The BTCC arrived back where it began on the final weekend of March for the finale to the epic 2014 season, and, as seems to be a trend with finals day brought the changeable British weather with it.
Two drivers went into the weekend with the possibility of being crowned 2014 champion, Jason Plato and Colin Turkington although for the former it was going to be a very big ask with Colin going into the weekend 50 point ahead with a maximum of 67 available.
30 cars would take to track for the practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday, the 31st and missing entry the Rotek Racing Audi S3 of Terry Gilham who was supposed to substituting for Robb Holland this weekend was unable to compete as a lack of spare parts meant that the car could not be fixed in time following an incident in race 3 at Silverstone.
James Cole however, who was also involved in the incident would make it to Brands Hatch, as did Rob Collard following sterling work from the WSR Ebay Motors crew to repair his BMW M1 after his huge crash at the end of race 2 at Silverstone.
Come qualifying the weather would again play its part, the session starting in rainy conditions and improving as time ticked by, Plato was one of the first to set a competitive dry time and earned himself pole position while Turkington ended up 4th behind Plato’s MG KX Racing team mate Sam Tordoff and Yuasa Honda’s Gordon Shedden.
A nice moment in the build up to the race as Jason Plato’s father enters the WSR garage and shakes Colin Turkington by the hand, a lot of respect being shown here between the championship challengers.
Great start by Turkington looking to pass the MG pair around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend, but drama behind, Shedden is tapped by Giovanardi making the Honda spin through 360 degrees on the apex of the corner, the cars immediately behind take avoiding action but those further back are not so lucky. Newsham whacks Jack Goff’s Chrome Restart VW putting it up on two wheels while, Rob Austin’s Exocet Racing Audi A4 ploughs into the back of the stricken Shedden.
Hunter Abbott in the Alcosense Audi A4 is tagged in the confusion breaking the steering and, unable to change direction he is then collected by Matt Neal having taken the long way round the outside of Paddock hoping to escape unharmed, safety car (unsurprisingly) deployed.
The net result, both Yuasa Hondas and both Rob Austin Racing Audis out at the first corner along with Jack Goff, Newsham pits, rejoining at the back of the pack.
Away from all this Stockton has had a spin at the bottom of Graham Hill Bend but continued the order is, Tordoff leads and MG 1-2, the pair having got the better of Turkington through Druids ahead of Morgan, Jackson, Giovanardi, Jack Clarke in the Crabbies Racing Focus, Foster, Collard – from 23nd on the grid, and Ingram your top 10. Phew!
Lap 5 Racing again, for 18 laps now, first 3 away as you were but Jackson and Morgan battle for 4th, the Focus driver coming out on top, Foster gets passed by his hard charging team mate Collard.
Lap 6 Big battle at the back end of the top 10 with the two Ebay BMWs, Clarke and Ingram battling hard, Jackson is hassling Turkington for 3rd. Up at Sheene Curve Newsham and Stockton have their second incident of the race, both drivers able to continue once again.
Lap 8 Tordoff (sensibly) lets Plato through to lead the race while Morgan battles back at Jackson for 4th, big crash at the top of the track for Warren Scott in his Chrome Edition Restart VW CC, slight contact while running side by side with Nick Foster seems to have broken the rear suspension causing a big crash at the fast Westfield bend, safety car again deployed.
Lap 12 Racing again, all through Paddock safely bar Simon Belcher whose Handy Motorsports Toyota ploughs through the gravel as many have done before him. Giovanardi and Collard side by side through the GP loop the charging BMW pilot getting the better of the former double champ this time, Tom Ingram in his Speedworks Toyota Avensis attempts to follow the BMW through but will have to try again.
Lap 13 Ingram is still battling Giovanardi but with no luck – but at least he is still running! Andrew Jordan gets in a big slide at Graham Hill Bend but gathers it all up and continues.
Lap 14 Turkington now right on the back of Tordoff, as it stands he would be Champion though. Very defensive driving from the MG driver, the Manufacturers championship not quite yet decided.
Lap 15 Aiden Mofatt (Laser Tools Chevrolet) and Martin Depper (Pirtek Espares Honda) clash at Druids, both continuing however Depper does have damage to his car. Rob Collard sets fastest lap.
