Sam Tordoff has announced that he will not return to the BTCC next season, having instead elected to explore other opportunities elsewhere in motorsport.
The 27-year-old came agonisingly close to taking the championship this year at the wheel of his West Surrey Racing-run BMW 125i M Sport, leading the standings going into the final race before being overhauled by Honda's Gordon Shedden.
Questions were raised over whether Tordoff would return in the immediate aftermath of the Brands Hatch finale, although speculation in recent weeks had suggested that he would continue his relationship with WSR into a third season.
However, Tordoff - who also raced for Triple Eight having previously competed in the BTCC-supporting Clio Cup and Porsche Carrera Cup - has now confirmed that his future lies away from the BTCC, although he didn't rule out the possibility of a return at some point down the line.
"Firstly I would like to put on record what a fabulous time I have had racing on the TOCA package for the last eight years," he said.
"I’ve won races in all the championships I’ve raced in and have driven for some great teams such as Total Control Racing, Team Parker Racing and latterly with West Surrey Racing and BMW who are, without doubt, the best team in the BTCC paddock.
"I leave with great memories and a heavy heart. However, my success on track this year has presented me with new opportunities that are too good to miss. I am now really looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead with some exciting plans in place and I should be able to reveal the first of these in the coming weeks.
"In the meantime, I will continue to love and watch the BTCC and let me be the first to say, I will always leave the door ajar for a return in the future."
Tordoff's announcement comes with WSR still to confirm the remainder of its line-up following the signing of Andrew Jordan, with team boss Dick Bennetts quick to give credit to his outgoing ace.
"Since he joined WSR in 2015, Sam has matured into one of the strongest drivers in the BTCC which, combined with some great work from Rob and everybody at WSR, has resulted in us winning the teams' and manufacturers'/constructors' titles this year," he said.
"On behalf of everybody at WSR, I'd like to thank John Tordoff [father] for the support of JCT600 and to wish Sam the very best of luck for 2017. You never know, he may return to touring cars in the future..."
Matt Salisbury / TouringCarTimes