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BTCC 2014 Season Finale: Did Someone Say Night Race?

It is strange to think that as I sit down to write this article , darkness has fallen on the 2014 British Touring Car Championship. The series traveled the length and breadth of the country and in almost poetic fashion, came right back to where it all began to write the closing chapter of the year. However, one slight change from the season opener was the added challenge of the Grand Prix circuit for the drivers to master. Going into the final race weekend, Colin Turkington led by a staggering 50 points over nearest rival Jason Plato. Success was almost certain, but when the only man who can stop you is Jason Plato, truly anything is possible. And just to further add a dash of mystery into the mix, being the final race of the year it had become championship tradition that the weather would be anything but cooperative across the weekend. The stage was set. The weather was preparing its madness. It was time to fire those engines up, one last time.

And so it came down to it. Turkington vs Plato. BMW vs MG. Image Credit: BTCC.net

And so it came down to it. Turkington vs Plato. BMW vs MG. Image Credit: BTCC.net

It took only until the start of qualifying for the famous final race weather to start rearing its beautifully ugly head. Qualifying was a wash of rain and slippery conditions, which in the early stages saw returning ex-champion Alain Menu take firm control. Do remember it was in the rain on the GP circuit in 1995 when a certain Alain Menu took his Renault Laguna to victory while the other competitors slid left right and center. Not to mention, Menu was fighting for victory in the Jack Sears Trophy, which awarded points per overtake; his closest rival remained the ever plucky Dave Newsham in the Ford. However, towards the end of the session the track began to dry and Jason Plato timed his run perfectly to place his MG firmly on pole position, with the added bonus of his team mate Tordoff riding tail gunner in 2nd. Qualifying was however brought to an early conclusion following an incident involving Dave Newsham which saw him lose control at Sheene Curve ending up in a dangerous position. The late surge by Turkington was then brought to an end, and he would line up 4th on the grid for the first race.

Even though Turkington led by 50 points, it was still possible for Jason Plato to win the championship. He would need to win all 3 races; in race one Turkington would have to finish no higher than 4th, and then be outscored by a further 21 in the second race, followed by.. You know what, let’s just say that for Plato to win it would take nothing short of a heavenly miracle from the hypothetical gods themselves.

Jack Goff was one of the early casualties of race one. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Jack Goff was one of the early casualties of race one. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The first race began pretty well for Plato, with him and Tordoff charging off into the lead which Plato took pretty quickly, keeping Turkington behind. What did not go so well however was the start of the race for the rest of the field; an incident between Giovanardi and Shedden started a chain reaction of collisions that rather quickly brought the safety car out. Worst hit was the Volkswagen of Jack Goff who became airborne in the mayhem, and Matt Neal who had to be airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks as a result. The race brought with it further incident and safety cars as one would expect from the final race of the year. The standout driver of the race however could be no one else other than Rob Collard who drove from 23rd to an eventual 6th following a breathtaking overtake of the Ford of Giovanardi. Considering what the Ford driver has been like in the past, I was impressed that he did not decide to shovel Collard off for daring to pass him! As the end of the race came around, Turkington finished 3rd which was enough to make him the 2014 BTCC Champion! The best Plato could ask for now was a tie on points that Turkington would still edge due to his higher number of 1st and 2nd place finishes across the year.

The second championship meant a lot to Colin, as echoed in his words following the race:

I suppose the main feeling is relief. We were ready to do battle until race three so I really wasn’t expecting to clinch the title so early in the day. I actually thought I was a point short when I crossed the line so I didn’t want to celebrate until I was absolutely sure. To be able to celebrate with the team and my family is a really proud moment. Lewis [son] wasn’t old enough to remember the first one and part of the reason of getting back into the BTCC was to do it for him, so I’m delighted.

What with all the rain, Turkington still decided to add some champagne to the shower. Image Credit: BTCC.net

What with all the rain, Turkington still decided to add some champagne to the shower to celebrate his championship. Image Credit: BTCC.net

As soon as the dust (and clouds) had settled after race one, it was time for race two to get underway. And just to rub Plato’s face in it what with losing the championship to a RWD car and all, Turkington got a start to rival that of the Big Bang and rocketed off the line into the lead. It was clear however that Plato was having absolutely none of it; he was not going to be beaten by a RWD car yet again. There was only one solution, and of course that was to pull of a clearly impossible move into Paddock up the inside, spinning Turkington and shooting the newly crowned double champion off into the gravel. Strangely enough, for those that were watching at the track this was met with rapturous applause and laughter (the move was so typically Plato it bordered on cliche), yet the online response was one of anger, rage and voracious aggression towards Plato. Understandably so, the move characterised one of the central issues with the modern BTCC; unnecessary collisions to get your way.

