BTCC SHOW­DOWN

EIGHT DRIVERS, THREE RACES, ONE TI­TLE TO BE DE­CIDED… WE LOOK AHEAD TO BRANDS HATCH’S TOUR­ING CAR CLI­MAX

Motor Sport News - - Front Page -

The tem­per­a­ture of the pres­sure cooker en­vi­ron­ment of the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship ti­tle cli­max has been turned up over re­cent sea­sons and this year it has reached its high­est point yet.

Eight drivers will go in to this week­end’s three races at Brands Hatch in with a chance of claim­ing the crown. Sam Tord­off leads the points in his BMW, ahead of Honda Civic duo Gor­don Shedden and Matt Neal. Next up is Tord­off ’s team-mate Rob Col­lard and the Mo­tor­base Ford Fo­cus pair of Mat Jack­son and An­drew Jor­dan. Rank out­siders are the Team BMR Subaru Levorg rac­ers Colin Turk­ing­ton and Ja­son Plato.

Since 2012, when the cham­pi­onship re­vised its points sys­tem to award 20 for win­ning and of­fered points for any driver fin­ish­ing in the top 15, the sea­son fi­nales have been played out be­tween mul­ti­ple drivers. Aside from 2014, when it was only Colin Turk­ing­ton and Ja­son Plato go­ing for the ti­tle, there have been at least four drivers in the mix for the over­all hon­ours since the points tweak – even go­ing right back through to 2012 ( see side­bar).

Only four drivers in their 20s have lifted the BTCC crown since the ad­vent of the two-litre oneclass for­mula in 1991. Tord­off stands on the cusp of break­ing in to that group, but there is a long way to go be­fore that hap­pens.

There is just shy of 110 miles of rac­ing left in the BTCC this year, and the pres­sure will be on. But Tord­off has a very re­laxed frame of mind com­ing in to the week­end.

“What­ever hap­pens at the end of this sea­son, whether I win the ti­tle or not, I have still had the best year [of my ca­reer] to date,” says Tord­off. “I have gone from be­ing a top six driver to fight­ing for the cham­pi­onship and I have led the stand­ings for a long time now.”

That is true, but the WSR BMW 125i M Sport driver is knock­ing on

the door of land­ing his big­gest tro­phy to date. The only thing stand­ing in his way is the other drivers, and no­tably Shedden and Neal.

“They have won the ti­tle be­fore, but that doesn’t mean they will be any less dis­ap­pointed not to win this year. They al­ready have a ti­tle in their pocket,” says Tord­off. “I don’t, so I am hun­gry for it.”

He isn’t the only one. At the mid­point of the sea­son, Shedden was 50 points adrift but he has re­ally turned it around, in­clud­ing col­lect­ing a raft of points at Sil­ver­stone last time out to put him­self firmly back into Tord­off ’s slip­stream.

For Tord­off, that is a worry, be­cause Shedden and Neal can help each other in the hus­tle and bus­tle of the tin-top pack.

“I have halved the gap to the top of the cham­pi­onship, which is pretty in­cred­i­ble,” says Shedden. “I’m go­ing to Brands Hatch con­fi­dent, we were quick there last year.

“Both Matt and I have been there, we have won it and we know how it goes. We know what to ex­pect. Sam had an up and down week­end at Sil­ver­stone and now he has got to con­vert what he has into a tro­phy. Look­ing at the points, the ball is still in his court. It is up to the rest of us to get on it.”

And the Honda pair­ing has al­ready talked about help­ing each other. “Even be­fore the sec­ond race at Sil­ver­stone, we had al­ready spo­ken about me help­ing Matt, be­ing ready to as­sist as and when pos­si­ble, but that never re­ally played out,” says Shedden.

“It shows you how fast it can change around. The op­por­tu­nity to help Matt wasn’t there, and then we left Sil­ver­stone with me ahead of him in the points – it just goes to show you how mad the whole thing is.”

It will be mad. And the win­ner this sea­son will de­serve it. This year has been a record-break­ing sea­son so far with 12 dif­fer­ent win­ners in the 27 rounds, and Brands Hatch has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide even more.

But any fresh win­ners in Kent won’t be grab­bing the head­lines: it will be all about those eight men that are still in the hunt for the top ac­co­lade. ■

Tord­off (l) leads the BTCC points

Sil­ver­stone points haul has put Shedden in the hunt

Plato is an out­sider for the crown

Mat Jack­son still stands slim chance, but must push

Vet­eran Col­lard trails both Tord­off and Honda duo

Neal can help his Honda team-mate, or vice versa

Colin Turk­ing­ton has led the charge from Subaru

For­mer champ Jor­dan will need some good for­tune

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