Featuring four former champions on the grid, the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kept onlookers guessing until the final moments, but it was the time of a new star to add his name to the list of greats that have lifted the trophy as Andrew Jordan realised his dream of becoming BTCC champion.
The Pirtek Racing man had previously been a symbol of rising talent, but the reigning Independent champion attacked the 2013 season with a completely different focus and mindset that, ultimately, aided him to his achieve his goal for the Indie Honda squad.
Jordan fought it out with four former BTCC champions, Colin Turkington sparking all the headlines in pre-season by announcing his series return to take the fight to Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato, the 2009 title winner having lost none of his mojo.
Consistency was the key to a season full of drama on the UK race tracks that saw five drivers head to a soggy and tense finale at Brands Hatch in October, where it was Jordan who survived his only non-finish from the 30 races to grab an emotional maiden BTCC title from reigning champion Shedden by just seven points.
Jordan’s speed was never in doubt, and continued to be showcased in the early phase of the 2013 season as he planted his Pirtek Honda Civic on pole position at Brands Hatch for the season opener ahead of Jason Plato, something he would repeat only once more at Thruxton.
Jordan and Plato were the showcase of the Kent opener as they fought it out for victory up until the very last corner – the subsequent clash that ensued serving as a reminder to Jordan that you can’t win them all; consistency becoming his season focus from that moment onwards.
Jordan would go on to finish every race inside the top 10 bar two of the 30 encounters, his remarkable 100 per cent finishing record blunted by a clash at the worst possible moment in the 29th race of the season.
Two wins for Plato made the MG KX Momentum Racing man the early favourite with Jordan on his tail all the way, while Plato’s rookie team-mate Sam Tordoff outlined himself as no slouch with a reverse-grid podium during a race which defending champions Honda Yuasa Racing saw a horror show of a weekend livened up by a one-two finish for Neal and Shedden.
This started off Honda’s season as Shedden clinched pole and race one honours at Donington Park, until he was blunted by Jordan in race two thanks to a decisive lunge under braking at Redgate to win the encounter that also marked the ultra-experienced Neal and Plato’s 500th and 400th races respectively.
The final Donington encounter was a memorable one, marking the return to winning ways for the returning Turkington in West Surrey Racing‘s new BMW 125i NGTC machine , while a 13th place in race three proved to be Jordan’s worst classified finish of the season.
Thruxton’s trio of races were dominated by Honda, Jordan converting pole position into a lights-to-flag performance set for victory – until he was cruelly denied by a last-lap puncture very stereotypical of the Hampshire venue. The race also saw the simmering of a new rivalry between Plato and Shedden, initiated when contact heading through the complex on lap one fired the Scot’s Civic into the barriers across the front of his MG rival.
Neal was the star of Thruxton with two wins and a second place, Mr consistency playing the first half of 2013 to perfection as he notched up four wins, only for his season to unravel in the final three rounds of the year after a forgettable weekend at Rockingham.
Plato, Tordoff and MG all came to the fore and proved themselves to be one of the quickest packages outright, Plato leading the first of five one-two lockouts of the front row with Tordoff during the year at Oulton Park before claiming two dominant wins to stake his title claim.
In the end, Plato’s luck desserted him in 2013, an eye-opening barbeque under the bonnet of his MG6 in race three the first example in a season that saw the double champion suffer four retirements that put him on the back foot, not helped by a mysterious slump in the MG6’s performance during the third quarter of the year.
The trip to Croft next up launched Turkington back into BTCC stardom, the Irishman picking up one of the most dominant wins of the year from pole position in race one before doubling up in the tricky rain-affected second race, which saw the Triple Eight MG squad shoot themselves spectacularly in the foot with a tyre choice error leading to Plato being lapped by the flying BMW.
The 2009 champion almost pipped Neal in the sodden third race at North Yorkshire for what could have been a memorable hat-trick, Turkington coming from well behind to launch himself into championship contention in the final phase of the season thanks to five superb wins as he found the sweet spot in the new 125i.
On the return from the summer break, Snetterton should have been a simple job for MG, Tordoff emerging as the star with his first pole and race victory to send out a message to experienced team-mate Plato. The rest of the weekend in contrast was a nightmare for the squad, Tordoff and Plato retiring with mechanical problems from winning positions in race two, before Plato rolled out of race three spectacularly.
Jordan and Shedden fought to victory in those pair of rough encounters at the expense of the valiantly defending Turkington, who gained sweet revenge at Knockhill with a double win in Scotland while Jordan’s race three win closed the series lead to Neal, Shedden slipping points with a dramatic blaze of his own the culprit .
