Slightly later than planned*, our BTCC correspondent gives his take on the final rounds of the 2014 season.
Turkington Crowned Champion
Colin Turkington was crowned the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion at Brands Hatch after a fantastic final round of racing. Turkington, ironically, had his worst weekend of the season, but still came away from the Kent circuit as the happiest man of the day after taking his second drivers’ title.
Saturday saw Turkington’s nearest rival, Jason Plato, take pole position from his teammate Sam Tordoff, Gordon Shedden, Turkington, Adam Morgan and a season’s best for Fabrizio Giovanardi and James Cole in 6th and 7th. It was yet another poor day for Matt Neal, and his Sunday wasn’t going to go much better, as he qualified in 22nd.
Race One took place on a drying track although it wasn’t wet enough to use wet tyres. However, we probably saw the most dramatic start of the season as Plato got off to an awful start meaning Tordoff jumped him, but then Turkington was in the lead just after Paddock Hill bend as the cars headed for Druids. However, after Druids that soon reverted back to Tordoff from Plato and Turkington.
As exciting as the battle for the lead was, it was nothing compared to what was going on behind them. Shedden’s Honda was sent sideways as Giovanardi tried to overtake him on the grass, or at least that was the view of the stewards. My view is that there was a gap and Shedden squeezed him off the track unreasonably and therefore contact was inevitable. However, contact there was and a sideways Shedden had his rear slammed into by an unsighted Rob Austin. Amongst all this, Jack Goff was sent into the air following contact from his teammate Alain Menu, who had nowhere to go, Hunter Abbott went into the side of Neal at Paddock Hill bend and Dave Newsham was involved too. As you can probably guess, the safety car was needed for 4 laps to clear up the debris and stranded cars.
Lap 5 saw Mat Jackson take 4th ahead of Morgan after Paddock Hill bend, while the top 5 were all running closely. Newsham was in the wars again on the following lap, colliding with Chris Stockton and both cars ended up hitting the barriers. The same fate could have occurred to Jackson and Turkington as the cars crossed the start finish line for the start of the 7th lap because Jackson rubbed the back of Turkington’s car after getting the run on him, but Turkington just held it to avoid disastrous consequences.
The lead changed on lap 8 as Tordoff pulled over cleverly to let Plato through without losing too much time and in turn it meant he kept 2nd place. However, the safety car was soon called for again. This time, Warren Scott suffered big front end damage to his VW CC after a bang into the barriers caused by Scott and Nick Foster having a slight touch, but enough to send Scott off course.
When the race resumed, Turkington was all over the back of Tordoff as he aimed for 2nd place, but his attempts were in vain. However, one eBay BMW making a pass was Rob Collard’s, as he got the better of Giovanardi to take 6th. On lap 16, Hines was sent spinning by Hines. That’s Luke was sent spinning by Marc. I just like the fact that there are 2 varieties of ‘Heinz’ in the BTCC. Anyway, Plato was the victor, from Tordoff, Turkington, Jackson, Morgan and Collard. Turkington’s 3rd place was enough to secure him the title and he was overjoyed as he climbed out his car to take the deserved congratulations.
Before Race Two started, it was revealed that Neal had been taken to hospital following his collision in the first race and that was to be the end of his season. As the lights went out, Turkington surged into the lead through a gap between the MGs of Plato and Tordoff, but again behind the lead trio there was drama. This time, Menu lost his rear end, by himself, at Paddock Hill bend and went flying backwards into the barriers on the inside of the track. It was certainly a hefty hit for the Swiss. The opening lap also saw Newsham tag Stockton, again! However, the safety car was called for and Turkington was leading from Plato and Jackson with Collard 4th and Tordoff 5th.
On lap 4, Plato got the run on Turkington across the start finish line and went for what was an impossible gap on the inside and on the grass which consequently sent Turkington hurtling towards the gravel and he was subsequently out. A naughty move by Plato, for sure. This meant that Jackson took over as race leader, but he lost his rear end at Hawthorns and after half a lap in the lead he was into the barriers, although he did continue. Collard was leading as the safety car came out to slow the cars down to allow for the recovery of Turkington’s stranded motor.
The next major incident came on lap 6 and it was yet another spectacular one! This time, Giovanardi was tapped into a spin by Tom Ingram, but as he tried to correct it he spun around the other way and then back again; there was tyre smoke everywhere and how all the cars avoided him as he was spinning one way and then the other in the middle of the track is simply astonishing.
Lap 8 saw the start of a charge by Morgan, who was looking in great form in his Mercedes A-Class. He made a great move on Tordoff for 3rd at Druids and then on the next lap he had caught and was all over Plato for 2nd, but it took him until lap 14 to make the pass at Druids. Collard was really working hard to remain in the lead and it was taken away from him on lap 15 as Morgan made his move and he was followed through by Plato. However, Morgan just ran wide and went on to the grass at the back of the circuit and it allowed Plato to nip through. Plato never looked back and went on to record his second victory of the day from Morgan, Tordoff, Collard, Jordan and Ingram.