Lap 16 Two varieties of Hines/Hynes get in a stew (ok enough of the bad puns now) through Graham Hill Bend as Marc (Quantum Bifold MG) touches Luke (United Autosports Toyota) sending the latter into a spin and unfortunately into the path of team mate Cole, not a great moment for United Auto Sports.
Final Lap Jackson, Morgan and Collard all battling still for 4th but the positions would remain unchanged. At the flag it’s Jason Plato from team mate Tordoff, Turkington, Jackson, Morgan, Collard, Giovanardi, Ingram, Jordan and Foster the top 10. The result all but guarantees Turkington the title so long as he scores one point, doesn’t pick up any penalties and Plato wins and records fastest laps in the final two races.
Congratulations Colin Turkington. His West Surrey Racing Ebay Motors team have already claimed the Teams and Independent Teams championships with Colin taking the Independent drivers title as well. Triple 8 MG KX Racing would secure the Manufacturers title following the non score from Honda.
Following the first races incident filled first corner two cars would be missing from the start the Audi of Hunter Abbott and the Honda of Matt Neal, the latter having to make a precautionary trip to the hospital, thankfully all was well and Neal returned to the circuit later in the day but took no further part racing.
So, at the front of the grid the drivers lined up as they finished race 1 with the MGs ahead of the BMW, Ford, Mercedes and the rest, being as the championship was all but decided this race was likely to have a more relaxed feel to it. Or was it?
Great start again from Turkington who leads the MGs away, Menu has a big slide onto the infield at Paddock Hill Bend and off into the barriers backwards, almost the same as his incident here in March! Further around the lap, Newsham and Stockton again come together this time at Graham Hill Bend. Safety car deployed.
The order behind the safety car is Turkington, Plato, Jackson, Collard (on soft tyres) Tordoff, Morgan, Ingram, Jordan, Giovanardi and Foster.
Lap 3 Green again Plato looking for a way around the BMW but Turkington wants to celebrate in style, further back, Haynes and Smith battle for 11th while Aiden Moffatt looks for an opening should there be any contact.
Lap 4 Contact at the front! Plato punts Turkington into the Paddock Hill gravel trap and out of the race! Jackson takes the lead as the MG is momentarily held up, Collard up to 3rd chasing the pair down.
Jackson off on the loop, running wide onto the damp grass the focus gets sideways blocking the MG and letting Collard past into the lead, wow what a lap this is turning into. Safety car out again.
Lap 6 Safety car in and now we race for 17 laps, Collard, Plato, Tordoff, Morgan, Ingram, Jordan, Giovanardi, Smith and Hines top 10.
All change as Smith passes Foster and both Jordan and Giovanardi pass Ingram, Giovanardi gets wide, spins and pirouettes across the track in a cloud of tyre smoke, how anyone didn’t hit him is a miracle! Bad few laps for the Motorbase crew.
Lap 7 Plato attacking Collard for the lead, his soft tyres falling away, just behind, Morgan hounds the second MG of Tordoff for third.
Lap 8 Morgan passes Tordoff.
Lap 9 Morgan now on the back of Plato, Jordan now battling Tordoff.
Lap 10 Tordoff and Jordan catch up with Plato and Morgan making it 5 for the lead, debris and yellow flags at Clearways suggest someone has been off.
Lap 11 Plato is looking for away past Collard at Paddock but Morgan is also lining up Plato, timing shows a difference of 0.004 seconds between Plato and Collard on the previous lap.
Lap 13 Still tight at the front, no position changes to speak of but I very much doubt it will finish in this order.
Lap 14 Morgan passes Plato and Tordoff and Jordan close right up on the 2 time champion. On the GP loop Morgan makes a pass on Collard and takes the lead, Plato follows through as the BMW drops 2 places in half a lap, it’s not over yet for Collard though as Tordoff and Jordan fight for the final place on the podium…
Lap 15 … Through Paddock Hill Bend and into Druids but Collard just hangs on to third.
