Gordon Shedden's BTCC Championship Year: Part 2
In this special feature, we look back at the second 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.
Gordon Shedden arrived at Snetterton for the start of the second half of the season lying 9th in the standings and with a 52 point deficit to championship leader Sam Tordoff, so his Drivers' Championship title defence would have to get re-ignited quickly. With the team concentrating on setup rather than outright pace, free practice produced mid-table lap times with Shedden 9th fastest in the 2nd session. Qualifying was a different matter and the Scot from Dalgety Bay claimed pole position for the first of the three BTCC races ahead of Colin Turkington.
Gordon Shedden held his lead in race one until lap 8 when Colin Turkington found a way past in the improving Subaru Levorg GT. Shedden held on to 2nd place and earned some much needed championship points. Despite starting race two on the front row of the grid Shedden quickly lost several places, hampered by both the 66Kg of success ballast he was carrying and some 'enthusiastic' racing with Adam Morgan.
The reverse grid draw for race three left Gordon Shedden 10th on the grid and put championship leader Sam Tordoff in pole position with a lot of fast drivers in between. Following an aborted start due to a massive pile-up in which Hunter Abbott's car rolled over the safety barrier and destroyed a TV camera platform, the race was restarted however Tordoff pulled into the pits and out of the race with a broken prop-shaft. Shedden rapidly gained places and was running in 2nd place behind Rob Collard by lap 3, finally taking the lead with half a lap to go to record his 2nd victory of the year, a result which catapulted him to 4th in the championship standings behind new leader Rob Collard, Sam Tordoff and Matt Neal.
Following a successful weekend at Snetterton, Gordon Shedden arrived at his home circuit looking to continue his run of good form. In line with recent meetings, the free practice sessions were spent getting a good race setup however this did not translate into a good qualifying session as it had done at Snetterton, with Shedden qualifying his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R in 11th place for race one. Team-mate Matt Neal fared slightly better, qualifying 7th.
Race one was a lights-to-flag victory for Jason Plato in his Subaru Levorg GT with Jack Goff 2nd and Colin Turkington 3rd. Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden were unable to make much progress, finishing 8th and 9th respectively. From 8th on the grid, Matt Neal steadily gained places in race two and took the race win with Sam Tordoff 2nd ahead of Subaru team-mates Jason Plato and Colin Turkington. Gordon Shedden finished where he started in 9th place.
The reverse grid race found Mat Jackson in pole position which he converted into a victory in his Ford Focus with Sam Tordoff 2nd and Jason Plato 3rd. Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal just missed out on a podium finish with Shedden 4th and Neal 5th. Leaving Scotland, Sam Tordoff had regained the lead in the Drivers' Championship while Matt Neal had moved up to 2nd ahead of Rob Collard. Gordon Shedden was still 4th but now 40 points off the lead.
Despite posting the 6th fastest lap time in the first free practice session, Gordon Shedden was still the fastest of the championship leaders with the BMWs of Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard suffering in the wet conditions. Shedden's nearest championship rival was team-mate Matt Neal who was 10th fastest. In the second session, Neal was 3rd fastest behind Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram with Gordon Shedden 4th.
In the qualifying session it was Gordon Shedden who topped the time sheet to put his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R on pole for race one which he went on to win, posting the fastest lap on the way and earning the maximum 23 points. Championship leader Sam Tordoff could manage only a 10th place finish, 2 places behind Matt Neal in 8th. In race two the tables were turned with Tordoff taking the victory and Shedden finishing 10th with Rob Collard 3rd behind Andrew Jordan.
Although starting the reverse grid race from 10th on the grid, Gordon Shedden finished a magnificent 2nd behind Aron Smith. Team-mate Matt Neal finished 4th but crucially, fellow championship rivals Rob Collard and Sam Tordoff finished 6th and 16th respectively. This meant that Shedden was now 3rd in the championship standings, just 20 points behind leader Sam Tordoff who was only 5 points ahead of 2nd placed Matt Neal with Rob Collard now 5th behind Mat Jackson in 4th.
The penultimate meeting of the year provided mixed results for the Halfords Yuasa Racing squad. The free practice sessions had both Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal in the middle of the time sheets however when Neal qualified 7th and Shedden qualified 10th there were a few worried faces in the garage. At least with championship rivals Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard qualifying 17th and 25th respectively there was still hope.
Race one was a disaster for the team with both the Honda Civic Type Rs suffering front-left punctures during the race. Gordon Shedden was able to re-join the race but finished a lap down in 26th place whereas Matt Neal ran out of racing laps and was not classified in the results. Further drama ensued when the MG6GTs of Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook were excluded from the results due to technical infringements.
With Gordon Shedden starting race two in 23rd place and Matt Neal starting 24th, the challenge was set. Shedden did well to finish the race in 8th place while Neal finished 15th. Importantly for Shedden, he finished in front of 11th placed Sam Tordoff, narrowing the points gap. The reverse grid draw gifted pole position to Shedden and he made the most of it, taking his 4th victory of the year. Tordoff kept his championship hopes alive with a top 6 finish behind Matt Neal in 5th place. Heading into the final meeting of the year Shedden was now 2nd in the championship standings, just 11 points behind leader Tordoff and 2 points ahead of team-mate Neal.
Brands Hatch (GP)
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship arrived back at Brands Hatch with no fewer than 8 drivers capable of lifting the Drivers' Championship trophy. The first free practice session saw Gordon Shedden mid-table along with his main title rivals, however in the second session he was 4th fastest with Sam Tordoff 14th and Matt Neal 12th. Shedden also out-performed Tordoff and Neal in the qualifying session although he was only 7th fastest, giving him a 4th row start to race one.
With pole-sitter Colin Turkington taking the race one victory, Gordon Shedden finished 5th with team-mate Matt Neal 7th and Sam Tordoff 10. Tordoff still had the lead in the championship however Shedden was now only 6 points behind with two races remaining. Turkington took another lights-to-flag victory in race two with team-mate Jason Plato 2nd. Shedden finished 3rd to take the last podium position with Tordoff 5th while Matt Neal crashed out of the race after being tagged by one of the MGs when his Honda Civic Type R cut out, sending him spinning violently into the barriers. Shedden was now just 2 points behind Tordoff - the championship would be decided in the final race of the year.
Race three should have been 4-way championship shoot-out between Sam Tordoff, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal however Neal was prevented from racing on medical grounds, suffering with concussion from his crash in race two. The reverse grid draw gave the advantage to Tordoff who started 3rd on the grid with Shedden 5th and Turkington 7th. Carrying 75Kg of success ballast and surrounded by lighter cars, Turkington could not maintain his championship challenge. Shedden on the other hand was a man on a mission, carving his way up the order and passing Tordoff on lap 7. As the race progressed, Tordoff lost another place to Adam Morgan and his title hopes were over.
Gordon Shedden finished the last race of the season in 3rd place behind Mat Jackson and Aiden Moffat but with Sam Tordoff finishing 5th, the Scot had done enough to win the 2016 Dunlop MSA BTCC Drivers' Championship with Tordoff a close 2nd just 2 points behind. In securing his 3rd Drivers' Championship title, Gordon Shedden became the first driver to successfully defend their title since Fabrizio Giovanardi in 2008. A great achievement for a popular driver.
Published 24 October 2016