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The Age Of The Underdog: BTCC in 2014

Andrew Jordan celebrates his first championship. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Andrew Jordan celebrates his first championship. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The 2013 BTCC season was truly a return to greatness for the series. The championship went down to a thrilling final race weekend at the rain sodden Brands Hatch GP. And any fan of the BTCC will tell you a wet and windy season finale at Brands Hatch will always give you the climax you wanted, as proved by the final race of the 2001 BTCC season. And 2013 did not disappoint. Starting at the back of the grid, Andrew Jordan battled his way from 25th to 9th, cementing his position at the top. It truly was a champions drive. My only criticism of the 2013 season was the predictability of the top 6 finishers in most races.

Honda, Honda, MG, Honda…

Due to the manufacturer-based funding of the Yuasa Honda and MG teams, they clearly had the most superior cars in 2013. And the independent Pirtek team were essentially gifted the same car as the factory Honda team. As such, Jordan, Neal, Shedden and Plato were usually the names at the top. This became so commonplace that dare I say it, it became monotonous. The extra performance even gave mediocre drivers such as Jeff Smith the chance to bring in top 5 finishes. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem but Smith doesn’t have the same experience as some of the veteran drivers and often took lessons from the Giovanardi school of driving and used brute force and unfair tactics to gain position.

However, despite this the season was by far the best it had been in the last 10 years. But why is this you may ask. One word, underdog. 2013 was truly the year of the underdog, and every now and again spurts of god-fuelled genius saw these underdogs fighting at the top. This post is a celebration of their achievements and a reminder to the big boys that the 2014 season may well be the year of the revolution. Are we seeing the dawning of a new age? Is this the age of the underdog?

The 2013 season gave close, hard racing, and some spectacular shots. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The 2013 season gave close, hard racing, and some spectacular shots. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

BMW and Turkington: Mixed Success in 2013

The BMW team started slow, but their influence picked up speed as the season went on. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The BMW team started slow, but their influence picked up speed as the season went on. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The Ebay Motors BMW team brought a colourful, quirky new look to the BTCC last year, and under the control of Nick Foster, Rob Collard and returning champion Colin Turkington, by the end of the year the team were a constant threat for race wins. However, it was clear that 2013 was a year of development for the BMW team. The start of the year saw a string of mid-pack performances, until Turkington’s first win in race 3 at Donington Park. In fact, Turkington’s performance proved just how good a driver he is. He took a brand new car and battled his way to the top of the time sheets consistently.

Clearly though the existence of the 13 was the icon of bad luck for the BMW team, as they were often riddled with mechanical problems, bad performances and unlucky mishaps. The worst of which was the embarrassing start to a race at the final weekend at Brands Hatch. The last thing you want to see as team manager is two of your cars facing each other at the exit of the first corner…

I imagine there were a few heads on desks back at race control... Photo Credit: BTCC.net

I imagine there were a few heads on desks back at race control… Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Adam Morgan: Potential in a Brand New Car

In 2013, Adam Morgan impressed with a string of top 5 finishes in his very handsome Toyota Avensis. As the year went on, the name Morgan began to grow in popularity and success. Morgan and his Ciceley racing team showed the talent needed for future championship success. He was one of the few drivers who could really stick it to the big boys, and dish out the same hard driving ability that was often shoveled in his face.

Morgan has made the headlines in 2014 following the announcement of his choice of car for the upcoming season. In fact, he is introducing a brand new manufacturer to the illustrious list of names that have graced the championship with their presence. This car is often one you would associate with the DTM series, but Adam Morgan is bringing his Mercedes A-Class to the BTCC in 2014. Considering the high levels of success Morgan was achieving by the end of the year, I predict that once he has gotten to grips with his new machine, he will be right back at the top once more. I will be shocked if he has not climbed the top step of the podium at least once by the end of the year.

Adam Morgan is making the switch from his handsome Toyota to a Mercedes A-Class for 2014. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Adam Morgan is making the switch from his handsome Toyota to a Mercedes A-Class for 2014. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Soft spot for Squelch

In every series, I always find myself having a soft spot for a certain driver or team, regardless of their successes. This usually comes down to the attractive nature of a machine, matched with the determination of a team. And in 2013, I most definitely had a soft spot for Dan Welch in his Proton. Welch (or Squelch as I began calling him) was never battling for top 5 finishes, but he was always filled with a positive attitude and the determination from his team really did impress me. Not only that, but I really did enjoy the look of his car; it truly was a joy watching that little monster charging around the track. I have every faith that with the new season there will be new successes for the team. I would love more than anything to see Squelch at the front end of the pack this year. Proton deserves to continue the success first gained by the late great David Leslie in the early 2000s.

