The 2014 season of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reached its conclusion at Brands Hatch on the Grand Prix layout on 12th of October and what a season it has been.
By the way, this one is a bit of a read so you might wanna stock up on the tea/coffee and biscuits...
I remember going to Media Day back in March this year and thinking what an epic season this would be. Seven former Champions competing, Thirty-One NGTC cars entered in the series first full season of NGTC entries only and the excitement of new cars, teams and drivers in this years championship.
Fast forward through the year and we've seen sterling performances from Andrew Jordan, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington as they fought out the honours for the title. We've seen how quick rookie driver Tom Ingram has been whilst Adam Morgan has shown how fast the new NGTC Mercedes was out of the box.
We've witnessed Matt Neal suffering a difficult season with the Honda Civic Tourer whilst Airwaves Racing turned their Ford Focus from midfield runners into race winners in the hands of Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi. We've watched as Team BMR proved they have the pace to win races and take podiums with the super sleek VW CC whilst Rob Austin and Sherman have shown they can mix it with the best by taking race wins and pole positions to shake up the order.
But it all came down to the final weekend of racing at Brands Hatch in what was a typically miserable Finals Day for the series, as it now seems traditional to have at least one wet race take place. After Silverstone the situation was clear: Colin Turkington needed to finishon the podium in race one to seal the title and win his second BTCC Championship after a season where the rear wheel drive BMW 125i was the match of the front wheel drive MG6, Honda Civic Hatchback/Tourer, Ford Focus and VW CC cars out there, even with max ballast on board and a longer first gear...
Anyone could be forgiven to think it would be wrong for a RWD car to win a Touring Car Championship...
So lets see how Finals day panned out...
Jason Plato grabbed pole position for the opening British Touring Car Championship race at Brands Hatch with a stonking final lap, ending the session ahead of teammate Sam Tordoff and Honda’s Gordon Shedden as a red flag ended the action early.
The result was just what Plato would have been hoping to take into Sunday's races and with Tordoff between himself and championship rival Colin Turkington – who was fastest in the day’s two practice sessions but would start race one from fourth – the double champion can at least hope to extend his challenge into the penultimate round of the season.
The session got going 15 minutes later than its 15:35 scheduled start time in glorious sunshine, but with the circuit still damp as a result of rain between the end of second practice and qualifying, cevery driver opted to start on wet tyres.
The two MGs were the first two drivers over the line, with Plato setting the initial pace with a tentative effort of 1:41.239s, as drivers weighed up their tyre options. Alain Menu switched to slicks, but waited in the pitlane as those who continued to circulate dried the circuit.
Matt Neal took the opposite approach to the Swiss, and pitted for a fresh set of wet tyres. That choice appeared to have paid off, at least in the short term, as he went third fastest with his first flying lap before taking provisional pole with a 1:41.177s.
The Honda driver’s time at the top of the standings was short lived however, as Marc Hynes went fastest – albeit only briefly before his effort was disallowed for exceeding track limits – before Menu, now on dries, set a time of 1:40.072s. Not content with that, the Team BMR Restart driver continued to better his time, with an effort of 1:38.806s.
Shedden then took his chance to get in on the action with an effort of 1:37.795s, but Menu came back with a 1:37.015s. It was then that Plato – who had earlier spent some time at the top – split the pair with a time of 1:37.627s, as the times at the front continued to tumble.
It then looked for some time as though 2012 champion Shedden had pole position in the bag as a lap of 1:34.908s put him well clear of his rivals, but in the last three minutes of the session the times were rapidly improving with every lap, and Tordoff first jumped into second on a 1:34.844s, while Plato usurped his teammate with a 1:33.949s.
With drivers then gearing up for one final attempt, a frantic and enticing end to the season as brought to a premature end as Dave Newsham beached his AmD Tuning Ford Focus in the gravel, which brought the red flag out and saw the session ended with two minutes to spare.
Turkington had looked set to make a late dash for the top spots, and although fourth was still a strong position for him to start from, a win for Plato in the first race tomorrow would mean that no matter where the eBay Motors driver finishes, the title fight will go into the second event.
Behind the front four, the weather conditions certainly played their part in mixing up the order. Adam Morgan ended up an excellent fifth in his WIX Racing Mercedes, while Fabrizio Giovanardi claimed a sixth place grid slot in the final qualifying session of his comeback campaign. James Cole was an outstanding seventh in his United Autosports Toyota Avensis, taking full advantage of the conditions to score his and his team’s best qualifying result in the series to date, ahead of Mat Jackson, Nick Foster and Newsham, who still claimed a first top ten qualifying result of the season despite ending his day in the gravel trap.
