Monday, 26 October 2015

BTCC 2015 Season Review

The following article may contain opinions that some may find offensive, assuming that you are Jason Plato.

A week later than I would have liked but it's finally on here!

Well, what a final race! I didn’t even sit down for the final 10 laps as we watched Shedden get past the traffic, and one question comes to mind; How does the BTCC top this?

Now I’ve asked this question each year since about 2010 and every year the BTCC has delivered a better season somehow. No scriptwriter could make it up every year, well apart from Alan Gow, who manages to give the fans what they need to make every season better.
Anyway, let's go back to the beginning. With the big story of Andy Priaulx returning to the BTCC after 13 years or so, joining teams champions West Surrey Racing in place of champion Colin Turkington. I’ll be honest about this as I am a huge Priaulx fan, after the Brands hatch indy Pole, I thought Andy Priaulx would win the championship after we found out Motorbase and Mat Jackson were only doing half a season due to a sponsor pulling out. After the run of form he and Motorbase had in last part of 2014 I would have put money on it for 2015 champions. But it wasn’t to be for Jackson, unfortunately.

I won't bore you with all the highlights of the season because we shall be here until media day 2016, but just a few races from this season to re-watch.

Brands Hatch Indy, Race 2, Shedden vs Priaulx pretty much sums up this race. It was a great battle even before Plato had a puncture (which put a big smile on my face), after that though it was just BTCC at its best. Clean Racing, great last minute moves, two very different cars you can get in touring cars. The new Civic Type-R, against the 3 year old BMW 1-series, Front wheel drive vs Rear wheel drive; but we won’t get into that debate now. In the end Shedden came out on top, by 0.04 seconds. Top that F1! Also great action for 10th spot between both Rob Austin Racing cars and Aron Smith in the VW and Moffat in the Merc all within a second at the finish.

Brands Hatch Indy, Race 3, Neal vs Goff sums up this one again for the win. Goff kept it clean by touring car standards, by that i mean some bumping but not enough to put neal off his line or gain an advantage, and I have to admit had the positions been reversed I don't think Neal would have been as forgiving as Goff, don't get me wrong i'm a Neal fan as dynamics are based in Pershore just 15 minutes from me but I know he might have tapped Goff’s bumper going into the last corner compromising his exit and getting past that way but let's not start that debate now. Also Rob Austin Racing both cars in the top 10!

Donington, Race 3, Neal vs Jordan. Honestly don't know how Neal kept the win given he was given one strike but hey ho, BTCC logic I guess. As per usual with donington there is controversial moves, whether it's shedden getting rammed by plato into the chicane. Or Shedden trying round the outside of turkington and both going across the gravel well this had Smith vs Cook to begin with both racing brilliantly until contact put both across the grass then there was Neal vs Jordan into the old hairpin putting Neal in the lead. But that's just donington magic.

Oulton Park, Race 2, Plato vs Shedden this time, Plato with full ballast holds off shedden for the win, by 0.093 seconds. As you’ve probably guessed by now I am not a Plato fan. But this was a great drive. WSR made it to the highlights with Priaulx and Collard making contact on the penultimate lap, fair play to Priaulx though admitting straight away he was in the wrong. And collard was still nice enough to stop and talk in the pits afterwards to me and Matt.

Croft, Race 1, start of the WSR trilogy, Priaulx’s first Win in his return to BTCC, and a WSR 1-2-3 with Tordoff and Collard following him home. Again more action further back with p10-14 within a second of each other. Although the race was a bit bitter when Jason Plato did the unsporting thing of starting from the pit lane to set a good lap time for race 2 grid. While this is within the rules it cheats the crowds and audience out of racing which they came to see. And confirmed my issues among others that race 1 was in essence a second qualifying session now.

Snetterton, Race 2, Turks on the double. Following on from a BMR 1-2-3 for Turkington, Smith and Plato in race 1, for the second time this season a BMR VW did a double win, this time it was Turkington around the Snetterton 300 circuit. Turkington had a relatively quiet race at the front the main action was behind with 2nd -5th covered by 1 second. Also both RAR cars in the points again! Also first point for the Infinity team, which noble cause in Support our Paras but I have lost respect for the management of the team after Richard Hawken was dropped for no apparent reason.

