After coming so close last season, Gordon Shedden was not to be denied this time, bouncing back from a disastrous opening meeting to claim the 2012 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship crown. Recall how Flash did just that with this round-by-round season review. There’s also championship standings after each meeting, so you can see exactly how the title fight developed, and at the end, a look at the top five drivers – but not quite as the standings indicate.
Round 1: Brands Hatch Indy – Newsham shocks, Neal takes first NGTC win
Dave Newsham was the name on everybody’s lips following Saturday qualifying, the ES Racing man taking a stunning pole position on his debut in the team’s S2000 Vauxhall Vectra. Matt Neal impressed in the new NGTC Honda Civic, lining up alongside the Scot – who had set two laps good enough for pole. Jason Plato, in the brand new MG6, qualified sixth.
Come race day, Rob Collard leapt into the lead at the start in the eBay Motors BMW, with the Scot dropping to third. However, he regrouped and by lap 14 hit the front – his race coming to an end immediately afterwards. Plato made an audacious attempt to pass Newsham for the lead into Paddock, firing the Coffee Drops sponsored car into a spin and ending his race in the gravel. It meant Collard was the first victor of 2012, ahead of Neal and Tom Onslow-Cole in the second WSR-run BMW. Collard led away from pole in race two but Neal was on a charge, taking the lead on lap four and, despite the best efforts of Plato, who finished fourth in race one, held on to take an historic victory – the first for an Next-Generation Touring Car in the championship.
Plato would have the final say in race three, though, moving forward from sixth on the grid to take the lead from Andrew Jordan on lap 14, one he would not relinquish to deliver the MG KX Momentum Racing team’s first win in their third race – an astonishing feat given the car’s hasty deliverance to the track. Further back, Newsham ended his day how it should have started – on the podium, after a fantastic recovery drive in race two to tenth was followed up by a strong run to third, with Jordan sandwiching the two race one colliders. Shedden’s championship starts in the worse way possible, with just 11 points from race one his only return.
Stand-out moments: Newsham’s stunning pole – and the fact he set two laps good enough for P1. There were debut wins for the turbo-powered BMW, and for TOCA’s NGTC, while the Druids car park in race three where seven cars went off on oil dropped by Mat Jackson was also a headline-grabber.
1.) Jason Plato 52 points
2.) Matt Neal 48 points
3.) Andrew Jordan 45 points
Round 2: Donington Park – Shedden’s campaign kicks off
Plato takes the first pole position for the new MG in only its second meeting. Shedden, Neal and Jordan fill the next three spots as the NGTC Honda Civics begin to show their hand. Mat Jackson made the most of his fast-starting S2000 Focus to pressure Plato and Collard. The Ford pushed the MG wide as Plato made a move for the lead and Jackson assume authority and made it four different race winners in the first four races – and Shedden made five in race two as he led teammate Neal and Jackson across the line. In race three, it all kicked off. Jackson was leading Shedden and Plato, when going into the final chicane Plato smacked into the rear of the Civic, Shedden taking a trip across the grass and gravel. Jackson took the flag ahead of Plato and Shedden, but was excluded after his Focus was found to have exceeded turbo boost limits. Plato was promoted to first, but then given a two-second penalty for the contact with Shedden, making the Scot the first double-winner of 2012. It all meant Tony Gilham, in only the second meeting in his own Team-HARD.-prepared Honda Civic, was promoted to the podium for the first time in his BTCC career.
Stand-out moments: Five different winners from the first races highlighted the intense competition at the start of 2012, while the popular Gilham’s podium was the silver lining in Jackson’s unfortunate expulsion.
1.) Plato 84 points
2.) Neal 80 points
3.) Jordan 76 points
Round 3: Thruxton – Another double for Flash as the Scot tames the rain
Before Thruxton, Thorney Motorsport announced they would not take part due to lack of funds to run and develop their NGTC Vauxhall Insignia. They would not appear again until Snetterton, after the summer break. On-track, Jordan was the third poleman of the season but to say conditions deteriorated on Sunday would be an understatement. Torrential rain hit the Hampshire circuit, turning race-day into a lottery, and it was Gordon Shedden who won big – after qualifying dramas left him and team-mate Matt Neal stranded in 18th and 19th. In race one, Mat Jackson avoided the drama as it all got a bit tight between front-row men Jordan and Plato, with the polesitter spat off into the barriers and out of the race within seconds of the start. Newsham, revelling once more in the ES Racing Vectra, hounded the Redstone Focus all the way, with less than a second covering them at the flag, while Plato held off the chasing Collard to claim another podium in the MGs first experience of wet-weather running. Then, Shedden came to the fore. A fightback from his lowly starting position saw him take sixth in race one and the growing capabilities of the Civic chassis showed as he moved closer to top of the standings with success in races two and three.
Stand-out moments: Liam Griffin‘s hefty shunt in race one ended proceedings early, arguably handing his team-mate the win, but Shedden’s double from such a low qualifying was the mark of a champion.
1.) Plato 129 points
2.) Shedden 125 points
3.) Neal 115 points
Round 4: Oulton Park – The car in front is a Honda
The Civics turned up the wick at round four, this time Neal taking the double with Shedden winning in race two. Plato lined up on pole for the second time in four races but was unable to take the start, and Neal won the first encounter from Jordan, less than a quarter of a second between them, with Rob Collard excelling again in the S2000 BMW to take a comfortable podium. In race two, Neal developed a problem early on which saw him plummet to fifth, while the Scot headed Jordan – once again playing second-fiddle to the works Hondas – and the pair a mammoth ten seconds clear of the resurgent Plato. The podium for the two-time champion was fully-deserved, having charged through from the back, but it robbed popular paddock man Dan Welch of a podium, his family-run Proton giving its best showing in the BTCC throughout the weekend. Plato’s attempts to take a first win since the opening weekend at Brands were stopped by Neal, back at the front once more, but it was a race marred by incidents. A six-lap dash to the finish was won by Neal, ahead of Plato and Onslow-Cole, the BMW looking best of the rest alongside the Ford Focus.
Stand-out moments: Domination from the Civics but weekend highlights lay elsewhere in the top ten – best-ever results for the popular Welch and Lea Wood in their family-run teams, as well as Speedworks Motorsport.
1.) Shedden 173 points
2.) Neal 168 points
3.) Plato 161 points
Round 5: Croft – Plato ends Honda’s run
Neal and Shedden made it seven wins on the bounce for the Yuasa Civics as they took a victory apiece in the opening two races of the day, while Jordan took a pair of fourths and a third to underline his impressive recent form. Rob Austin enjoyed a very popular podium in race two – his first of the campaign – while Paul O’Neill‘s well-received return to racing saw him bag some welcome points for Speedworks. In race three, Plato ended the recent Honda dominance by taking the reversed grid win – ensuring the Honda duo, tied at the top of the table, was well within reach as the championship headed for its summer break.
Stand-out moments: Two popular moments from this weekend for the fans was the sight of Austin on the podium for the first time this season, and other fan-favourite Paul O’Neill‘s return to racing in Tony Hughes‘ Speedworks Toyota.
1.) Neal 220 points
2.) Shedden 220 points
3.) Plato 192 points
You can read Part II of the 2012 BTCC Review here.