Jason Plato won the opening British Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Brands Hatch ahead of his teammate Sam Tordoff, but third place for Colin Turkington meant that he secured the 2014 drivers’ title.
In an enthralling encounter befitting the importance of the occasion, third place and a fastest lap was enough for Turkington to maintain a 44-point advantage which Plato would not be able to usurp.
There was drama immediately as the race got underway, as Plato made a sluggish start and was passed by Tordoff and Turkington who took a look at the lead around the outside into Paddock Hill.
Behind the front three, Gordon Shedden squeezed Fabrizio Giovanardi as the cars started to turn into Paddock Hill, but the Scot came off by far the worst as he was then spun sideways as the Italian kept his foot in the door, with the unfortunate Audi of Rob Austin plowing into the back of the Honda, as a traffic jam occurred. Dave Newsham was forced to slow on the inside of the corner to avoid Shedden, but as he did so Jack Goff had nowhere to go but the rear of his Ford Focus, and the pair joined Shedden, Austin and his teammate Hunter Abbott in the gravel on the exit of the corner, with all five as well as Shedden’s teammate Matt Neal, forced into retirement.
While the mayhem ensued in the lower order, Tordoff was able to hold onto the inside line heading into Druids, and forced Turkington wide through the hairpin, allowing Plato to regain second, before the safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken cars.
With a considerable amount of damage to recover, the safety car was on track until the start of lap five, by which time the race distance had been extended to 18 laps. Turkington immediately found himself on the back foot as Tordoff got the race back underway, with Adam Morgan taking half a look at the inside line into Paddock Hill, and Mat Jackson joining in on the action. Those two then squabbled for fourth behind the eBay Motors man, which gave him the opportunity to catch back up to the MGs.
Turkignton’s teammate Rob Collard had started the encounter in 23rd after a disappointing qualifying session yesterday, but having avoided the incident at the start, found himself in eighth place which soon became seventh, as he forced a way passed the United Autosports car of James Cole.
But instead of looking forward, championship leader Turkington was forced to go on the defensive as Jackson took a look up the inside as the cars ended lap seven, with the eBay Motors driver squeezing his competitor close to the pit wall to ensure he could not pass.
Only three laps of racing had occurred before the safety car was deployed for a second time, after Warren Scott, who had been battling with Nick Foster for a place in the top ten, appeared to lose the rear of his car and had a huge front-end crash.
Just before that had happened, however, Plato had taken first place after his teammate Tordoff moved over to allow him through.
The race restarted on lap 12 and this time round Turkington looked much racier, immediately applying pressure to Tordoff ahead of him. Simon Belcher survived a trip through the gravel, while Collard continued his charge through the field as he passed Giovanardi for sixth after the pair rubbed bodywork.
Plato was able to build a comfortable margin at the front over the closing laps, so the question remained whether or not Turkington – who had the fastest lap to his name – would be able to maintain his third place, as he continued to press Tordoff.
There was a brief scare that there might be a third safety car towards the end of the race as the United Autosports team’s weekend unraveled as Luke Hines was collected by his teammate Cole, after the former was sent into a spin by Marc Hynes on the way down to Graham Hill bend.
The pair were however able to move their cars into a safe position, and with things finally stable, Plato crossed the line to clinch a sixth win of the season ahead of his teammate, with Turkington completing the podium to land a second series title with two rounds to spare.
“Just relief and pure happiness,” said Turkington, when asked to describe his emotions. “This is what you work for from the start of the year.
“It was winter 2012 when we decided we wanted to do this so to actually get it all over the line is a great relief for everybody – there’s never any guarantees that you’re going to win it, even with a 50-point lead, you don’t allow yourself to think that it’s going to be an easy task.”
Behind Turkington, Jackson survived a late scare on fading tyres to hold onto fourth ahead of Morgan and the rampant Collard. Giovanardi ultimately had a quiet run to seventh despite two moments of contact, while Tom Ingram drove maturely to claim eighth ahead of outgoing champion Andrew Jordan and Nick Foster in the third eBay Motors BMW.
Jason Plato made it two wins from two races at Brands Hatch, as he won the penultimate race of the 2014 British Touring Car Championshp season ahead of WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan and Sam Tordoff.
In a classic touring car encounter, Plato was one of a number of drivers who looked as though they could take the win, but his victory was marred by an incident between himself and new champion Colin Turkington, who was eliminated from the race at Paddock Hill bend on lap four as the pair vied for the lead.
It was Turkington who jumped into the lead when the race started, holding a clear first place through turn one. There looked as though there might be a similar incident to the one that occurred in race one as a charging Mat Jackson found himself sandwiched between the two MGs of Plato and Tordoff in the battle for second, before the latter yielded the position with Jackson slotting into third.