A third finger injury for Neal in as many seasons was the start of a rough ride for the triple champion, who spun out of race one at Rockingham and then retired in race two to hand Jordan his opportunity – one he took with both hands by taking two fantastic victories on a very tricky damp, but decisive weekend.
The 30-point lead that he claimed he then consolidated well at a fiesty Silverstone meeting, Plato fighting off the Pirtek Honda man in one of the races of the season for a double to keep himself in title contention.
Shedden likewise kept himself in the running, winning a third race that Turkington would rather forget after spinning out following contact with Mat Jackson.
The situation was set up for a five-way tussle for the title, where outsider Plato became a real threat thanks to two dominant wins in the wet while Jordan saw catastrophe head his way with retirement in race two following contact with Neal in a typical BTCC melee at Surtees. Starting from the back, Jordan then drove a fine race up from the back of the field to ninth place, enough to clinch the 2013 title and spark emotional scenes in the pits with his Pirtek squad and family in the pits afterwards.
“I was the most relaxed I’ve been for the last couple of weeks before race three”, a jubilant Jordan told TCF afterwards. “I’ve been quicker, I’ve been more consistent and I’ve won more races than I have before.
“Looking back at it, if we had finished all of them it would have been good and to have ideally wrapped it up in race two, but to win it in the last race in the way we did, after all that excitement and tension, was special.”
Best of the rest – Austin and Morgan star
As proven by Tordoff’s superb rookie run to sixth in the championship, 2013 was also one for the underdogs to make themselves heroes – none more in the spotlight than the ever-charasmatic crowd pleaser himself, Rob Austin.
The WIX Racing man finally found the afterburners with the Audi A4 this season and was a constant interloper to the front-runners, culminating in the reward of a first pole in Knockhill and one of the most popular wins of recent time in BTCC at Rockingham – one of five visits to the rostrum in 2013.
Adam Morgan excelled in his second BTCC season under his family-run Ciceley Racing team banner, stringing a remarkable level of consistent top-10 results together to finish a giant-killing seventh in the championship standings and picking up a maiden podium himself at Oulton Park during a hectic final race that day.
Morgan was Toyota’s success story more than often this season as he moves to Mercedes machinery in 2014, Frank Wrathall (Dynojet) and Dave Newsham (Speedworks) not visiting the podium despite showing strong qualifying pace during the season, while the bigest surprise of the year proved to be the dissapointment of Airwaves Racing who ended 2013 winless.
The Ford squad entered the season brimming from the early performance of their personally-built NGTC Focus towards the end of 2012, but their optimism turned to head-scratching as the pace did not translate into the new season. Mat Jackson and Aron Smith ended a struggling first half to the season without a podium to their name, and it took until Snetterton for a drastic turn in fortune to occur for the Kent squad.
The season ended at least with heart as a palmful of podiums came their direction over the final five meetings, six in total during a winless season which all involved would rather not witness a repeat of.
Dan Welch is hopeful of bringing a second Proton to the grid for 2014, showing flashes of pace all year on his way to a pair of top 10 finishes, while Turkington’s WSR team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster fought initially to get into the groove with the new BMW until the former secured a long-awaited podium visit at Knockhill.
Tony Gilham‘s Team HARD were one of the main distractions for attention elsewhere, fielding a total of 11 drivers during the season including a messy return outing for Paul O’Neill and the youngest BTCC driver at just 16 years of age, Aiden Moffat.
The team’s form driver was former BTCC winner Tom Onslow-Cole, who grabbed three surprise visits to the podium in style as he got to grips with the squad’s new Volkswagen Passat rapidly. Depsite his strong showings, Onslow-Cole would later inexplicably leave the team after Knockhill to race a third Airwaves Ford for the final three meetings of the season, one which may remain in place for 2014.
Jack Goff also got to grips with the BTCC Vauxhall Insignia very quickly to prove his Renault UK Clio Cup title-winning credentials. After suffering his unfair share of bad luck during a solid rookie season, Goff was eventually rewarded with a second place finish in the exciting season-concluding race at Brands Hatch in a great tussle with Shedden.
Final BTCC 2013 Championship standings:
1) Andrew Jordan – 397 points
2) Gordon Shedden – 390 points
3) Jason Plato – 380 points
4) Matt Neal – 356 points
5) Colin Turkington – 347 points
6) Sam Tordoff – 386 points
7) Adam Morgan – 233 points
8) Mat Jackson – 225 points
9) Aron Smith – 201 points
10) Dave Newsham – 176 points