Hunter Abbott eventually made it to the grid for race 2, in an unconventional car mind you... Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Hunter Abbott eventually made it to the grid for race 2, in an unconventional car mind you… Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The second race of the day was somewhat of a historic occasion, for it was the first time a Mercedes ever won a race outright in the history of the championship. That’s right, after storming into the hearts of the masses and putting in stellar performances across the year, Adam Morgan finally got his maiden BTCC win. After a sensational overtake of Jason Plato, Morgan had a convincing lead, until the pressure got to him and he ran wide and Plato slipped back through. However, following the early incident with Turkington, Plato was given a 20 second time penalty as well as being relegated to the back of the grid for race three after receiving his third ‘strike’ as it were.

'I grow tired of your success Turkington, out of my way'. Image Credit: BTCC.net

‘I grow tired of your success Turkington, out of my way’. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Adam Morgan made history by recording the first ever BTCC win for a Mercedes. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Adam Morgan made history by recording the first ever BTCC win for a Mercedes. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

As race day soldiered on, I began to think that the legend of the final race wash out may have finally come to an end, for the weather remained dry. Alas, fate it seemed could not be undone; the raindrops began to fall just minutes before the start of the final race. By the time the race was due to start, the once dry track was transformed into a speedboat raceway. If it was F1 it would be called too dangerous and be called off; but this is true motorsport with true machines. Nothing was going to stop the BTCC.  Following the Plato penalty and the reverse grid, it was Jack Clarke who found himself on pole for the final race of the year. And what a race to choose to do it. This was not going to be easy. As the Kentish countryside plunged into darkness, the headlights flicked on and the engines roared for the final time of 2014.

Race 3 became the first unofficial night race in over 10 years! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Race 3 became the first unofficial night race in over 10 years! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Jack Clarke lost out to the RWD powered Nick Foster off the line, until masterfully taking back the lead at Graham Hill Bend. A rookie no more is this one. Sadly, it was only a matter of time before Clarke lost out to the hard charging Honda of Gordon Shedden who was trying to salvage a good result from what was a poor weekend for Honda. Shedden comfortably took the final win of the year, followed by the fully graduated Clarke in the Crabbies Ford.

Like tin top terrors tearing through the stormy darkness, the field proved what masterful driving really was. There was slipping, there was sliding, but the rain was conquered. Well, apart maybe from Martin Depper, who had a spin causing yet another safety car period. With Shedden powering ahead at the front, all eyes turned to Jason Plato who had started not only at the back of the grid but in the pit lane. He may not have won the title, but that did not stop him providing what was possibly one of the greatest drives of the year. Starting from the pit lane, he powered through all the way to 7th by the end of the race. That is the mark of a true series great.

The BTCC field put on an excellent power boat display for the final race. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The BTCC field put on an excellent power boat display for the final race. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The chequered flag waved. And in a moment the whole year was done. Due to a shocking weekend from Alain Menu, Dave Newsham performed a last minute steal of the Jack Sears Trophy honours, ending his year on a high. Colin Turkington was the drivers’ champion. MG the constructors champion. But let us not forget those who did not enjoy such sweet success in 2014, like the Proton team of Ollie Jackson and Dan Welch, who struggled with engine development throughout the year and failed to make any real progress. Dan Welch has however confirmed he will be back for 2015, hoping for greater success than 2014. Other standout drives have come from newboy Tom Ingram who has solidly impressed across the year. No one can of course forget ultimate fan favourite Rob Austin who suffered a collision filled end to his 2014 season, but he and Sherman will return to race another day.

If I was to pick my two standout teams from 2014, honours would have to go to United Autosports and Team BMR. United Autosports were consistently improving throughout the year and by next year may well be a force to be reckoned with. Team BMR have the potential to win not only races but championships. With their intimidating line up of Jack Goff, Warren Scott, Aron Smith and the great Alain Menu they exploded from the blocks like a greyhound on steroids. For both these teams, 2015 will most definitely see greater successes.

And so with that, the 2014 British Touring Car Championship comes to an end. The series has risen from strength to strength across the year and is fast returning to its former glory days of the 90s. In addition to this, there is already exciting murmurs from across the paddock regarding the 2015 season. Will Jason Plato remain in the BTCC? Does the appeal by WSR regarding the severity of his penalty suggest a Plato move to WSR? Are we going to see the return of old manufacturers? Will new makes enter the series? Will there be a new champion to rise from the mayhem?

It now leaves only for me to say, congratulations to Colin Turkington and thank you for reading my 2014 BTCC season reviews. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. I have definitely enjoyed writing them. But do not despair, I will return soon with all the updates of the upcoming 2015 season.

Remember, keep driving people!

Continue the touring car talk on Twitter! Follow me @lewisglynn69!

Peace and Love!

Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

 

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