2015 British Touring Car Championship

BTCC 2015 – Brands Hatch GP | Reviewed and Rated

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.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch GPGordon 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.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch GPRace 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. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Silverstone | Reviewed and Rated

The title race is almost over. So just how does our BTCC Correspondent feel about another Shedden championship?

2015 BTCC SilverstoneFollowing the latest rounds of the championship at Silverstone, you would suggest that it’s now Gordon Shedden’s title to lose. He has secured a 23 point gap at the top of the standings with only a possible 67 points remaining. The likelihood of Jason Plato, or even Colin Turkington, overturning that gap seems far-fetched.

Plato or Turkington, or even more unrealistically Matt Neal or Andrew Jordan, could complete that extremely rare situation of winning all three races. But, it would seem a near impossibility that Shedden would be so far back that his 23 point gap would be eradicated and then overturned. Shedden, of course, will be nervous and Plato and Turkington will be hopeful but it seems an unlikely event that we’ll see a Team BMR driver crowned as champion.

Whilst we talk of who will be champion, let’s not forget there are other drivers out there competing for victories. Matt Jackson has taken the championship by storm since he returned at Snetterton and he will be hoping his form will continue after securing another win at Silverstone this time out. So, even if Plato and Turkington wanted to secure three, unlikely, victories they obviously won’t just be facing competition from each other.

2015 BTCC SilverstoneAs previously mentioned, the power of Motorbase’s Ford Focus is phenomenal and it was put to good use yet again on the long straights of Silverstone. Jackson took pole for the second meeting running and secured a lights-to-flag victory in the opening race. Jordan took 2nd after a good move on Shedden on the second lap. Shedden held onto 3rd throughout the race, despite seemingly hold up many cars, especially in the early stages. The opening race felt fairly processional with not many overtakes, although late on, as some of the soft tyres ran out of grip, there was slight excitement. However, probably the biggest talking point was a puncture for Plato on the final lap. It hadn’t been the best of races for Plato, but he was in the lower reaches of the top 10. At that moment, it felt like the championship momentum swung firmly towards Shedden. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Rockingham | Reviewed and Rated

As the 2015 British Touring Car Championship heads into Autumn, the action at Rockingham has set up a two-way fight for the title. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent analyses it all.

BTCC 2015 RockinghamGordon Shedden now leads the British Touring Car Championship by 6 points following the latest rounds at Rockingham. Shedden had a superb weekend with a 1st, 2nd and 8th while previous leader Jason Plato was left struggling after 3 cars into 1 corner didn’t go, in the opening race, leaving him playing catch-up. It’s been a poor couple of rounds for Plato following dramas at Knockhill last time out too and Shedden has taken full advantage. However, the momentum may have turned back in Plato’s favour as a final race victory ensured he left Rockingham with only a 6 point deficit, having been 20 behind after race two.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

It’s hard to see Andrew Jordan winning from 5th in the championship now, as he’s 46 points down and while Matt Neal and reigning champ Colin Turkington are 27 and 33 points down respectively, it would seem very unlikely that Shedden and Plato would both drop that many points to allow them a sniff of silverware. I have said for a long time now that the title will be between Shedden and Plato, with me slightly favouring Plato, and I still have no reason to change that opinion.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

Rockingham’s entertainment value grew as the day progressed with a modest first race, a second race that came alive at the end and a highly entertaining final race. The first race was deservedly won by Mat Jackson who controlled the race throughout for a lights to flag victory. It is astonishing that Jackson found himself at the front of the grid with Motorbase’s first ever Saturday pole position. Motorbase’s cars have generally performed so well over the years; it is hard to fathom how they haven’t had a pole before. Following Knockhill, I commented on how impressed I was with this Focus package and after another strong display, goodness knows where Jackson would have been in the standings had he competed in the opening 15 races of the season. He already has 105 points from just 9 races. I’m not saying Jackson would be challenging Plato or Shedden for the outright title, but I’m sure he would have been in the top 6 mix, easily.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

While Jackson is perhaps classed as an ‘old’ pro in the BTCC now, I find I’m regularly commenting on some of the younger drivers after each set of races. This time is no different as I once again praise Josh Cook and Tom Ingram. Cook had an amazing charge through the field in the second race as the action climaxed at the end, with Cook taking the last podium position from Adam Morgan at pretty much the final corner on the last lap of the race. Ingram has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but I’ve often found he’s ended up finishing further down than his performance has deserved. Not on Sunday. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Knockill | Reviewed and Rated

It was north of the border again for the British Touring Car Championship’s annual visit to Scotland.

BTCC 2015 Knockhill 001

Forceful manoeuvres, close racing, safety cars and three different winners were just some of the things witnessed at Knockhill in the latest rounds of the BTCC. The championship top 5 contenders are now closer together thanks to a poor weekend for Team BMR and a good one for Honda Yuasa Racing.

