After months of close racing, the 2015 British Touring Car Championship came down the wire to decide who would be the winner. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent sums it all up.
Gordon Shedden did his best to lose a 23 point advantage going in to Brands Hatch, but he managed to just hold on to take his second British Touring Car Championship. Shedden naturally took all the headlines, but once again Mat Jackson was seriously impressive with two race victories and a second place.
It was Jackson who completed a hat-trick of pole positions, albeit with no weight. Aron Smith lined up second, Adam Morgan third, Shedden fourth, Colin Turkington fifth and Shedden’s nearest challenger Jason Plato, sixth. Race One was a non-event despite a safety car to rescue Stewart Lines’ stricken car, a big smash for Alex Martin and an amazing overtake from Aiden Moffat on Hunter Abbott via the grass. Jackson strolled home over the line with Smith and Morgan remaining second and third. The BMR duo of Turkington and Plato had jumped Shedden, but a point here and there wasn’t going to make any difference.
Race Two however, provided the set up to the final drama. Tom Ingram got a great start off the line as Smith bogged down, but Jackson once again established a sizeable early race lead. However, the safety car was needed at the end of lap one as a tank slapper from Martin Depper across the front of Rob Austin resulted in a sizeable collision. By lap 8, Shedden had actually slipped a little down the pack from his high teens starting position to 16th, but at the front it was much closer than the opening race with Jackson suffering from soft tyres and full ballast.
However, lap 11 brought a strange occurrence. Whether Smith had made a mistake or not seems irrelevant, as he allowed Jack Goff and Dave Newsham past yet seemed to forcibly block Plato, his teammate. Smith still wouldn’t allow Plato past for another half a lap and by that time Goff and Newsham had long gone. This petulant act could well have cost Plato the title in the long run, as it took Plato a long time to re-catch the pair and when he did, he had little time to overtake them.
The second race had close racing up and down the field and it was a great watch, although Shedden wouldn’t have enjoyed the number of cars passing him as he clearly was struggling with a problem, eventually finishing in 19th to set up a final race showdown with Plato. Towards the front, Ingram made a good move on Morgan for 2nd, but he didn’t have enough time to catch Jackson as he won for the second time on the day. Turkington’s championship hopes were extinguished on the final lap as he suffered a front puncture.
And so to race 30 of 30. The final shootout. The decider. Matt Neal was drawn on pole with Plato second and Goff third. Shedden must have been delighted to see his teammate at the front, ready to block Plato. It lasted all of one corner as Neal went wide with cold tyres allowing Plato through. As he started to build an early lead, the first safety car of the race was called for as a turned around Ingram was smashed into by Jake Hill, who was having a moment of his own. The safety car went in at the start of lap 4, yet was out again at the end of the lap as Lines had beached it, again. Shedden was running behind the returning Alain Menu, in for the injured Warren Scott, and was probably thinking it would be the widest BMR car he’d seen all season, yet a stroke of luck for Shedden saw a puncture for the Swiss and it soon removed him out of the equation.
At the start of lap 7, we were once again racing with Jackson taking 2nd from Neal, but it was short-lived as there was a safety car at the end of the lap, this time for the gravel trapped Dave Newsham. Finally, the race could continue and did so from lap 9 onwards. Shedden continued his charge from 19th. It was a championship winning charge, albeit helped by some cars moving out of his way (James Cole) and others indicating to let him past (Andrew Jordan). However, Shedden still needed more and despite having the safety net of teammate Neal ahead, Shedden want to achieve his title by himself and soon made a move on Smith for 7th. In the midst of this, Jackson and Goff were having a great battle at the front over the podium positions with Neal fighting it out too.
Lap 14 highlighted BTCC at its best. Neal tried to overtake Goff, Jackson overtook them both and Morgan then tried to join in on the act too. It’s why we watch the BTCC. It was brilliant. However, Shedden was still trying to catch this group, despite having glowing orange hot brakes. He eventually did, and despite Neal’s best efforts to cause a collision with Goff, both Goff and Shedden overtook Neal to secure the championship for Shedden beyond any doubt.
The final lap saw a huge gaggle of cars together and Shedden risking it all trying to overtake Goff in what seemed a pointless manoeuvre. However, Goff held on to his podium behind Jackson and Plato, but it was Shedden who was celebrating over the line as he secured the drivers’ crown.
