Gordon Shedden's BTCC Championship Year: Part 1
In this special feature, we look back at the first half of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship which was won by Gordon Shedden and look at the highs and lows of his title-winning season.
Brands Hatch (Indy)
Gordon Shedden began the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship looking to be the first driver to successfully defend their Drivers' Championship title since Fabrizio Giovanardi in 2008. The free practice sessions went well with Shedden 6th fastest in the first and 4th fastest in the second in his Honda Civic Type R. Tom Ingram and Sam Tordoff topped the free practice time sheets at the season opener.
Tom Ingram took the first pole position of the year in a qualifying session where he was the only driver to post a lap time of under 48 seconds. The Halfords Yuasa Racing duo were not far behind with Gordon Shedden 2nd fastest, just 0.063s behind Ingram, with team-mate Matt Neal 3rd. Sam Tordoff qualified 4th with the MGs of Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook 5th and 6th.
Race one ended with the front-runners in the positions they started and victory for Tom Ingram with a solid 2nd and 3rd for Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal. In race two the team-mates went one better, Shedden leading Neal home to a 1-2 victory. The reverse grid for race three put Sam Tordoff on pole with Shedden 9th on the grid. Shedden's luck ran out on lap 21 when he went off at Paddock Hill, ending his race. Despite this, he left Brands Hatch 2nd in the standings, just 5 points behind team-mate Neal.
The Saturday sessions at Donington Park were dominated by the MGs of Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton with Cook topping the time sheet in both free practice sessions and Sutton leading Cook to a front row lockout in the qualifying session. Gordon Shedden kept himself in contention, being 2nd fastest in the first free practice session and putting his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic on the 2nd row of the grid in qualifying.
Race one didn't go well for Halfords Yuasa Racing with both Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal finishing outside the top 10. This impacted on race two due to their 6th row start. Nevertheless, Shedden climbed up the order to finish 4th in the race which was won by Rob Collard. Neal just made it into the top 6. The reverse grid for the 3rd race put Neal on row 2 and Shedden on row 3 with Josh Cook joining pole-sitter Sam Tordoff on the front row of the grid.
Race three saw Matt Neal lead Gordon Shedden to a 1-2 victory for Halfords Yuasa Racing with the BMWs of Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard a solid 3rd and 4th. With Neal and Shedden both earning the same number of championship points from the meeting, Neal left Donington Park retaining his 5 point lead over Shedden in the Drivers' Championship.
The Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civics appeared to struggle around the high speed Thruxton circuit in the free practice sessions. In the first session both Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal failed to break into the top 10 and in the second, could manage only 18th and 20th. Qualifying went slightly better with Neal 3rd fastest however Shedden qualified down in 11th place.
Race one was a nightmare for both Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden with both drivers retiring and scoring no points after Neal collected a puncture and Shedden got hit in the aftermath. With cars littering the track, Adam Morgan took the race win. Numerous punctures in race one and track temperatures of around 33 degrees meant that races two and three were reduced to 12 laps on safety grounds.
Gordon Shedden recovered some ground in race two, crossing the line in 4th place with team-mate Matt Neal finishing 11th. The team's mixed fortunes continued in race three with Matt Neal taking 2nd place and Gordon Shedden failing to score following a collision with Jack Goff in the closing laps. As a result of not scoring points in two of the three races, Shedden found himself lying 5th in the championship standings behind Matt Neal, Rob Collard, Adam Morgan and Mat Jackson.
The picturesque Cheshire circuit provided mixed results for the Halfords Yuasa Racing drivers. Gordon Shedden was 3rd fastest in the first free practice session and 2nd fastest in the second, whereas team-mate Matt Neal was 12th and 11th with Tom Ingram topping the time sheet in both sessions. The qualifying session was equally diverse with Shedden qualifying 5th and Neal 8th as the Subaru Levorg GT of Colin Turkington found its form to qualify in pole position. Daniel Lloyd qualified a surprise 2nd ahead of Sam Tordoff and Tom Ingram.
The race one victory went to Colin Turkington with Gordon Shedden finishing 4th behind Sam Tordoff and Jason Plato as Matt Neal failed to make up any ground, finishing 9th. Shedden finished 4th again in race two behind winner Tordoff, 2nd placed Turkington and 3rd placed Plato. Although missing out on the podium places, Shedden was still earning valuable championship points with Neal improving slightly to finish 7th.
The reverse grid race handed pole position to Matt Neal with Gordon Shedden on row 2 behind Josh Cook and Tom Ingram. Neal went on to win the race ahead of Sam Tordoff and Jason Plato, however Shedden finished a lowly 23rd after a puncture on the penultimate lap ruined his race. Despite winning race three, Matt Neal lost his lead in the Drivers' Championship to Sam Tordoff, albeit by just a single point. Gordon Shedden's two 4th place finishes were enough to move him up to 4th in the standings behind Rob Collard.
If Oulton Park produced mixed results for Halfords Yuasa Racing, the Croft meeting was a disaster, particularly for Gordon Shedden. The free practice sessions were typically mixed with Gordon Shedden 7th fastest in the first and 17th fastest in the second. Matt Neal was 13th fastest in both sessions which were topped by Aiden Moffat and Daniel Lloyd, however true race pace can't always be inferred from the practice session times.
The Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type Rs struggled around the North Yorkshire circuit, Gordon Shedden qualifying 15th with team-mate Matt Neal 17th. Predictably, the pair ended race one in the mid-field, Neal 12th and Shedden 15th. Race two showed only a slight improvement, Neal finishing 10th and Shedden 13th as the Subaru Levorg GTs and BMW 125i M Sports dominated along with the MG6GT of Ashley Sutton.
Finishing race two outside the top 10, the reverse grid for race three couldn't help Gordon Shedden or Matt Neal. Worse still, it placed Sam Tordoff on pole with Tom Ingram 2nd, Mat Jackson 3rd and Ashley Sutton 4th. Colin Turkington, Jason Plato and Rob Collard also started race three ahead of Neal and Shedden. With the odds against them, Neal finished 11th with Shedden 22nd. Heading into the mid-season break, Sam Tordoff had extended his lead in the championship standings and was now 12 points ahead of team-mate Rob Collard, Matt Neal having slipped to 3rd. Taking only 4 points away from the meeting, Gordon Shedden was now 9th in the standings and 52 points behind leader Tordoff.
Continued in Part 2.
Published 17 October 2016