The circus rolled back into Brands where it had started 7 months earlier only this time 5 drivers were in the spotlight. The two Honda Yuasa Racing drivers, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal along with RCIB Insurance BMR VW duo of Jason Plato, 2014 champion Colin Turkington and Triple 8 Pirtek Racing MG’s Andrew Jordan were all in with a shout of taking the 2015 crown.
As had been the story all year though, more changes to the entry had been made. Alain Menu took over the 4th RCIB VW of BMR following Warren Scott’s Silverstone injury while Nicholas Hamilton sat out the final round and Jake Hill made a return in the AMD Tuning Audi A3 ahead of what he hope to be a full campaign in 2016.
Qualifying had a familiar look to it with Mat Jackson in the Motorbase Ford Focus once again topping the time ahead Aron Smith in his RCIB BMR VW CC and Adam Morgan in his Wix Racing Mercedes A Class.
The heavy weights came up next with Shedden, Turkington and Plato 4th 5th and 6th while Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Toyota Avensis took 8th ahead of Matt Neal. Andy Priaulx in his WSR IHG Rewards BMW 1M was next with Alain Menu making up the ten. Andrew Jordan would only manage 13th in his MG.
A fairly slow burner of a race, as many had expected saw Jackson dominate from lights to flag taking a fairly easy victory from Smith and Morgan. Up next following came the two BMR cars of Turkington and Plato – making small inroads to Shedden’s lead, the Scot up next in 6th ahead of his team mate Neal who acted as protection for most of the opening encounter.
Priaulx took 8th in his BMW with soon-to-be-crowned Jack Sears Trophy winner Josh Cook in his Power Maxed Help for Heroes Racing Chevrolet Cruze in 9th just ahead of Rob Collard in his JCT600 GardX BMW. The race seemingly played out in an eerie silence compared to other rounds as spectators watched, transfixed waiting to see if and where the next twist would come in the title race.
Jackson would post fastest lap along with his victory which would see him start race 2 again from pole ahead of Morgan and Ingram who having qualified well, ran into early problems and finished 25th at the flag. Plato, Turkington, and Shedden would start 8th, 9th and 12th for race 2.
Jackson again led from the front, his car this time heavier thanks to the success ballast but eventually came home to take his second victory of the day as first Morgan then Ingram battled hard with the Focus. Behind Smith and Goff were dicing for 4th before the former dropped back behind team mate Plato in the later laps before losing out to Neal before the end of the race. Turkington would retire from race 2 and the championship challenge after a puncture prematurely finished his race.
Shedden though, was having his own problems, following a safety car period Shedden found it hard to get passed the Eurotech Racing Honda of Jeff Smith, smoking brakes seemingly being the issue, Shedden would finish 19th and score no points but, with Plato finishing 6th it would mean that the gap before race 3 was now only 12 points.
At the bottom end of the top ten Priaulx and Collard would again take some points for the WSR team.
The reverse draw couldn’t have been scripted better. Neal on the pole ahead of Plato, Sheden down in 19th. For Plato to win the title he would have to win the race and Shedden finish 5th or better. If Plato finished 2nd Shedden needed 8th. It was going to be tense.
Several early safety car periods didn’t help the cause firstly Ingram slid off at Druids and was then collected by Jake Hill. Almost as soon as the safety car had gone in Stewart Lines in his Houseman Racing Toyota Avensis slid off at Clearways bringing the Porsche out straight away, while Dave Newsham produced a similar incident on the following restart, marking the final appearance of the safety car in 2015. Behind all this Plato was leading Neal while Turkington was stuck in 16th behind Menu before the Swiss pitted with a puncture. Once passed the VW and on a green track the Scot was on a mission. Neal fluffed the final restart and saw Jackson and Goff both pass him while behind Shedden was a man possessed, dealing with the traffic with little issue.
Neal played the team game and a few laps from the end dropped off the Goff, Jackson battle leaving the Focus free to chase Plato while Shedden dealt with Morgan’s Mercedes before accepting 4th from Neal and chasing Goff down for the final podium place.
Goff, however had not read the script, he was not about to give away a podium so lightly and fought Shedden every inch of the way on the final lap of the season to take 3rd place by just over 1/10th of a second.
Plato won the race but Shedden had won the title.
Neal, Morgan, Collard, Jordan, Aron Smith and Priaulx made up the final top ten.
And so, the 2015 roll of honour:
Champion: Gordon Shedden
Manufacturer’s Champions: Honda Yuasa Racing
Teams Champions: BMR RCIB Insurance
So, who’s missing it already? Counting down to 2016? I know I am. It’s going to be a long winter.