MG6 GT — +3.278
- Jason Plato –Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagen CC — +3.588
- Matt Neal — Honda Yuasa Racing/Honda Civic Type R — +10.954
- Aron Smith — Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagen CC — +12.344
- Andy Priaulx — Team IHG Rewards Club/BMW 125i M Sport — +12.849
- Rob Collard — JCT600 Racing w. GardX/BMW 125i M Sport — +13.100
And so the championship came down to the last race. Matt Neal was drawn on pole for the reverse grid, alongside old sparring partner Jason Plato. Plato needed to win came what may, in which case Gordon Shedden needed to finish at least sixth, a tall order starting from 19th.
No doubt it was Neal’s plan to help teammate Shedden by preventing Plato from winning. But that went out of the window at the first corner as Neal slid wide and Plato nipped through. He drove off into the distance to take a comfortable win.
Or at least he did once racing was properly underway. The safety car came out after a some first lap incidents; on the restart, Stewart Lines deposited his Toyota into the Clearways gravel trap before he had even reached the start line. The safety car came again; Lines’ car was moved out of the way. Then on the second restart, Dave Newsham did exactly the same thing.
Third time around, everyone managed to keep their car on the road. Mat Jackson surged through from seventh on the grid to take second at the flag, having dealt with Jack Goff’s valiant defence. Had there been more racing laps, he could well have troubled Plato for the win.
All eyes, though, were on Shedden. He initially found himself stuck behind Alain Menu, making his only outing for Team BMR. But Menu picked up a puncture, releasing Shedden. He went on the attack, his position aided by several retirements, and carved his way through the order in his ballast-free Civic, dismissing Sam Tordoff, Andrew Jordan and Andy Priaulx.
Aron Smith tried to resist Shedden, but a slight mistake at Clearways allowed the Honda to draw alongside, holding the inside line into the first corner at Paddock Hill. Only Rob Collard lay between Shedden and the title.
The pass proved easy but, unsure of his position, Shedden remained on the offensive, dispatching Adam Morgan, then being let through by Neal. Goff was his next target, but the chequered flag came out before the dispute was resolved.
Not that it mattered. Shedden had done enough to secure the title by just four points from Plato.
Plato was magnanimous, saying: “It was close but no cigar. It’s been a great year for us, but we’ve been dogged with some bad luck to he honest. Had it not been for that we’d have won it, but that’s the way it goes. I understand defeat as well as victory, and the balls just didn’t roll our way.”
Shedden was ecstatic, saying: “I can’t believe it – I just can’t believe it! What an incredible day, what an incredible race! That’s touring car racing at its absolute best. To win it from that far back, I can’t believe it. It seemed like an impossible task but the Civic Type R was absolutely on fire with no ballast, I was just so desperate to win – wow! I’m almost lost for words, but the emotion is unbelievable. Sometimes the best way to keep it on the track is to keep pushing! To win it in the debut year of the Civic Type R and to get the manufacturers’ too is out of this world. It’s even more special than the first time.”
BTCC Brands Hatch GP Race 3 top ten after 18 laps
- Jason Plato — Team BMR RCIB Insurance/Volkswagn CC — 31:47.185
- Mat Jackson — Motorbase Performance/Ford Focus ST — +3.536
- Jack Goff — MG 5 Star Cases Racing/MG6 GT — +8.954
- Gordon Shedden — Honda Yuasa Racing/Honda Civic Type R — +9.086
- Matt Neal — Honda Yuasa Racing/Honda Civic Type R — +9.564
- Adam Morgan — WIX Racing/Mercedes A-Class — +10.079
- Rob Collard — JCT600 Racing w. GardX/BMW 125i M Sport — +10.289
- Andrew Jordan — MG Pirtek Racing/MG6 GT — +10.492
- Aron Smith — Team BMR RCIB Insurance — +10.978
- Andy Priaulx — Team IHG Rewards Club/BMW 125i M Sport — +11.220
- Drivers’ Championsip — Gordon Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing)
- Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship — Honda/Team Dynamics (Honda Yuasa Racing)
- Teams’ Championship — Team BMR RCIB Insurance
- Independent Drivers’ Trophy — Colin Turkington (Team BMR RCIB Insurance)
- Independent Teams Trophy — Team BMR RCIB Insurance
- Jack Sears Trophy (for rookie drivers) — Josh Cook (Power Maxed Racing)
The 2016 British Touring Car Championship will get under way at Brands Hatch in April.
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By Only Motors