The Sopp+Sopp Proton of Dan Welch was always my personal favourite of 2013

The Sopp+Sopp Proton of Dan Welch was always my personal favourite of 2013. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Volkswagen Passat on the Menu for Success

Under the expert control of Tom Onslow-Cole, the VW Passat surprised everyone in 2013, taking podium finishes at Thruxton and Croft. And this year, under the new management of Team BMR, the VW will be the seat of one of the biggest names in the business. Recently, I posted an article on the ‘Return of Alain Menu’ to the BTCC, and the great man himself will be driving the Volkswagen Passat in 2014. Considering the surprising success in 2o13, I have a feeling that Team BMR are going to have a highly fruitful season this year. The skill of Alain Menu will bring about not only high finishes, but I will stick my neck out here and say that multiple race wins too.

It is massively exciting. Especially if the legend can show the big manufacturers that the smaller teams are a true force to be reckoned with.

What a good looking beast... The Volkswagen Passat in 2013. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

What a good looking beast… The Volkswagen Passat in 2013. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The Young Juggernaut

Jack Goff had a very low key start to 2013 in his Vauxhall Insignia, but to say the same by the end of the season would be an insult to everything that was good and right in this world. The final race of the year saw Jack Goff in an inferior car take on ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden in the planet destroying Honda Civic. Whatever Flash did Goff was right there on his tail. Not only that, he was so fast he was even flashing his lights to get Shedden out the way. The titans at the top did not know what hit them. How dare SOMEONE ELSE take on the top men? Well I am sorry to tell you, just because you are safe in the car front, there is a juggernaut of talent just waiting to take the title from underneath you.

2014 will see Jack Goff return in his Vauxhall with team BMR. Goff and Menu in one team? Watch out Honda and MG, team BMR are out to get you. Jack Goff will be a champion one day. He has the talent, the aggression and the determination to be a champion in the future. I wish him all the best for 2014!

Out of the frying pan.... Jack Goff has the talent for greatness. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Out of the frying pan…. Jack Goff has the talent for greatness. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The Ultimate Underdog: The People’s Champion

I have named an array of the teams and drivers that I have tipped for good things in 2014, but I have of course saved the best for last. Last year, I may have had my guesses for champion, those I had a soft spot for and those who I did not like, but despite all of them there was still someone else who was my favourite.

It could only be Rob Austin in his Audi. If you asked any fan of BTCC who the fan favourite was, chances are Rob would be only name on the list. Rob and Sherman (yes, he even named his Audi) combine to form the ultimate underdog. Ever since Rob returned to the series in a severely under performing Audi, he has grown in popularity. I first remember a race at Snetterton in 2012 where Rob decided to turn everything up to 11, knowing he would only complete a handful of laps. As expected, he came to a thundering halt after only a few laps, but in the process had set the fastest lap by quite a considerable distance. Go hard or go home is his motto. He may not have had a shot at the title, but in 2013 Rob won his first race at Rockingham. You would have thought he had just been crowned ruler of the world. That is the mark of a driver who truly loves what they do. It is not about overall glory, but seeing that much emotion after winning a race is THE reason why the sport loves him.

Rob has been hard at work over the winter break, and the recently released 2014 Sherman is meant to be beyond impressive. Audi have not been at the top since 1996 when Frank Biela won the title. Maybe, just maybe, is that about to change? If Rob Austin can rise to the top this year, with that car and that personality, it will make the racing world a much better place for it.

The fan favourite. The BTCC world is hoping for good things from Austin and Sherman this year. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The fan favourite. The BTCC world is hoping for good things from Austin and Sherman this year. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

The BTCC is fast returning to its place at the top of not just British, but international motorsport. 2014 has a capacity grid with numerous teams in reserve. Champions left, right and centre, new cars, new teams, the championship literally has everything you could ever want.

The factory teams thought they had it all their own way. Not any more. Watch out top dogs, the underdogs are here, and they are coming to get you. BTCC 2014 will begin the era of the underdog.

It all begins in March, you won’t want to miss this.

As new announcements are made regarding the 2014 BTCC season, do not worry, I will be right here to report on them just for you.

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

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