Knockhill, Race 2, Good weekend to be a RAROCker. With Rob Austin flying at Knockhill and if not for a small mistake allowing a couple of cars through it may have been the win he was searching for around knockhill. But to be honest even if Rob had won at Knockhill that would still be second rate to a phone call Hunter Abbott received in the early hours of Sunday morning, wife Susie had gone into labour. So P5,6,7 finishes for Rob and a new member of RAR, great weekend!

Rockingham, Race 3, Tingram Rocks. Despite punting new daddy - Hunter Abbott - out of race 2 Jason Plato was allowed to keep his finishing position despite a verbal warning, same as Matt Neal at Donington I suppose. Plato won the race but Tom Ingram or ‘Tingram’ as he's known, gave him one hell of a run for his money. Giving it the race of his career to date Tingram gave it out to the two time champion in a fantastic race that I bet even Plato fans were sad to see Plato come out on top to plucky Tingram. Also in this race was a contender for crash of the season when Hunter Abbott’s brakes failed and a flat spot contributed to an accident with nowhere to go but hit Aiden Moffats Mercedes at the hairpin.

Silverstone, Race 3, RIP Panzer. While the end results were Turkington claiming another win ahead of the dueling WSR duo of Collard and Tordoff the race started badly with a crash involving Dan Welch’s proton which was tapped into a spin by an unknown car, many I've spoken to think it was a Eurotech Honda, into Hunter Abbott’s Car ‘Panzer’ which then took a big hit into the wall. Damaging the chassis and forcing Panzer into early retirement, Sherman mk1 would take his place for the finale at brands hatch GP, and Tony Gilham on his return to racing picked up his first point!

Brands Hatch GP, Race 2, Champion Plato? My worst race? Maybe. To start off with, Martin Depper lost the back of his Honda and over corrected the front end giving poor Rob Austin and his car ‘Sherman mk2’ nowhere to go but the side of the Honda. Putting them both out of the race. Then Gordon Shedden doesn’t make any progress from his 13th spot on the grid after not setting a fast enough lap time in race 1 from the tactics employed by Plato. Apparently damage from a rear hit had put the brakes on for the rear of the car meaning Shedden was out of the points for the second race, and on top of that another championship contender Turkington got a puncture on the very last lap. And after the race, after being pulled on the front row Plato said one of the most disrespectful things I've ever heard on the BTCC. About team mate Aron Smith, who in Plato’s view didn’t move over quick enough so should be sacked. On live TV in front of thousands of viewers he said that. I wish in the last race Aron had just pulled over for Shedden as response to Plato. Silver lining to a dark cloud of a race was Mat Jackson doing a double and winning with full ballast and on soft tyres for that matter.

Brands Hatch GP, Race 3, Shedden Takes it by 4! Plato did what he had to do, he won the race comfortably, It was Shedden that we needed to see make some progress, and make progress he did. Overtakes galore. Granted he had a little bit of help from Teammate and defensive wizard Matt Neal, and a few friends along the way doesn’t hurt like Jordan, the Eurotech Honda’s amongst others, that didn’t give Shedden any trouble. Not taking anything away from our new champion that performance was amazing, brakes glowing red, 3 safety cars in 7 laps, his only fault was maybe hitting the back of Menu giving him a puncture but plato hit shedden at the same corner (like he did in 2012 when it was Shedden and Plato for the title) so stewards did right and no action was taken on either. During the first few laps I was chatting with Matt about the races, and on Shedden’s charge I was stood up the entire race, not even looking at my phone which was lighting up with chat messages from Matt and all I was focused on was if shedden was doing enough to stop Plato winning the title. And he did. Thank you Shedden!

Driver Ratings in championship order. (Remember I am hugely bias towards drivers):

Gordon Shedden - 96% - No doubt he has great racecraft and good at qualifying but maybe if he’d taken the plato method of starting from the pitlane at snetterton race 1 he'd have taken the championship earlier. Other than that nothing wrong with his year.

Jason Plato - 75% - Was very un-plato like until rockingham-ish time. Then started the pushing people off, no denying he has great skill, just wish he’d use it a bit more instead of playing dirty. Would have been higher if he didn’t make those comments at Brands Hatch.

