SHEDDEN CHASES DOWN THE BTCC
CHAMPION ZEROES IN ON TITLE LEAD
There was controversy at Silverstone’s British Touring Car Championship meeting but, unusually for the category, it wasn’t about what happened on-track.
MG lost a 1-2 finish in the opening race when Ash Sutton and Josh Cook were kicked out for a rear wing infringement, and the matter has gone to appeal. Their pain was to Tom Ingram’s gain, as the Speedworks Toyota Avensis man claimed a second career win.
There was relief for Andrew Jordan, who returned to form and got things hooked up to win the second encounter in his Motorbase Performance Ford Focus.
And then there was race three. While the others took a chance to shine in the earlier events, the championship players took their time to make an impact but brought it home in the end.
It was race three winner Gordon Shedden who was the biggest mover in the championship table as he cut his deficit to leader, WSR BMW man Sam Tordoff, to just 11 points. Shedden also overtook his Dynamics Honda Civic Type-r team-mate Matt Neal in the standings in the process.
Poleman Sutton was determined to make a mark in race one. He had already tasted the champagne once in his maiden season at this level, in the wet at Croft, but he wanted to prove his pace in the dry too.
It looked like he had fluffed it when he got too much wheelspin and lost the advantage to fellow front-row starter Ingram on the run to Copse as the lights went out. Avensis driver Ingram was delighted with his getaway. “I don’t know where that start came from,” he reported.
Ingram was clear at the apex of the right hander, while third-placed starter, MG’S Cook, was another to lose out. He was jumped by Jordan’s Focus on the run to the opening turn. Adam Morgan (Ciceley Racing Mercedes-benz A-class) and Rob Austin (Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis) set off on a race-long duel behind.
Sutton marked his pace over the beginning of the 22-lapper. “Once I had dropped behind Tom, I just kept things calm and looked after my tyres. I knew it would come back to me,” said Sutton.
Indeed they did. Ingram was unable to force home any advantage and Sutton tracked his every move. When the push for the lead came, it was rewarded at the start of lap eight with a move that had begun half a mile before.
“Tom ran slightly wide at Luffield and left an Mg-sized gap – I didn’t need to be asked twice,” said Sutton. He forced his way inside the Toyota and the pair ran side-by-side through Woodcote and down towards Copse, where Sutton made it happen for good.
Ingram’s woe didn’t end there though, as Cook had despatched Jordan into Copse and set off after the battling top two, who were holding each other up. By lap 10, he was with them. It took him another two tours to make it an MG 1-2, but when it came, Ingram thought it was ugly.
Cook lunged down the inside into Becketts and bashed into the side of the Avensis, which was going for the apex. There was more contact along the Wellington Straight and into Brooklands too. It was certainly robust. “Sutton got me with a good move, I have no problem with that, but I hope that the stewards look at the Cook move,” said Ingram. “I will be surprised if they don’t.”
The stewards didn’t, but the officials were already busy. They looked closely at the top two MGS. Measurements were taken, and they deemed that there was a problem with the rear-wing tolerance of the saloon machines. That meant that the pair were stripped of first and second places, and Ingram’s anger turned to joy as he was gifted the victory – although MG has partly appealed the decision ( see Racing News).
Behind them, Austin won the fight with the soft-tyred Morgan (despite a clash off the start) to grab what would become third behind Jordan. Behind Morgan was the impressive Jake Hill, who certainly had a test of his racecraft to land fifth place in a huge dogfight.
He had been on the pace of the works Hondas of Neal and Shedden, which were running eighth and ninth on the road, before disaster struck both Civic Type-r drivers.
Firstly, Shedden had a front-left Dunlop deflate on lap 12 and he was forced to pull in for a replacement, and then Neal’s tyre also deflated on lap 21 and he was forced out of the fight for points – as a result of midfield contact between Aiden Moffat (Ciceley Racing Mercedes-benz A-class), Neal and Martin Depper (Eurotech Racing Honda Civic Type-r).
Investigations afterwards by Dunlop pointed to the fact that Shedden’s tyre had gone down after contact with kerbs.
Those retirements, and the exclusion of MG, meant the final spots in the top eight went to Aron Smith’s Team BKR VW CC (also hampered with soft tryes), Rob Collard’s WSR BMW 125i M Sport and Colin Turkington’s Team BMR Subaru Levorg.
The dramas ahead were a boon for points topper Tordoff, who was lumbering around with 75kg of success ballast on his BMW. He had only qualified 17th (although he would start 16th as Turkington was banished to the back for a previous indiscretion).
He fought on the fringes of the top 15 but benefited from the winner’s woe to land 11th and some points – which was more than Shedden and Neal had managed.
The only chink of light for the Honda men was that Neal was not classified and Shedden had managed 23rd. They would start near the back of the grid for race two, but with no ballast.
The big weight was headed MG’S way, and they had been given a double whammy. Not only were they stripped of the podium finishes, they had to keep the weight and start from the back…
The big question mark surrounding race two was the tyres: who had the softs, which had wilted quite dramatically in the opener, and who hadn’t. With the MGS disappearing from the front, it meant Ingram and Jordan were staring at an empty track ahead but, behind Rob Austin in third, there were a trio of cars on the more fancied medium tyres – Morgan, Hill and Aron Smith.
Ingram made another strong getaway to lead Jordan into Copse, with Morgan in Jordan’s wheeltracks, but there was no let up for the leader.
Jordan was tracking his prey’s every move. “I had learnt a technique to look after the softer tyres when I won the championship in 2013,” said the Ford driver. “I was confident I could do a good job with them.”
He certainly did, and he kept the heat on Ingram until lap eight, when he lunged for the inside at Becketts and pulled off beautiful move to gain the lead. That pushed Ingram slightly wide and the following Morgan, revelling in the grip from his Merc, gratefully accepted second place.
The top two set off on a great fight, with Jordan controlling the pace beautifully while Morgan was forced to look to his mirrors to fend off those snapping at his heels.
Even a late-race safety car – to clear up debris when Jeff Smith’s Eurotech Racing Honda burst its front tyre and scattered debris all over the Wellington Straight – couldn’t budge Jordan.
“I was controlling the race, but the safety car was a concern,” he said. “Once you lose the heat from the tyres, they can take a while to return to a good level. But, once the safety car had gone, I bolted. It worked perfectly.”
Morgan agreed: “I just couldn’t keep up with Andrew for the last seven laps. He was flying. I felt our car was a little bit down on straight-line speed and I could only keep up using the slipstream, but I am pleased with that result.”
Third for Ingram was satisfactory given that he was on the softer tyres too, but he had come under a serious attack from the Subarus of Turkington and Jason Plato over the latter half of the race. Unlike Jordan, he was pleased to see the safety towards the end as the hiatus gave him a
Shedden took an easy race three win Works Honda driver now has designs on the title