Honda Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden has, today, taken his maiden championship following the final event of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship held at a very wet Brands Hatch GP circuit. On the day, wins went to his outgoing champion team mate Matt Neal while there were popular debut wins for Redstone Racing’s Aron Smith and Dynojet’s Frank Wrathall; but it was Shedden’s day as he became the first Scottish champion since John Cleland in 1995.
Unsurprisingly it was Tom Onslow-Cole, in the rear wheel drive eBay Motors BMW, who led away from pole in race 1, with Neal moving up to second passing a slow starting Andrew Jordan in the Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
All I ever wanted as a kid was to race touring cars – it was never about F1 – and it was John Cleland who was my hero...
Jordan’s big Independent rival Rob Collard, in a second eBay Motors BMW, briefly took 3rd although Jordan was soon to be back ahead. Meanwhile at the front it wasn’t long before Neal took the lead overtaking the BMW at the first corner, with Jordan also getting past Onslow-Cole shortly afterwards to take a crucial Independent win.
Collard would also lose a further Independent place to the racy Aron Smith in the S2000 Ford Focus and eventually finished in 6th. In terms of the main championship battle it was advantage Shedden as he took 5th, with his main championship rival Jason Plato continuing to struggle in his MG KX Momentum racing MG 6 finishing down in 8th with under steer issues.
Despite the tricky conditions the safety car was only required once to recover the AmD Tuning Golf of Ollie Jackson who went straight on at the second corner, Druids.
Rain had worsened for race 2 and once again it was Tom Onslow-Cole who led into the first corner from third on the grid but Rob Collard wasn’t so lucky as he went off at Druids after Shedden was hit into the BMW, and with that his chances of Independent glory had gone handing Jordan the first drivers crown to be decided of the day.
After a safety car period to retrieve Collard, it was Aron Smith who made a great start, taking the lead and getting past Onslow-Cole exiting Druids. The safety car though was to come back out instantly, due to Dave Newsham getting hit out heading down to Graham Hill bend and going off in similar fashion to Nick Foster earlier in the year; although this time, unlike Foster, Newsham was lucky not to roll with his ES Racing Vauxhall Vectra getting airborne.
Dan Welch’s Welch Motorsport Proton Persona also needed retrieving after tangling with the MG of Andy Neate and BMW of Foster. This wasn’t the only incident of the race that Neate was involved in as later in the race he was the instigator of a rather nasty looking accident.
Both Williamson’s and Morgan’s car were wrecked in the crash meaning they couldn’t take part in race ,3 bringing an end to the season for Morgan who has shown great pace following winning the Ginetta Supercup in 2011, but who has suffered a huge amount of bad luck as well as having made a few mistakes along the way. Brands Hatch yet again was another weekend to forget for Morgan, just like the opening meeting of the year, and summed up his season qualifying in 6th but only managing 12th in race 1 before his latest bad luck struck.
Meanwhile at the front it was Aron Smith who came through to take his maiden victory. The former Clio racer has had a great second half of the season after struggling early on and after the race a delighted Aron Smith said, “To come here off the back of my first podium result at Silverstone two weeks ago and get my first win at the end of my first season in touring cars is just unreal.”
In second was Shedden and with Neal in third and Plato continuing to struggle in the wet in his MG finishing 5th, Shedden was crowned BTCC champion. After the race a delighted Shedden jumped on the roof of his Honda Civic and recreated Usain Bolt’s famous celebration.
Race 3 got underway in near darkness with the rain continuing to pour down and the top 8 reversed from race 2. This meant that Mat Jackson was on pole in his NGTC Redstone Racing Ford Focus and he looked on course to take his second victory in the car, until a reoccurrence of the throttle issue that robbed him of victory at Silverstone struck again and out went the Ford.
Inheriting the lead, which he was never to lose, was Wrathall who went on to take the first victory for a Toyota since 1993. Much had been expected of Wrathall this year after a great debut year but, due to a host of mechanical issues, he has failed to mount a serious championship challenge.
Wrathall was delighted to end the championship in style and said, “What a way to end the season. Not only that but we’ve had to do it the hard way today after getting wiped out by another car in race one. But we got the set-up really working in the second race and it was just perfect. I’m over the moon.”
Finishing in 2nd, 3rd and 4th were a trio of Honda’s belonging to the works pair of Neal and Shedden and Independent champion Jordan as all 3 crossed the line in formation. There was further celebration for Jordan’s Pirtek Racing team as they secured the Independent team’s trophy.
The Independent team’s award was the final championship to be decided in race 3 and Pirtek Racing got a real helping hand after the eBay Motors pair of Onslow-Cole and Collard collided at Clearways. This meant that a Honda had taken every championship with Honda/Dynamics already having had secured the Manufacturers/constructors championship and the HiQ team award.
Plato struggled in the wet and finished 8th after a great battle with the inspired Lea Wood in his Binz Racing Vauxhall Vectra, but, despite not winning the prize, was delighted with his debut year for MG and said, “I’m here to win so I'm obviously disappointed it’s not gone our way but, that said, the MG KX Momentum Racing team are still winners – we have far exceeded our expectations in MG’s first season back in the BTCC and will return much stronger for 2013.”
Final word though must go to champion Shedden who received the champions trophy in the pitch black following race 3 and said, “All I ever wanted as a kid was to race touring cars – it was never about F1 – and it was John Cleland who was my hero when I used to go and catch a glimpse of the BTCC at my home track of Knockhill in Fife. I never thought I’d ever get the chance to race them, though, let alone win a race and now I’m the Champion. It is mind blowing… what a season, not just for myself but everyone at Honda. I’d also like to thank everyone who was cheering for me back home in Scotland today – including in the bar at Knockhill! I can’t wait to get home and celebrate with them.”