British Touring Car Championship 2010 season in review, part 2
Neal was joined at Honda Racing by the returning Gordon Shedden. Shedden had long been part of the team since joining the series in 2006 but when the team dumped him after race 1 last season for James Thompson it was maybe a bit of a surprise that Shedden was to return. He showed just why he was the right man by having by far his best season to date in the BTCC.
Shedden proved that point straight away at Thruxton by taking the first point of the season by qualifying on pole during a wet qualifying. But like Neal he suffered from an aggressive approach and suffered a puncture whilst in the lead, not for the first time at Thruxton, crashing heavily around the fastest corner in the country, Church. Clearly not all was well with the car in race 2 finishing outside of the points but a good drive in race 3 saw him take 4th.
At Rockingham he took his first podium finish behind his team mate after, like Neal, he chose the correct tyres. Races two and three were less memorable though finishing in 15th before not finishing at all in race 3.
Brands Hatch saw him take another front row start in second, which he maintained during the race, again in race 2 he took 2nd but this could have been a lot better. After taking the lead at the start the safety car came out early on. Just as the safety car was going in on cold tyres and in the pouring rain Shedden got the Civic totally sideways. Somehow he managed to save the slide for one of the saves of the season but he lost the lead to the two Fords and finished in third, after losing the drag race to the line with Onslow-Cole. After the race though he was promoted to second after race winner Tom Chilton was disqualified due to a technical infringement and the finish of the race become the closest in BTCC history.
Another second on the grid start at Oulton was converted into another second place finish but mechanical problems in race 2 saw Shedden retire and making him only able to take 10th in race 3.
For the third successive race Shedden took second on the grid at Croft but unlike the others this time he was able to take the flag first after pushing Collard onto the grass on the run up to the line. He was able to double his race win tally in race 2 before scoring two points for 9th in race 3.
Snetterton never really suited the Honda Racing Civic but 4th place in race 1 was a good result. He slipped back to 8th in race 2 but this meant a front row start for race 3 where he took his 3rd win in six races.
Silverstone was even less productive for the Civic and although he managed to score points in all three races, a 5th was the best that he could manage. Next up was a home race and roared on by the passionate home crowd in a car very well suited to the circuit he was able to take a hugely popular win.
He lost out to team mate Neal in race 2 but still finished in 2nd but in race 3 he was a little too keen to do well and spun early on from third. Although able to continue, 9th was the best he could manage and lost valuable points in the title race.
Clearly on a roll Shedden continued his great form into Donington and he managed a win in race 1 but lost out to the Ford in race 2 after leading for much of the race to take second. Race 3 saw him take 6th and head into the final round just 21-points adrift of Plato. Race 1 saw Shedden finish behind Plato in 2nd but what little hope he had of finishing second were gone after mechanical issues prevented him from taking the grid in race 2. A battling performance saw him take 8th in race 3 but the big prize had gone although Shedden can clearly be pleased with his years work.
Honda have already confirmed that they will be returning in 2011 with the Civic. Engine developer Neill Brown has been charged with developing a new Turbo NGTC engine. Team boss Steve Neal has already said he doesn't see why they should change their driver line up, so expect once again Honda to be fighting for the title next year where they hope to defend there Manufacturers' Championship and the coveted HiQ Team Championship which they both won this season.
Team Aon produced a dramatic turnaround during their first season in 2009 and much was expected of them in 2010. They arrived at the start of the season with a new LPG powered Turbo engine which caused much controversy during the year with the amount of horsepower it produced. With the ongoing debate, they were hit with a number of restrictors but that did not stop them from being unstoppable at times. A poor start to the season where the car struggled on its tyres didn't always produce the results the car had in it and cost them at the end of the year.
At Thruxton, Team Aon were another team who was too aggressive on tyres and Chilton crashed heavily like Shedden at Church from 4th ending his race. Another non-finish for him in race 2 was followed by an 8th place in race 3.
Chilton took his first of four poles at Rockingham but like so many other driver chose wrong on tyres and finished out of the points in 11th. He managed to come home in 6th his race was to finish less than a lap into it in race 3 after contact with Mat Jackson on the first lap ended his race then and there. Just a week later and yet again Chilton was on pole this time at Brands and this time he was able to turn it into a victory. He doubled his talley in race 2 but despite passing original technical checks he was thrown out after his car dropped below the limit in parc ferme. Like Neal he gambled on tyres in race 3 and came up from the back of the grid to take 6th.
