In a week on Sunday, yet another fascinating season of the British Touring Car Championship will draw to a close. The series has been extremely close, with 5 drivers having a mathematical chance of leaving Brands Hatch with the title, but it seems likely the ultimate champion will come from one of the top three: Andrew Jordan, Matt Neal or Gordon Shedden. Colin Turkington and Jason Plato are the other two, each having an outside shot, but a points gap of 48 and 49 points respectively should prove difficult to overcome, especially considering the quality of the opposition.
Driving for his father’s Pirtek Racing outfit, Jordan has been extremely impressive, winning 6 rounds. The team are running the supremely impressive Honda prepared by Team Dynamics, but they have made their own changes to the car that have ultimately provided Jordan with capable machinery to challenge the works Hondas.
With four wins, Neal has once again showed why he is regarded so highly in the championship. Showing a fantastic knack of finishing close to the front and benefiting from a cool head when others around him crumble, he has amassed points almost unseen by his rivals before reaching the fore in mid season. Once again, he has had to cope with a broken hand, this time at the Silverstone meeting, still getting two third places and a sixth, but it must be a concern for him that he may be feeling the effects at the Brands final.
The defending champion is once again in the title hunt, managing to claw back results despite things going against him, like an amazing drive to get 2nd place in race three at the Brands Hatch Indy opener after disqualification for a technical infringement in the preceding race. Shedden must be confident going into the final round, after it was the venue of his title win in 2012, and he will be hoping history repeats itself.
Returning to the series for the first time since 2009 when he won the championship, the fact Turkington is still in with a chance of winning this years series is testament to his driving skill, having only had part time drives in the intervening period. Driving the brand new eBay Motors BMW prepared by WSR, he has lead the development from the first practice session, helping to make the car a winner in only it’s second meeting at Donington Park. His season has been highlighted by such professionalism, and even if he fails to come away happy this year he must be considered a favourite for 2014.
The elder statesman of the grid, Plato has still shown his commitment this year, taking six wins, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. His MG has been stunning at times, but at others has looked much less formidable, with a lack of pace in wet weather conditions seemingly unsolved from last year at Rockingham, while the tight corners of the Knockhill circuit proved not to the cars liking, which has let Plato’s title bid down ultimately taking two meetings worth of points away from him.
The rest of the field
There have been many impressive performances this year, with the emergence of Sam Tordoff in the MG a particular highlight in an otherwise slightly underwhelming year for the manufacturer, who are only an outside bet for the drivers title, despite seven wins, six for veteran Plato and a brilliant first win for Tordoff at Snetterton. Rob Austin has become a major fan favourite, after he came back from a major accident in race three of the season opener which caused nearly terminal damage to his Audi A4, now famous as ‘Sherman’. He won his first race at Rockingham with a professional drive, and has shown himself to be extremely consistent. The other surprise of the season is the transformation of Adam Morgan. In 2012 he gained somewhat of a reputation for making errors, but in 2013 he has been simply brilliant, sitting 7th in the championship, beating the Airwaves Fords and some of the other big hitters of the BTCC.
The Jack Sears Trophy
Lea Wood has already won the JST, with a number of great drives meaning he beat off the competition of Liam Griffin and James Kaye who made his return to the BTCC. This class has also provided opportunities to young talents such as Jake Hill and 16-year-old Scotsman Aiden Moffat, who will both be ones to watch in the coming years.
Once again, the boost regulations have been a major talking point, seeing some cars running at podium pace one meeting, then struggling for points finishes the next. This has led to some unrest from some drivers, however it is hard to dispute the fact the best drivers have for the most part found their way up to the top of the standings, suggesting the system has been effective at closing up the title race without overly influencing the order.
A new introduction is the soft tyre, which needs to be used in one race per meeting, which has added an extra strategic element as it is faster over a single lap but may begin to degrade as the race wears on, in a similar principle to F1, but with less abrupt effects. It has created even more close racing than previously which can only be a good thing.
The final thing is to note the success of the NGTC regulations. It has given an opportunity for small teams to build their own cars and still compete with the big manufacturer teams, as shown by Ciceley Racing and WIX Racing among others, and the future looks extremely bright for the BTCC.
This is my first bit of writing like this, I hope you all enjoyed reading it!
BTCC Points Table:
1. Andrew Jordan – 378
2. Matt Neal – 344
3. Gordon Shedden – 343
4. Colin Turkington – 330
5. Jason Plato – 329