Morgan off! Unforced error as Morgan runs wide onto the wet grass sees Plato regain the lead, Morgan holds onto second from Tordoff who has passed Collard.
Lap 16 Morgan’s incident has stretched the front pack a little, Plato has a comfortable cushion with only 2 laps remaining.
Final Lap: Plato takes the flag ahead of Morgan, Tordoff, Collard, Jordan, Ingram, Shedden, Smith Goff and Foster. But will the result stand?
Nick Foster looks set to benefit from the reverse grid for race 3 until Plato is excluded from the results for his incident with Turkington, Morgan is declared the winner – the first time a Mercedes has won an outright round of the BTCC and the first for Adam Morgan.
The stewards also demote Plato to the back of the grid for race 3 as punishment for his 3rd offence. The team however opted to start Plato from the pits. Jack Clarke by virtue of crossing the line 11th would be classified as tenth and get to start from pole for race.
So with awful weather and fading light – much like the last two seasons, the final round of the 2014 season started with Jack Clarke on the pole. Both Neal and Alain Menu would be absent from the final round. Hunter Abbott’s car was repaired but had issues on the parade lap meaning he would (eventually) start from the pit lane.
Lights out and for the last time in 2014 BTCC is go!
Excellent start from Foster in the BMW getting ahead of Clarke while Shedden also gets a fantastic start moving into 4th. Belcher, taking a conservative approach into Paddock gets caught by the faster Turkington fighting from the back and gets spun to the back, elsewhere James Cole ends up in the gravel and Collard in trouble with suspension damage, once again the safety car is called for.
The order behind the safety car is Foster, Clarke, Goff, Shedden, Smith, Jordan, Jackson, Ingram, Tordoff and Morgan.
Lap 3 Green again, Shedden up to 3rd passing Goff at Druids, Clarke passes Foster for the lead at Graham Hill Bend, Shedden is quick though and soon on the tail of the lead pair passing Foster for 2nd, Hunter Abbot has joined the race but is very slow.
Lap 4 Clarke is defending very hard from Shedden but still holds the lead. Just behind both Goff and Smith pass the BMW of Foster for 3rd and 4th. Shedden finally passes Clarke for the lead.
Lap 5 Foster is dropping down the order as Jackson and Tordoff both pass the BMW.
Lap 6 Goff into the pits very slowly and into retirement, such a shame from a strong position. Turkington is up to 10th while Plato is 13th.
Lap 7 Big moment for Jackson at Paddock, Tordoff lines up a pass on the Ford but ends up getting pushed wide on the exit of Druids, Plato now ahead of Turkington.
Lap 9 Depper has another incident and ends his race and season in the Paddock gravel bed, surprise surprise, safety car deployed.
The order behind the safety car is Shedden, Clarke, Smith, Jackson, Tordoff, Jordan, Foster, Morgan, Ingram, Plato and Turkington.
Lap 12 Racing again for 18 laps now, contact between Smith and Jackson at Druids, Jackson takes the place while Tordoff tries to find a way past the VW, side by side, trading places in atrocious conditions, Tordoff gets the move done at Hawthorns, great racing! Plato has had a great restart and is now 7th.
Lap 13 The race has been shortened to 15 Laps due to bad weather and deteriorating light.
Lap 14 No change up front as Shedden pulls away from the two Focuses ahead.
Lap 15 Not the end of season the new champion was expecting! Turkington off into the gravel at Surtees, he rejoins well down the order.
Flag Shedden takes the final victory of 2014 as he did in 2013, only this time ahead of Jack Clarke saving his best result of 2014 for last, and Mat Jackson, Tordoff, Smith, Jordan, Plato, Foster, Ingram and Hynes filled the final top 10 place with Turkington coming home a distant 20th but taking his second title by 35 points from Plato with Shedden 3rd ahead of Jackson, Jordan, Collard, Tordoff, Neal, Smith and Morgan.
One final championship to decide was the Jack Sears Trophy which went to AMD Tuning’s Dave Newsham for making up the most race places over the season.
So 2014 is at a close, here’s hoping 2015 is just as good if not better, roll on March and I hope to see you all trackside in’15.
BTCC, missing you already.