The second half of the 2015 BTCC season saw the return to action of the Motorbase squad, and did they hit the ground running! we rejoin the action at Snetterton!
The BMR VWs did their best to emulate the success of the WSR BMWs at Snetterton with Turkington leading home a podium lockout ahead of Plato and Smith, Jordan, Neal, Morgan and Priaulx battled hard behind keeping the crowds entertained while the VWs traveled in formation at the front.
Turkington doubled his tally in race two with a second relatively easy victory leading home a podium filling battle involving Morgan Priaulx and Plato while the Honda’s were having a day to forget with retirements for both Shedden and Neal after it seemed the two came together in the opening phase of the second race.
Race 3 promoted Jack Goff to the front of the grid ahead of Tordoff and Plato the latter battling hard with the MG driver for the victory. It was not to be this time though, the MG driver taking his first and a very popular victory in the BTCC ahead of Plato and the BMW pair of Priaulx and Tordoff. Neal would finish a lowly 11th while Shedden would be the last finisher 2 laps down in a bad weekend for the works Honda squad.
BMW once again showed they are not to be underestimated taking three of the top 4 places on the grid, but it was the retuning Motorbase squad who raised the most eyebrows. Following an indifferent return at the last meeting Mat Jackson in the Mountune engine Ford Focus jumped Tordoff’s BMW and, by the end of the first tour had taken the lead from Priaulx.
Collard battled past his teammates and set about the Focus ahead, eventually gaining the lead and victory while Jackson held off Priaulx for second, a great result for the returning Motorbase squad which was a taste of what was to come…
Shedden took a popular race 2 victory after dispatching the Focus of Jackson in the opening laps before driving off to the flag virtually untroubled, Jackson would do all he could in second to hold off Collard before the BMW driver eventually got by to claim his second podium of the day.
The rest of the title challengers would have an indifferent race, Turkington bounced out following contact with Priaulx at the hairpin and Neal and Plato finishing down in 7th and 8th ahead of the Mercedes duo of Moffat and Morgan, who would end up drawn on pole for the day’s final encounter.
Morgan led away from the similar car of Moffat with just behind as Neal, Plato and the rest battled hard behind, Neal eventually breaking away and passing the local teenager for 2nd. Behind, Priaulx and Tordoff were on a charge as Plato struggled and dropped back into the fighting pack. Tordoff’s charge came to an abrupt end following contact with Austin’s Audi while, almost immediately, Collard retired after spinning to the grass.
Up front though it wasn’t over, Neal chased down Morgan while Priaulx attacked Moffat for the final podium spot with Priaulx winning the battle on track but, following a 3.5 second penalty dished out by the stewards after deeming his overtaking methods to be a tad harsh, the positions would be reversed later in the evening. Neal eventually took the spoils following a bizarre incident in the closing laps, Morgan picked up a piece of debris on the front of his Mercedes which seemed to upset the balance enough for the Honda driver to take advantage and take victory at the death.
Jackson and Motorbase continued to impress at the sharp end of the grid setting pole time and, converting that into a commanding race victory ahead of Shedden who started 7th instead of 3rd following a pit lane infringement during qualifying.
Plato in contrast had a mare, contact in the opening corners saw Ingram’s Toyota connect with the VW damaging the rear suspension. Plato pitted for repairs and continued in a hope for a decent race two grid slot. Ingram by contrast would finish fifth – ahead of Jordan, Turkington and Neal, the latter suffering a last lap puncture dropping him to 8th at the flag.
Race 2 saw the race 1 positions reversed with Shedden taking victory from Jackson while behind Josh Cook in the Help for Heroes Chevrolet was battling hard with Adam Morgan’s Wix Mercedes for the final podium position.
While the rest of the title challengers fought hard behind, Neal beating Rob Austin and the VW pair of Plato and Turkington with Goff and Ingram rounding out the top ten. Ten would again be the number of positions reversed seeing Ingram and Goff on the front row.
Ingram took a fantastic maiden podium in race 3, leading the BMR pair of Plato and Turkington most of the way before a short safety car period bought Plato both closer and into contention the former eventually getting the better of the former Ginetta champion – but not before Ingram had regained the advantage in a move that saw around 99% of those in attendance (and probably on their sofa’s) cheering like mad!
Behind Neal would lead home a train of soft tyre shod machines to 4th place to keep his own title challenge on track while team mate Shedden and now championship leader was 8th.
Jackson again took the pole and the race 1 victory this time ahead of the MG of 2013 champion Jordan, who still had a slim chance of taking a second crown and leader Shedden. Plato again was having a bad start to the weekend, a puncture ending his quest for points in race 1.
Jackson again set fastest lap and, in doing so took pole for the second race but this time it was his turn for a slice of bad luck, a puncture putting him out of the race while battling with Priaulx who would eventually go on to take victory from Jack Goff in his MG ahead of Aron Smith, the best placed VW taking points off of the Honda duo of Shedden and Neal in 4th and 5th.
Race 3 saw, yet again a full ten place reversal and with it a clean sweep of poles for Motorbase as James Cole inherited the 1st slot on the road ahead of the fast starting Rob Collard.
It would be Turkington however that would take the victory from 5th on the grid with the BMW pair of Collard and Tordoff second and third unable to do anything about the (outgoing?) champion. Plato salvaged something from the weekend with 4th ahead of the Hondas leaving him now trailing by 23 as we head into the final round.
Brands Hatch Grand Prix:
Again Mat Jackson dominated the qualifying and the day’s opening encounter leading home Aron Smith and Adam Morgan while the eyes of the fans were on the 5 championship challengers, both Turkington and Plato passed Shedden in the early laps while Neal sat behind his team mate protecting the Scot from the threat of the BMWs. Jordan finished 19th in the opening encounter and therefore dropped out of the battle for the title.
Race two again saw Jackson at the front this time with Ingram and Morgan fighting him to the flag while Plato fought up to 6th to take the title fight to the final round as Shedden struggled with braking issues and finished in a lowly 19th scoring no points.
Turkington retired with a puncture eliminating himself from the title battle while 7th was not good enough for Neal to hope to take his 4th championship. It would come down to the final race of the season and for the first time in 4 events the final grid was not reversed the full 10 positions just 7, Neal starts on the pole with Plato 2nd!
Neal led away from the start with Plato right behind him. Plato needing a win to have any realistic chance of taking the crown for a third time passed Neal on the first tour before a series of safety car periods in quick succession kept fans and viewers on edge till the flag.
Shedden having started down in 19th wasn’t able to make much progress until the safety car periods were over and needed to finish 5th if Plato won. Plato wasn’t going to do anything but win while behind Shedden dealt easily with the bulk of the traffic ahead of him.
Having made his way into the top ten, Neal dropped back promoting Jackson into second and Goff to third and sat back in 4th, waiting for Shedden to appear in his mirror.
A few laps later Neal yielded and Shedden was up to 4th, and champion as it stood, but the Scot wanted more and set about hassling Goff for the final spot on the podium in the dying laps of the championship. Goff was having none of it and fought the champion elect to the flag just over a tenth of a second between them at the line.
Shedden was champion, Plato runner up. Honda Manufacturers champions, BMR Team and Independent teams champions while Colin Turkington secured another Independent drivers championship. Josh Cook secured the Jack Sears Trophy for highest placed rookie of 2015.
So there we have it. Let’s hope 2016 brings more of the same.