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