Matt Neal - 87% - Look up the definition of being a team player and this season as last time Shedden won the title Matt is one of if not the best example, has always been up the sharp end without making too much noise this season with the exception of donington and Jordan. But still another great season from Matt.

Colin Turkington - 88% - Given this is his first season in a front wheel drive touring car since the MG about 9 years ago and was still within a shout of the drivers title until a puncture on the last lap of race 2. Turks still won the Independants drivers title again. Very very impressive season from turks if only he had more confidence earlier in the season.

Andrew Jordan - 82% - Unusual not to have any wins in a season from Andy, still within a chance of the title going into brands hatch finale.Very impressive considering no wins, should have had one at donington but BTCC logic and Neal denied that. Looks like he's got the hang of the MG in the later half of 2015 so hopefully he’ll be stronger in 2016.

Sam Tordoff - 86% - Bested triple world champion teammate priaulx on occasions, best BMW, Tordoff was fantastic this year, little oops with collard at snetterton but again very impressive season from Sam, will definitely be stronger in 2016.

Adam Morgan - 94% - Jumpstart at oulton cost him a possible win, but the ONLY driver to survive every single lap of the 2015 season. Got a couple of wins in a very quick Mercedes at times. Excellent job from him and Cicely team.

Andy Priaulx - 85% - Pole at the first round, easy to see why he is a triple world champion at times. But made a few mistakes, oulton with collard, thruxton in general. I still think he’s going to be in the title hunt next year if he stays. And finished this high despite missing one meeting due to BMW commitments.

Jack Goff - 93% - Very impressive first season with the MG, Gave Jordan a run for his money and took his first ever and the first MG win of 2015. Hard to see why he wouldn’t be a contender for 2016.

Rob Collard - 81% - A very….Collard season, I think sums it up. Unlucky, not quite the qualifying pace of Tordoff and Priaulx but equal or better on race pace. Unfortunately the race 1 lap times rule hurt him this season. But Collard still remains a fan favourite.

Aron Smith - 75% - Started off good then got engaged and it all sort of seemed to go down hill until recently where he's seemed to get back on routine, victim to Plato's out of order words at brands hatch. Hopefully he'll stay at BMR and stay on rhythm.

Mat Jackson - 96% - He was my pick for Drivers champion before the news of motorbase doing a half season broke cover and his results show that it could have been his season. But if’s and but’s don't win championships.

Tom Ingram - 93% - First podiums for Tingram this season, in an older machine he was once again top Toyota, clean racer just at times was unlucky. Tingram is great to talk to even without his voice at Autosport 2015 he still tried to talk to everyone.

Rob Austin - 101% - Realistically got the best of the Audi most of the season. Has done so much for the RAROC (Rob Austin Racing Owners Club) and myself in particular. We do forget the Audi is one of the oldest cars on the grid and now in retirement it has had some belting performances, Knockhill obviously a standout weekend again. Also 101 is his race number hence his percentage.

Josh Cook - 83% - Jack sears trophy winner for best Rookie, no surprise seeing him get his first podium at rockingham race 2, it should have come at donington if not for contact with Aron Smith. Has been quick all season and is definitely a good match for the experienced Dave Newsham.

Dave Newsham - 83% - Last years Jack sears trophy winner for most on track overtakes, was unfortunate not to get a podium this season, was definitely due one but it wasn’t to be, I hope to see him and Cook continue as teammates at Powermaxed next season. And more success comes their way.

Aiden Moffat - 63% - Look at  him compared to stablemate Adam Morgan. The frankly Excellent Mercedes is pushing him up the grid more than his talent can deliver. Yes he got a podium at Knockhill a track he has done all his life and only because Priaulx got a penalty for trying a move on him. Also he’s so boring to talk to in my opinion.

Martin Depper - 55% - A second season of being in the middle of the pack with the car doing most of the work. Involved in a lot of incidents like last season.

James Cole - 70% - Unfair to compare James to Mat Jackson his teammate, as Mat has developed the focus since it was new a few years ago. Showed potential at silverstone until he was punted out the way by Plato (which plato got a warning for).

