The 2014 BTCC season started in March on the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch, and finished in October on the Grand Prix circuit at the Kent track. This year’s British Touring Car Championship was expected to be an exciting affair, with no shortage of previous champions including Alain Menu, Matt Neal, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gordon Shedden and last year’s champion, Andrew Jordan, all racing; however, it was two other former champions, Jason Plato and Colin Turkington who were fighting for the title when the championship made its way back to Kent for the final three races.
With eight wins already this year, Turkington started the weekend as favourite. It was Plato, though, who set the fastest qualifying time, translating to a pole position for the first race of the weekend.
The race was dramatic, with a huge crash on the first lap. We were standing at Paddock Hill, and it felt like there were cars everywhere, with the medical car stopping behind the cars on track. Matt Neal had a trip to hospital for a precautionary x-ray.
The refuge area at the side of the track at the bottom of Paddock Hill was soon looking rather busy, with several of the recovered cars ending up there.
The race continued, and soon Plato and his team mate Tordoff were in first and second position, with Turkington third. Plato replaced Tordoff as the race leader, and went on to win the race.
This meant that if Plato won the remaining two races with Turkington failing to score, there could be a situation where the two drivers tied on points. Turkington would win based on his eight wins; even if Plato was to take the next two, he would only achieve seven.
Plato started the second race from pole – based on his win in the first race – but was quickly passed by Turkington who took the lead. If he could hold on to this, he would win the series not just based on the number of wins, but as an outright points victory. There was drama again, with previous champion Alain Menu crashing out.
That was not the end of the drama. Plato, seeing his chance to tie on points slip away, revisited his role of pantomime villain, and bumped into Turkington at Paddock Hill bend, causing his car to cross the gravel trap and into the barrier.
There was relief as Turkington got out of the car, and appeared unhurt, and helped the marshals get his car across the circuit and to the refuge area so that it could be worked on ahead of the third race.
The race continued, with Plato fighting for the lead with Rob Collard and Wix’s Adam Morgan.
Morgan took the lead, and there was cheering as this would mark the popular driver’s first win for Wix and a first Mercedes Benz win.
A slip by Morgan saw Plato retake the lead, and eventually, the chequered flag. However, after Plato’s move on Turkington was examined, he was demoted to thirteenth by means of a 20 second penalty, giving the win to Morgan.
I saw Morgan in the paddock between races, he seemed a very happy recipient of a winner’s trophy.
There was plenty of work going on up and down the paddock, preparing for the final race of the series.
The last race of the season saw challenging conditions, with the variable weather over the weekend providing rain and failing light on the early Sunday evening. Nick Foster took the lead from Jack Clarke, but Clarke regained the lead later on the first lap. 2012 champion Gordon Shedden passed Foster for second, and a few laps later, passed Clarke. An outing from the safety car interrupted racing – it was a busy weekend for the safety car teams – although Shedden held on to take the win.
Overall, Turkington took the series title, and the paddock was full of Ulster accents as his friends and family were there to celebrate the win.
It was a great series, and with support events from Formula Ford, Ginetta and Ginetta Junior, the Renault Clio Cup and Porsches, it was a great weekend of motor sport. 2015 should be an interesting season.