As Tim Harvey pointed out during ITV’s coverage, the circuits are starting to become car specific, hence we are seeing some teams doing well at one circuit and not others. I quite agree with Tim, but I would also add that it isn’t the first time we’ve noticed this. For example, at Croft we always know the BMWs will go well and likewise at Snetterton we know it suits a long wheel based, front wheeled drive car, such as the Volkswagen CC. However, this season, perhaps more than others, due to the great ability of the leading championship contenders it is becoming, or has become, more of a relevant issue. Despite this, I would still suggest the best drivers have risen to the top of the leader board. Jason Plato and Colin Turkington have 2 other team mates, but they’re not in top 10, nor are other Honda Civic drivers.

The remaining circuits of Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch (GP) will favour the VW CC over the Honda Civic, or at least there will be parity between the two cars as the season reaches its climax. The racing won’t solely focus on them, of course, because we don’t want a situation like the early noughties where one Vauxhall team basically raced another Vauxhall team, as the BMWs, MGs, Fords and so on will make a valuable impact on this season’s championship. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Snetterton | Reviewed and Rated

The British Touring Car Championship returned to action on Sunday, following the mid-season break, at Snetterton and it continued the entertainment seen at Croft in the previous round. Our BTCC Correspondent gives us the low down.

BTCC 2015 Snetterton

Colin Turkington re-ignited his title challenge following a disastrous weekend for Honda’s Gordon Shedden who relinquished top spot to the ever-green Jason Plato. Shedden’s poor weekend started when he qualified in 16th following mechanical issues. Shedden only managed to score 3 points all weekend, and one of those was for fastest lap having pitted in the final race. However, qualifying couldn’t have gone any better for Team BMR and their Volkswagens as they secured a 1-2-3 led by Turkington who was followed home by Aron Smith and Plato. Team BMR were sporting a new livery this weekend following sponsorship from RCIB Insurance and the 4th placed man, Andrew Jordan, also had a different looking, shiny silver, car after securing a long-term sponsorship deal with Pirtek. Matt Neal took 5th and Andy Priaulx took 6th.

The returning Mat Jackson took 14th and James Cole was further down as Motorbase and the Ford Focus returned to the series after missing the first half of the season with sponsorship issues. Support our Paras Racing will be missing a car for the rest of the season after a failed sponsorship deal for Max Coates and they’ve already used up their changes of drivers this season. There was also a return for Robb Holland as he replaced Simon Belcher and there was a BTCC debut for Barry Horne, who replaced Alex Martin following the birth of his first child.

BTCC 2015 Snetterton

Race One saw Turkington get away well from the line as the top drivers stayed in position. Rob Collard was soon in trouble as he was rammed from behind by his teammate Sam Tordoff and he was not the only one to experience early drama, as there were also spins for Rob Austin and Jeff Smith. Turkington looked at ease as early as the fourth lap, the longest lap of the BTCC season incidentally. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Croft | Reviewed and Rated

With the British Touring Car Championship at ESM’s home circuit, there was never any doubt as to whether we would be in attendance. But, would it be a Sunday to remember, or another snooze-fest like Oulton Park? Our BTCC Correspondent tells the story below:

BTCC 2015 Croft Race One Podium

After Oulton Park, things could only get better for the BTCC and they certainly did at a BMW dominated Croft. There was a win apiece for each of the WSR members and a historic 1-2-3 for the team in the opening race. The championship lead has changed hands following the weekend’s action and Gordon Shedden heads the way into the summer break. However, it was the return of ‘racing’ that meant it was a good day for BTCC fans.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Race One saw the winner from last time out on pole, Sam Tordoff, followed by his teammate Andy Priaulx, Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal. The championship leader going into the weekend, Jason Plato, was down in 12th. Unbelievably, it was the first time since Silverstone 2006 that Plato hadn’t qualified in the top 10. By my rough calculations, that’s about 90 meetings which I find astonishing. However, Plato wasn’t happy with his position and he came up with a cunning plan, within the rules, to set himself up for a better weekend.

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough weekend

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough time at Croft

Plato came into the pits at the end of the green flag lap to re-join the race from the pit lane in clear air to set a fast lap for a good grid position in the second race. Another advantage of his plan was that he’d lose his weight as well, leaving him with a good grid positon and no weight. You could say his plan worked as he ended up third for the second race. However, we can, of course, question the morality of it all. Technically, he did nothing wrong, it was within the rules, but do we want drivers doing this every weekend? No, definitely not. As a one off, I think we can just about justify it and hope that Alan Gow can find a way to stop this loophole.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Rob Austin had his best weekend for what seems a very long time.

Race One saw Tordoff get away cleanly as the BMWs roared into the first 3 positions in a race that started under dark clouds. However, on lap 6, Priaulx was able to take the lead from Tordoff with a move up the inside of him at Tower. Priaulx held on for the race win and was followed home by Tordoff and Collard after the latter failed in his bid to get past Tordoff despite good pressure. It was amazing to see an all WSR podium! (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Oulton Park | Reviewed and Rated

ESM’s BTCC Correspondent isn’t one for holding back on his opinions. What did he make of the latest rounds?

BTCC Crowd

***Start of report***
***Snoozefest***
***End of report***

My short review above of the latest British Touring Car Championship rounds may be jovial, but I find it to be highly accurate. Of course, issues were still raised that need to be discussed.