He couldn't make it a hat trick of poles at Oulton and took a 5th and 6th during the first two races of the day. His best chance of a victory came in race 3 where he briefly took the lead but slid it away just a corner later and had to settle for 4th. Yet again at Croft he took pole but after losing the lead from the start the Ford struggled drastically on its tyres and he finished in 18th. Another poor finish in race 2 in 11th was followed by a better 4th place in race 3 although surely the weekend would go down as a disappointment. At Snetterton the Ford's power advantage was evident and although Chilton wouldn't take a win the Ford would simply drive past the other cars as if they were standing still down the straight. Despite not taking a win Chilton would take 3 good points scoring positions including two podiums a 2nd and a 3rd as well as a 4th place finish.
At Silverstone the advantage was even more obvious and despite receiving a further two restrictors during the weekend no one could get near the Fords. Chilton controversially took two victories after being gifted races 1 and 2 after teammate Onslow-Cole was ordered to let him past and although you could argue about the tactics there was no doubting the two Fords were in a class of their own that weekend. Chilton finished his weekend in 6th after he was hit sideways by Jackson losing a number of places.
Next up was Knockhill and the restrictors clearly took their toll going up the hills. Even though Chilton was to score well in races 1 and 2 taking 4th and 5th while in race 3 he was tapped into a spin and eventually recovered to take a single point in 10th. At Donington Chilton took his 4th pole of the year but lost the advantage at the start. Eventually he would recover to take second. He ended the day 4th and then 5th but all small hope of the championship had gone although there was a small chance of the independent crown.
He finished 7th and 5th during the opening races at Brands but due to his teammate's mechanical issues was just two points behind him going into the last race. Once again Onslow-Cole suffered more misfortune and despite coming under all sorts of pressure he was able to finish one place behind nearest rival Steven Kane to secure the independent crown by finishing third.
After his half season in 2009 Onslow-Cole joined Chilton full time in 2010. Like Chilton at Thruxton a puncture denied him a good result in race 1 while further trouble in race 2 resulted in a non-points finish. He did pick up his first points of the season in race 3 leading home Chilton for 7th. Rockingham saw him take home 3 points finishes, although not the points he would have liked, for 8th and a double 7th although he was running high up before losing out late on during the race. After a disappointing qualifying where he had his best times disallowed for ride height infringement, Onslow-Cole bounced back taking 3rd in race 1 before taking race 2 following his team mate's exclusion. He took the final point in race 3 in the changing conditions before carrying on his good form at Oulton taking a win and a 3rd although it should have been a double victory if it wasn't for Plato heavily bumping his way past the Ford. Onslow-Cole would then come home in 4th taking the most points from the weekend winning the Cliff Johnson trophy following the sudden death of popular BTCC racer Martin Johnson's father who he was team manager to. Like Chilton at Croft Onslow-Cole struggled on tyres, although he did fair better taking an 8th and 5th before taking 2nd in race 3 to end the first half of the season on a high.
His second half of the season didn't get off to the best of starts after he failed technical checks in qualifying after contact with Johnson damaged the front of the Ford. He battled up to 6th in race 1 before taking to the podium in race 2 for 3rd. Race 3 would not go as well after being spun out after contact, which opened his door. This resulted in a pit stop to shut the door and a 16th place finish. At Silverstone Onslow-Cole was the star man despite having to allow Chilton past twice. Having taken pole he had to settle for second in race 1 after letting Chilton past while the same happened in race 2 but this time Collard also barged his way past dropping an estimated 8 points from the weekend. He did make up for it in race 3 though with a superb win which gained him many more admirers from the meeting and ended the event second in the points.
At Knockhill he suffered a bruising couple of races taking a double 7th before taking second in race 3 which he had led for the majority of the race but losing out to Plato was a real dent for his title hopes. At Donington Onslow-Cole started second and led a lot of race 1 but got caught up in the carnage at the chicane causing damage to the front of the Focus with him eventually limping round to 8th. He made amends in race 2 by claiming a superb victory but struggled in race 3 coming home in 10th.
He headed into the final event still in with an outside chance of the championship 24 points behind Plato but the Indie title was a more realistic possibility heading into the event with a 17-point lead. Onslow- Cole suffered a nightmare of a weekend failing to finish a single race due to mechanical failures and lost the title to his teammate although between them they would help win the Independents teams Championship.
So that's how the season was won this year as we took a look back at the drivers and teams who remained in the hunt for the title throughout the season. Stay tuned to Motorsport.com for the next instalment where we will look at some of the other front running teams starting off with Airwaves BMW running into the midfield runners.
See also: BTCC 2010 season in review, part 1