The safety car was nevertheless deployed when moments later Alain Menu appeared to lose his Team BMR Restart Volkswagen CC through the corner, sliding uncontrollably backwards into the infield tyre wall and subsequent retirement.
With the incident able to be cleared relatively quickly, however, the race resumed at the start of lap three as Turkington attempted to break away at the front. Unable to do so, the action came to a head one lap further round as Plato made an optimistic lunge for the lead into Paddock Hill, only to punt the rear of the BMW, sending Turkington into the gravel trap for his third retirement of the season. The MG driver was later penalised for the crash, and as it was his third offence, will start race three from the rear of the field.
To be honest, it was reminiscent of the same move that Plato pulled on Dave Newsham at the same corner in 2012, when Newsham was leading in the Black and Yellow Team ES Racing S2000 Vauxhall Vectra, where Dave ended up in the gravel trap whilst Jason was given a reprimand for the move...
Its interesting how Jason seems to be the only driver in the BTCC that tries to overtake into Paddock Hill Bend using the pitlane exit and the grass...
Anyway where were we...
As Plato recovered from the incident, Jackson stole into the lead and looked to immediately build a gap, only to run wide on the exit of Westfield before spinning down the order. That meant that Rob Collard – who had started the first race of the day in 23rd – inherited the lead of the race, having himself found a way past Plato, before the safety car was deployed once more.
One lap was once again the only break needed, with Collard leading the field away for a second restart. There was yet more action lower in the order though, as Fabrizio Giovanardi looked to follow Andrew Jordan through past Tom Ingram, only for the Italian to receive a tap from the Speedworks driver through Westfield, performing a half spin before a further 360 degree rotation, with those cars following through taking avoiding action with only Jack Clarke making minor contact with the Ford Focus.
The race was yet to reach it’s halfway course at this stage, but the excitement continued as Morgan muscled his way into the podium positions with a forceful pass on Tordoff into Druids. A third place would have marked Morgan’s first podium of the season and a first for him in his Mercedes A-Class, be he had no intentions to settle for the final spot on the podium as he set his sights on Plato – who looked increasingly frustrated behind Collard – climbing onto two wheels through Paddock Hill.
And wow did that Mercedes have some pace in her, something Wix Racing and Morgan have threatened all season...
As Collard appeared to find it harder and harder to keep the three cars behind him, Plato made a slight error as they crossed the line to start lap 14, which allowed Morgan, who had backed off into the entry of Paddock Hill, to carry his momentum up the inside of the MG into Druids and into second place.
And that second became first less than a lap later, when a slow and wide exit from Clearways for Collard allowed the WIX Racing driver to sail into the lead across the line, while Plato followed him through to claim second.
Morgan’s stint in the lead was shortlived, however, as he ran wide in similar fashion to Jackson earlier, and although he was able to hold onto his car, relinquished the lead to allow Plato into first. With a comfortable distance between himself and Morgan – who rejoined ahead of Collard and Tordoff who continued to argue over third – Plato was finally able to relax, and cruised to the finish to claim a seventh win of the season.
Second place nevertheless marked Morgan’s best result in the series to date, while a move at the start of the final lap gave Tordoff third place. Jordan also squeaked past Collard on the line, clinching fourth with Ingram a lonely but season’s-best sixth. A great recovery drive from Gordon Shedden saw the Scot finish seventh, just 0.001s ahead of Aron Smith, while Jack Goff and Nick Foster completed the top ten, with the latter on pole for the day’s reverse-grid race. There was also a second points finish for Aiden Moffat in 13th, who improved one place from his 14th place in race one.
But it didnt finish there...
Plato was later given a post-race twenty second penalty for the incident with Turkington, dropping him to 13th position and handing Morgan his first-ever win in the BTCC. The first of what will be many I forsee for Morgan and the NGTC Mercedes A-Class.
With the rain hammering down in what is now traditional for the final race of the year, Gordon Shedden went on to win that final race of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch, with Jack Clarke securing a landmark second place finish and Mat Jackson completing the podium in soaking conditions.
The Honda Yuasa Racing driver’s third win of the season brought the season to a typically exciting conclusion, as visibility faded with heavy rain taking hold just before the start of the race, to create similar conditions to his victory at the circuit 12 months ago.
Nick Foster leapt into the lead at the start of the race, overtaking pole-sitter Clarke – who had the grid slot after a post-race penalty for Jason Plato in race two – well before the field reached Paddock Hill, with Clarke tentatively holding station in second place.
Plato had opted to start the race from the pitlane with a view to avoiding any contact at the start, but the majority of the field made it through safely, with only Simon Belcher taking a trip through the gravel after he received a tap.
