Fans flocked in their thousands to Brands Hatch to witness the finale of the 2016 BTCC on the longer GP loop of the circuit.
8 Drivers would be in with a shout mathematically however in reality it would be around 4 drivers who would have a real shot of the title.
An incident packed qualifying saw Colin Turkingon in the BMR Subaru take from pole briefly from Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Toyota before he was sent to the back for a technical infringement.
Turkington did what he knew he had to do in race one to keep his slim hopes of a third title alive by taking a commanding lights to flag victory from Rob Austin, team mate Plato would drop out of the title race after being pipped on the line for the final podium place by Josh Cook’s MG.
Andrew Jordan in the Pirtek Racing Ford Focus pretty much ended his title ambitions when Hunter Abbot was spun infront of him, Jordan had nowhere to go and collected the Chevy and ending his race in the process.
Turkington weathered the inital storm at the restart but Austin had to keep Plato at bay for more than half the race which allowed Cook to catch and eventually pass the double champ at the flag.
Behind this Shedden took 5th to make a dent in Tordoff’s lead ahead of Morgan, Neal, Moffat, Sutton and finally in tenth, Tordoff. Tordoff would still lead but only now by 6 points.
An early race incident saw Neal out of the rest of the weekend and with it the title race as his Honda seemingly cut out on lap 4 before being collected by Sutton’s MG and pitched in to the barriers and back into the path of oncoming traffic.
Fortunately no-one collided with the three time champion. What followed,was another safety car intermission to remove Neal from the vehicle and his car from the scene of the incident.
Turkington again set about victory. However, Plato in second had other ideas, seeming unaware that victory would put his team mate to within 10 points of the title, Plato pushed Turkington until the final few laps when Shedden, Cook and Tordoff arrived on the scene.
Common sense prevailed and Plato played the team role, protecting Turkington from attack in the latter stages.
Moffat, Jackson, Morgan, Ingram and Tordoff’s JCT 600 Gardx team mate (and former championship contender) Rob Collard rounded the top ten. Neal would have a slim chance at the title if he were to start the day’s third race but as it was it would now be between Tordoff, Shedden and Turkington for the championship.
Mat Jackson was drawn for the pole for the day’s (and championship’s) final race which placed title contenders Tordoff 3rd, Shedden fifth and Turkington seventh on the grid.
At the lights Jackson and Aiden Moffat raced away, Shedden was momentarily blocked by Plato but had fought back to his starting position by the end of the first lap and, after quickly dispensing with Morgan’s Mercedes set about chasing down Tordoff.
Tordoff try as he might couldn’t seem to get onto terms with the lead pair and quickly fell back into Shedden’s clutches, the reining champion passing him on the 7th tour. A safety car break could not upset Shedden’s rhythmn nor it would seem give Tordoff a second wind as the Honda blasted off at the restart to chase down Moffat’s Mercedes.
Behind Shedden, Tordoff was struggling and Morgan in his Mercedes had passed the long time series leader and was chasing down Shedden for the final place on the podium before – in a massive twist another late safety car period left the fans watching trackside holding their breath as they waited for a single flying lap to decide the 2016 title.
If Morgan was to challenge Shedden and pass would Tordoff be able to squeeze through too? Would Shedden on the other hand challenge Moffat for the second step on the podium? As it was Morgan was the one on the move, Tordoff looked spent and Shedden defended his podium and, took his third BTCC crown.
Mat Jackson took the overall victory almost unnoticed and Moffat recorded his best result to date with second. Behind Tordoff Ingram salvaged something from his weekend with 6th ahead of Cook while Jake Hill’s Team Hard Toyota Avensis took a well deserved 8th ahead of Collard and Plato making up the top ten.
So 2016 ends as 2015 did with Gordon Shedden taking victory at the death in the final laps of the series, this time with Sam Tordoff 2 points behind and Mat Jackson 16 back in third place.
We at Carwitter offer our congratulations, not only to Gordon Shedden and the Halfords Yuasa Honda squad but to all the 34 drivers that have competed this season, the teams, personnel and, most importantly, the marshals, without whom none of this would have been possible. See you all next season.