Congratulations must go to Shedden. After 30 races, he has the most points and that’s the rules that everyone adheres to. You can point out bad luck stories for Plato and more, but Shedden will no doubt point to incidents of his own. At the end of the day, Shedden deserves credit for his championship victory, whether you’re a fan or not of the smiley Scotsman.
Things could, of course, been different had it not been for Smith’s tactics in Race Two, something which Team BMR have addressed in a statement post-Brands with Smith making a public apology. His actions seemed inexplicable; not to help his teammate, and if I was a team boss, I would certainly have taken note of that should he ever find himself looking for a drive. With 4 points being the final gap, it really could have made the difference.
It’s interesting to note that Shedden’s winning points total of 348 is actually one less than he achieved finishing 3rd last season and a long way behind Tarkington’s 2014 winning total of 434. Turkington did have something to celebrate at the end of the season too as, for the fifth time, he was crowned the Independents’ Champion.
The season is now over and no doubt the rumour mill will go into overdrive as it always does, but all I’m looking forward to now is April and the start of the 2016 season. It should be a cracker!
Final Championship Standings:
|Gordon Shedden||348 points|
Team BMR RCIB Insurance – Volkswagen CC (Plato, Turkington, Menu, A Smith)
If it was a normal race meeting, Plato would have been chuffed to bits with 42 points scored, but it wasn’t to be this time. Smith will have been happy with a podium [might cost him his drive though! – Ed] and punctures ruined Menu and Turkington’s weekend. 7/10
WSR, Team JCT600 with GardX – BMW 125i M Sport (Collard, Tordoff)
WSR, Team IHG Rewards Club – BMW 125i M Sport (Priaulx)
A good showing around the top 10 all weekend for all of the drivers. 7/10
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Type R (Neal, Shedden)
Neal may have come out with more points from the event than Shedden, but the Scotsman will naturally have been elated to take home the big prize. Not their strongest weekend on the track of the season though. 7/10
MG 888 Racing – MG6 GT (Goff, Jordan)
Sacrificed the first race for good starting positions in the 2nd and it worked. A good end to the season. 7/10
Exocet AlcoSense – Audi A4 (Abbott, Austin)
The end of Sherman, or Shermans as Abbott raced the original Sherman for the last time. Things could have gone a lot better too. Austin was very unlucky to be caught up with Depper and although Abbott had his moments, no points were scored. 4/10
Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST (Cole, Jackson)
Weekends don’t get better than a pole, 2 wins and a second. Jackson will be hoping this continues next season. Cole scored a couple of points and denies Motorbase a 10/10. 9/10
Eurotech Racing – Honda Civic (Depper, J Smith)
A couple of points to end the season. Moved out of the way for Shedden’s Honda too. 5/10
Welch Motorsport – Proton Persona (Welch)
2 retirements and a DNS summed up the season perfectly for Welch. 2/10
Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing – Infiniti Q50 (Palmer)
No points, again. 2/10
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Morgan)
A good weekend for Morgan, with plenty of points scored. He’ll have been delighted with a brace of podiums. 9/10
Laser Tools Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Moffat)
An amazing overtake on Abbott has to be a highlight of the weekend. Scored a couple of points too. 6/10
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Belcher)
Waste of time [Ouch! – Ed]. 2/10
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Ingram)
A fantastic 2nd place once again underlined his potential, but 2 poor results in the other races. 7/10
Team HARD. RCIB Insurance Racing – Toyota Avensis (Gilham)
Ended up mixing it with Shedden in the second race due to the Scotsman’s problems, but couldn’t get past him. 5/10
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis (Lines)
Earlier in the season, ESM’s editor advised minus points. No advice needed this time. Caused 2 safety cars. -10/10
Dextra Racing – Ford Focus ST (Martin)
Took a big hit in the first race, but did make it out again. 3/10
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Newsham)
4th in the second race, but not a lot else to talk about. 6.5/10
#RacingforHeroes – Chevrolet Cruze 4dr (Cook)
Added a few more points to the total for the season. It will be interesting to see how Cook does next season. 6/10
AmD Tuning – Ford Focus ST (Bushell)
A decent weekend for Bushell adding some more points to his total. 6/10
AmD Tuning – Audi S3 Saloon (Hill)
Jake Hill took over the car from Hamilton. Seemed to get a little more out of it too. 6/10
So that’s it for 2015. EngageSportMode will be back for more BTCC action in 2016.