It didn’t take long for the safety car to be deployed though, after James Cole looked to have beached himself in the gravel, before digging himself out whilst Rob Collard slowed on circuit.
But with both issues quickly resolved, the racing resumed on lap three and Clarke immediately went on the attack, as he harried Foster into Druids before lining up a pass at Graham Hill, grabbing the lead on the run into Surtees.
Shedden, who had made a good start, was keen to keep the Crabbie’s Racing driver in his sights and swiftly overtook Foster, immediately turned his attention to Clarke’s lead.
The pair had an enticing scrap at the end of the lap, when Shedden forced a gap from nowhere to have a run up the inside of the Ford Focus driver heading into Paddock Hill at the start of lap four. Clarke, however, held on around the outside, and with the assist of a slide for Shedden, held onto his lead with a dogged piece of driving.
Despite that move, Shedden would quickly make the move stick when he swept around the outside of Clarke through Westfields on the next lap, to gain a lead that he would not relinquish for the remainder of the race.
Shedden was flying at the front, but with only Colin Turkington and Plato making progress through the field, the next incident of note came on lap nine when Martin Depper got stuck in the gravel at the bottom of Paddock Hill. The safety car was swiftly deployed to recover the stricken Honda Civic.
The delay behind the safety car meant that when the racing resumed on lap 12, the race distance had been extended to 18 laps. Shedden bolted away once more, but there was action at Druids in the battle for third, as Jackson tapped his ex-teammate Aron Smith into a half-spin, allowing himself and Sam Tordoff through.
With Shedden now well clear at the front, attention turned to Clarke’s second place, and whether or not he could hold onto a maiden podium position. After a few hairy moments, the 26-year-old put in a stellar last couple of laps to keep Jackson and Tordoff at bay, to follow Shedden home – the Scot having salvaged something from the day for his Honda Yuasa Racing team, who had suffered a horrendous first two races which included a trip to hospital for his teammate Matt Neal.
Smith had a quiet run to fifth after Jackson’s contact, ahead of outgoing champion Andrew Jordan and Plato, who made great progress. Early leader Foster was the only eBay Motors driver to bring his car home in the points in eighth, with Tom Ingram and Marc Hynes completing their rookie years in the championship in ninth and tenth respectively.
The Final Championship positions ended with Turkington as Champion on433 points ahead of Jason Plato on 401 with Gordon Shedden in third on349. Mat Jackson secured fourth place on 234 points whilstAndrew Jordanwas fifth with 309 points.
Rob Collardwas in sixth place in the end of season standings on 275 points whilst Sam Tordofffinished his year off on 255. Matt Neal finished a poor year by his standards on 207 points in eighth whilst Team BMR's double race winner Aron Smithwas ninth on 201 points. Adam Morgan's first BTCC win was enough to secure him tenth in the drivrrs championship183 pts.
In the Manufacturers Championship, MG/888 secured the title in their third year of the BTCC, finally beating Honda/Team Dynamics who have won it for the previous two years in NGTC Machinery.
And so endeth the 2014 British Touring Car Championship. Its been a roller coaster ride with door to door racing, exciting race finishes, amazing moves and stellar driving from the Class of 2014.
For the Guru, well its been a year of exciting tintop action from Britains best and long with Nik and Aaron, my long suffering partner and my son, we've watched through the year as the racing has taken place on TV as the home filled with shouts of "YOU CAN'T HAVE THREE INTO ONE CORNER!!!" from me followed by "WELL THEY JUST DID!" from Nik. Or "HOW DID HE PASS THERE???!" from me followed by "HE DROVE ROUND HIM DIDN'T HE!" from Aaron.
We've sat on the edge of the sofa as we've witnessed some amazing racing and some very questionable moves and contact and penalties given of which we've questioned and argued about for hours afterwards and we can't wait for next season.
In the meantime, whilst the Guru enjoys the final race weekends of the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the FIA World Rallycross Championship which will soon appear on the blog, I'm also preparing to spread my wings a little...
Not only will I continue to write my blogs on here but from 1st of November, I will be writing WTCC and WorldRX articles and race reports on a new website called www.diptheclutch.com so keep an eye out for me there. I can happily say that we will all be at BTCC Media Day on 24th March 2015 as we've booked the time off work already (its the earliest we've managed to do it in 4 years of trying...) and in January, my latest dream will be realised as I will be attending the 2015 Autosport International Show as an official Blogger for the event...
Anyone would think that Im too busy to work you know? Trust me, I'm not. DHL Northampton will attest to that one. But apart from all of that I'll be putting up articles on here as news over the winter is released about next years BTCC season, drivers and teams whereabouts and any developments that appear
All the best!!