However, following Plato’s unsavoury move on Turkington he was rightly penalised, meaning it was the first time Adam Morgan or a Mercedes had ever won an outright BTCC race. It was richly deserved for Morgan and his team who have worked tirelessly since joining the BTCC. West Surrey Racing, Turkington’s team, appealed Plato’s penalty and he was subsequently given a 20 second penalty and because this was his third offence of the season, he started a very wet Race Three from the back of the grid.
Foster, who had finished 10th in both races, picked himself for pole, again, but because of Plato’s demotion, it meant that Jack Clarke lined up at the front. Foster shot off the line and into the lead with Clarke 2nd, Goff 3rd and Shedden in 4th, but once again the first lap brought out the safety car. This time, Cole was in the gravel.
Once the race restarted, Shedden was up the inside of Goff for 3rd and he was looking incredibly racy as he also took Foster for 2nd as Clarke had found a way past him and was off into the lead. However, Shedden soon caught Clarke and took the lead while Goff and Aron Smith took Foster for 3rd and then 4th as Foster slid backwards down the pack.
Lap 8 found Jackson having a ‘moment’ at Paddock Hill bend, which forced Tordoff off the track momentarily. The following lap, Martin Depper summed up his season by ending it in the gravel and out came the safety car once again for a couple of laps. The conditions were really starting to deteriorate now and on lap 12, Jackson made a forceful move on Smith for 3rd and was followed through by Tordoff. The last major news from the race and season saw Plato take 7th place after he started the race from the pit lane, but his progress was halted there as the race distance was reduced due to the ever worsening conditions. This meant that Shedden took his 3rd victory of the season, and first since Thruxton, from a great drive by Clarke, Jackson, Tordoff, Smith and Jordan. 2014 champion Turkington came home in 20th as the season came to an end.
The final rounds were arguably the best of the season for entertainment and certainly didn’t let anyone down. It some ways, it was nice for the inevitable crowning of Turkington as champion happened in the first race so we could have two more fantastic races with less as stake. The weekend will have definitely provided some teams with a lot of work to rebuild some seriously damaged cars from Brands, while others will be able to reflect on a hard season and think about how they will come back next.
Congratulations to Dave Newsham on being crowned the Jack Sears Trophy Champion, as he managed to gain the most positions over the course of the season. However, ESM’s final word on the action from Brands has to go to Colin Turkington – congratulations on a richly deserved title.
Final Championship Standings after Round 30 of 30:
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
A solid weekend for Jordan, but Depper once again failed to shine.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
A mixed bag for Honda – Neal had another nightmare, while Shedden recovered well from his Race One incident to gain some solid points.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Super weekend for the MGs, although Plato’s move on Turkington left a bitter taste in the mouth. It was lucky that Turkington had won the championship in the first race, or is that why Plato did it?
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
A couple of points finishes to end the season.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
Turkington had his worst weekend of the season results wise, but he won’t care one jot as he takes home the silverware. Decent weekends for Foster and Collard too.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Another good weekend for Jackson and Giovanardi wasn’t too bad either.
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
It was a super way for the Clarke to end the season, leading a race before coming 2nd. It’ll be interesting to see how he starts next season as he’s really improved in the second half of this one.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Menu will be disappointed to have missed out on the Jack Sears Trophy after leading the way for such a long time. However, he’ll no doubt be sore from his big smash into the barriers. Warren Scott will be busy re-building his car too. Goff had a couple of retirements, but Smith ended the season with 3 points finishes.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Yet again, Mr Reliable: 3 races, 3 finishes, no points, but he did equal his best result of 18th for a 4th time.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Ollie Jackson finished all 3 races, but Welch had another bad day.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
Congratulations to Aiden Moffat on his first points finishes in the BTCC – 14th in Race One and 12th in Race Two.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Not Newsham’s greatest day, but he still went home with the Jack Sears Trophy, so it can’t all be bad!
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
2 retirements each for Cole and Hines before finishing out of the points in the last race.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
Chris Stockton secured his best finish of the season in Race One with 18th and then matched it in Race Two and then normal service resumed in Race Three – retired.
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Fantastic for Adam Morgan and his team that he’s won a race. Well done to you!
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
Wood was back in the points for the first time since Croft with a brace of 14ths.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Terrible weekend for Hunter after problems in Race One.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
After making an Audi shaped gap in the back Shedden’s car, Austin climbed his way up from the back to 16th in Race Two and secured the last point on offer for the season with 15th in Race Three.
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
No Robb Holland this weekend, but we knew that anyway. Tony Gilham was meant to be racing the S3 Saloon, but the damage from Silverstone was too much.
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Three top 10 finishes for Ingram means it was a good weekend for him.
Next up: Brands Hatch (Indy), 5th April 2015.
* Blame the editor going to New York and getting engaged...