Firstly, it was a great weekend for Jason Plato. A pole position, two race victories, one with full ballast, and a fifth place meant that he has now thrown down the championship gauntlet to the rest of the field, if it needed throwing down in the first place. If he hadn’t suffered a puncture at Brands Hatch on the last lap when set for victory, his lead in the championship would now be sizeable. However, every driver has an ‘if only’ story and luck arguably evens itself out over the course of a season. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Thruxton | Reviewed and Rated

EngageSportMode’s BTCC Correspondent returns with his take on all the action, or lack of, from Thruxton.

BTCC 2015 - Thruxton 00

A year ago, ESM visited Thruxton for not a particularly enjoyable experience and although ESM weren’t there in person this year, the action hardly set many viewing pulses racing. That’s not to say the racing was bad, it just wasn’t great, as we had three different winners.

Plenty of action happened before the races on Sunday. Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing have ditched Richard Hawken, after just one race meeting at Donington, and replaced him with ex-F1 driver Martin Donnelly. From driver changes to track changes at Thruxton… Following last year’s big smashes at Church involving Simon Belcher and Nick Foster, Thruxton have finally installed more substantial barriers at the corner and luckily they weren’t tested during the BTCC races this season.

However, there were plenty of damaged cars on Saturday. Dan Welch took no part on Sunday due to damage and Hunter Abbott sustained damage too, although he was able to race 24 hours later. Belcher must be wondering what Thruxton has against him, as he was unable to race after a big shunt with Mike Bushell in qualifying. Bushell was left on crutches following a leg injury and although Belcher was fine, his car was not. This meant that the grid started with a mere 25 cars for Race One.

BTCC 2015 - Thruxton 002

None of the races were particularly exciting; yes there were good parts and bad parts, but a fairly average weekend all in all. Aron Smith secured his first ever pole position, but he made an awful start (due to not seeing the lights because of his advertising strip on his windscreen) and the Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal powered through and stayed there for the duration. Smith was still having a strong race until the curse of Thruxton punctures struck, meaning he eventually finished 21st. Smith certainly had the pace to win and was showing great race craft with close racing, but it wasn’t to be. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Donington Park | Rated and Reviewed

Although we’ve already discussed ITV’s coverage of the BTCC, our Touring Car Correspondent gives his opinions on whether the races at Donington Park were worth getting so worked up over.
2015 BTCC Donington Park 001
After 5 rounds of the BTCC, I still didn’t have that excitement about the championship that I’ve had in previous seasons. However, in one race that all came flooding back. Race Three was everything you could have possibly ever wanted from a BTCC race. Finally, I have my BTCC excitement back and I can’t wait for the next meeting!

Race One can be quickly disposed of to the back of the BTCC drawer. Not a great deal happened after Jason Plato zoomed through into the lead, ahead of Gordon Shedden and pole sitter Colin Turkington, and he subsequently took a dominant race victory. Shedden and Turkington provided the ‘entertainment’ as they battled for second and that was that. A point of note is that Matt Neal, championship leader, really struggled with the ballast and soft tyres. I guess that is exactly what Alan Gow wants, to make the championship interesting. Hardly fair though. Adam Morgan, in 9th, was the best placed finisher on soft tyres in the opening race. It was cold, but have the rules gone too far in making drivers use the soft tyres three times in races one, two and three?

2015 BTCC Donington Park 003

Race Two saw a fifth different winner in 5 races as Turkington took his first victory of the season in car number 1 and his first victory in a front wheel drive car for a decade. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Brands Hatch Indy | Rated and Reviewed

After a long break, the British Touring Car Championship was back this weekend for the first rounds of the new season. What did our BTCC Correspondent make of proceedings? Read on for his views and driver ratings.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch Indy 001

As the dust settles on the first BTCC weekend of the season, it has certainly raised a few interesting points. Matt Neal leads the championship, level on points with Jack Goff, from Aron Smith and Andy Priaulx after a Sunday that saw three different winners. Several sections of the media have described the action as ‘sensational’ and ‘brilliant.’ I wouldn’t go as far as that, solid, perhaps being a more apt adjective.

The Brands Hatch Indy Circuit has traditionally produced close racing and this weekend was no different. I will no doubt continue to complain every year until we don’t race on the Indy Circuit, but I just don’t enjoy a lap that is less than 50 seconds long with only 10 sections. There are other circuits out there that would be able to host a BTCC meeting, meaning we wouldn’t have to visit Brands twice, not that I have anything against Brands itself.

015 BTCC Brands Hatch Indy 003

Andy Priaulx might not have raced in the BTCC at Brands for many a year, but he has of course visited since his last BTCC visit. It was evident from his pole qualifying position and his subsequent performances that he’s not here to make up the numbers, but he’s going to be a title contender. Many people, me included, may not have had him in our immediate contender thoughts, but this has obviously changed over the weekend. It’s hardly surprising considering his record of racing BMW touring cars and the fact he’s in last year’s title winning machine. (more…)