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BTCC review: Jordan beats the champions

Wednesday, December 11 2013

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 repute.

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.

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Images courtesy of PSP Images, Az Edwards, Nick Dungan, MJP Media, btcc.net