Jeff Smith - 55% - Bought the entire eurotech team so he could have a drive, switched to the Swindon engine for this year. Not giving the 2012 civic its full potential unlike former driver Jordan.

Hunter Abbott - 101% - Was definitely up there with Team mate Rob Austin on Pace and beat him occasionally. But was just the Unluckiest driver on the grid, if it wasn’t the power steering at Brands braking it was the anti roll bar at Oulton then Plato being..well, Plato. But new Baby daddy is the nicest guy on the grid. No matter his results he’s still up for pictures, signing stuff, talking, whatever. NICEST GUY ON THE GRID!

Warren Scott - 73% - Didn't see to much of Warren this season unless he had an off. and given the team he had put together of Plato, Turkington and Smith you’d be excused if you thought BMR had only 3 cars. But he is the mastermind that brought it all together. Was due to go well at SIlverstone if it wasn’t for an unfortunate accident into a concrete wall.

Mike Bushell - 75% - Been a naughty boy getting his 3 strikes during the season. But Mike is a great personality and if he stays on another season should go further up the grid. Was also kind enough to answer a few questions for us at EFM which was brilliant and boosted his %.

Nick Foster - 54% - Stood in for Andy Priaulx when he was off doing BMW ELMS when it should have been someone like Paul O’neil who drove the BMW at Media day. (Paul O’Priaulx. Ship it! Ship it now!) looked like someone who had never driven the car before despite being in it last 2 seasons.

Barry Horne - 70% - A couple of rounds in the Dextra Focus normally raced by Alex Martin, higher up the table than him. Think that says enough about Barry Horne.

Robb Holland - 68% - Stood in for SImon Belcher a couple of times, higher in the Table. Did very well considering he’s a returnee of BTCC, last year drove the Audi A3 which Nic Hamilton drives now. I do wonder if he was just keeping an eye out for his old Audi?

Alain Menu - 84% - Stand in for an Injured Warren Scott, Did well to get up to P15 in race 2 after electrical gremlins hampered qualifying and race 1, shame he got the puncture in race 3 at brands so we couldn’t see how he’d deal with Shedden.

Simon Belcher - 62% - Don’t think he’s been the same since his huge crash at thruxton last year, and had another massive one this year with Mike Bushell.

Dan Welch - 75% - All things considered Dan did well with what he had. Fair play for keeping with his own Engines too. scored a point at Oulton Park Race 3 which I heard the team celebrate from outside the paddock. Unfortunately it's not been great from there for Dan. But new cars are coming for next year and it could be the thing he needs! Has labelled this season as 'A complete waste of time.'

Nic Hamilton - 65% - First disabled driver in the BTCC and using Robb Holland's Audi from last year was maybe not the car to start off with given the results last year. But looking good in his first half season. Despite missing rounds.

Kieran Gallagher - 70% - Did well for what he had in team hards return, very popular amongst fans, shame after Rockingham crashes he couldn't continue.

Tony Gilham - 80% - Scored a point on his return to the BTCC at silverstone, excellent to talk to and will always chat when he can to people, even replied to comments during Dunlop's BTCC teams popularity contest to boost numbers, very good all in all.

Alex Martin - 45% - Another naughty boy in BTCC getting penalty points, can only compare to Mike bushel in an identical focus, should have scored more points, but at times looked like someone you'd see racing on Forza public lobbies.

Max Coates - 75% - Did another good job in the infinity, but the support our paras team lost their license after Donnelly so poor max was another victim of the team.

Richard Hawken - 75% - Was level on pace with Palmer and I think a bit quicker in the race, gained sympathy for being dropped by Inf. Good job for the short time he was in the season, has hinted at 2016 BTCC campaign.

Martin Donnelly - 5% - First person to stand in for Hawken, did a poor job and dropped.

Stewart Lines - 50% - After Lea Wood opted to go into a management role Lines was brought in to drive, did OK for  team that small very quiet unless involved in an incident.

Derek Palmer - 45% - The only infinity driver in all season, scored their first point, but the Richard Hawken issues lowered him and the team in my view.

Jake Hill - 60% - Did well standing in for Hamilton at the finale, had a few offs but shows potential for a drive.

Harry Adams for Everfree Motorsport

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