The 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will almost
certainly be remembered as one of the more
significant seasons in the series' 55-year history, and
definitely as validation of the NGTC formula that was first
introduced in 2011.
By the end of last year it was clear that any team mounting a
serious title challenge would need to do so with a car built to the
current rulebook. Further tweaks ensured that the older S2000 cars
would be starting races at the unfashionable end of the grid in
2013, albeit with a concession that the drivers would be competing
for their own title - the Jack Sears Trophy, which was eventually
won by Lea Wood.
The headline news came from the NGTC boys however, and they
didn't come much bigger than the return of 2009 champion Colin
Turkington after three years in the wilderness. The Northern
Irishman was back with the WSR squad, now under the eBay Motors
banner and with a brand new NGTC BMW 1-Series, replacing a
pensionable S2000 3 Series. With Gordon Shedden having broken the
Matt Neal/Jason Plato stranglehold on the series, there were now
four champions on the grid, the most for some time.
Brands Hatch 30/31 March
It was no surprise that the quartet of champions took many
of the wins on offer. Not all, since they were joined by Pirtek's
Andrew Jordan, who for the last two seasons had proven his
title-challenging credentials. Indeed when the teams arrived for
the opening round of the year at Brands Hatch over Easter weekend,
it was the young pretender who took pole position.
Come raceday, it was the combination of Plato and the improved
MG6 that had the pace to take the opening two victories of the
season and the early title lead, despite a late challenge from
Jordan in race one that nearly saw both end the race in the gravel
at Clearways. Race three was won by Matt Neal, kicking off an
initially strong campaign built on stealth and cunning rather than
blistering pace. He finished the race in front of team mate
Shedden, who endured his usual round one nightmare, whilst
Turkington crashed out of qualifying before completing half a lap,
but three top ten finishes resulted from a canny performance.
Oulton Park 8/9 June
The opening round had taken place in freezing conditions, but by
Oulton Park in June a festival atmosphere prevailed in perfect
conditions. Plato and MG set a scorching pace, taking pole position
and two wins, the first in which he headed home team mate and
impressive newcomer Sam Tordoff. Unfortunately his car then staged
its own summer barbecue, putting him out of race three. Chief
beneficiary was Jordan, whilst Neal scored consistently throughout
the day to keep himself in a title lead that he gained at the
previous race. Shedden was on the podium twice, before retiring
from the third encounter, whilst Turkington, already having won a
reverse-grid race with the BMW, was really getting to grips with
his new mount.
Snetterton 3/4 August
The eBay Motors hotshot had taken two more victories by the time
the series arrived at Snetterton, but MG was back on top after
having dominated testing in Norfolk a month previously. But it was
Tordoff who topped qualifying, and he went on to win his maiden
BTCC victory at a track where he has excelled previously. Plato's
second in the opener was as good as it got, for his MG retired from
race two then rolled out of the third.
Turkington looked set to take advantage but he came under attack
from the Hondas of Jordan and Shedden, losing out on two victories.
A fourth and two sixths was little reward for his efforts, whilst
another stealth performance saw Neal, despite only standing on the
podium once, leave Norfolk with his title lead intact.
Brands Hatch 12/13 October
Plato's fortunes continued to dwindle in the rounds following
Snetterton, and an expected strong performance at Silverstone
aside, only just remained in title contention entering the final
round on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Turkington's results
seemed to go in the opposite direction - he continued to catch the
leaders until a disastrous third race at Silverstone, which left
him just one point ahead of his MG rival.
Brands Hatch looked set to be a celebration for the Honda
drivers, with Jordan now some way ahead of Neal, who dropped around
40 points thanks to a nightmare at Rockingham, followed by yet
another broken finger, for the third year in a row! Shedden's up
and down season averaged out just one point shy of his team mate,
and with all three clear of their rivals, it was unlikely that team
orders of any kind would be required.
On a bright October Saturday Plato took advantage of his and the
MG's speed around Brands Hatch to take pole position, whilst Neal
crashed out of qualifying. Nevertheless the triple champion fought
back to sixth place in the opening race, just behind Jordan, whilst
Plato led Shedden home in soaking conditions. Meanwhile
Turkington's title tilt had ended at the very first corner,
ironically tipped into a spin by team mate Rob Collard before being
collected by the third eBay Motors BMW of Nick Foster!
Plato then reeled off a second victory, whilst his rivals all
had a tough race. Shedden fell to seventh place, whilst Jordan and
Neal collided avoiding the busy Collard, which broke the former's
rear suspension. It was his first retirement of the year and it
could not have come at a worse moment. Neal soldiered on at the
back before his car caught fire on the final lap, and this
signalled the end of his championship.
Heading into the last race just three contenders remained.
Jordan's lead was looking rather shaky, and had to start from the
back, whilst Plato had momentum on his side, but it was Shedden who
had pole position and a light car to take into the title decider.
The atmosphere was buzzing around Brands Hatch as the drivers set
off for the final time. Shedden controlled the race from the start
but came under attack from rookie Jack Goff in the Team HARD.
Vauxhall Insignia. Goff was visibly quicker than the Scot for much
of the lap but Shedden was doing all he could to retain his title
and not once did he leave the door open for attack.
At the other end of the field Jordan was making excellent
progress and was quickly into the points and within just a few laps
tracked Plato, out of sorts with a heavily-ballasted MG. The
decisive moment came when the double champion dropped back into
tenth place and with fastest lap, Jordan had accumulated enough
points to take the title whatever the outcome of the race. He
brought the Pirtek Honda home in ninth and celebrated in style with
team boss and father Mike, himself a racer of considerable
Six wins at MSV's circuits makes Plato the top scorer of the
title contenders here, with 168 scored at the four rounds, but
Jordan is only 17 behind with his consistency and victories at
Oulton Park and Snetterton. Incredibly, Shedden took his first ever
Brands Hatch win in the final round, whilst Neal took the flag at
the opening meeting. Only Turkington failed to stand on the top
step of the podium at an MSV circuit this year, but if he can
return with WSR in 2014, expect him to be there several times.
Tickets for the 2014 rounds of the BTCC at MSV circuits
are now on sale at 2013 prices until Christmas and
you view and order them by clicking here. You can also save money on 2014
season passes if ordered by Christmas. Click here for more details.