John Tordoff: “Sam Handled BTCC Title Defeat With Dignity”

by Dan Mason

2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship runner-up Sam Tordoff says that he is yet to decide on his 2017 plans, while his father John praised the ‘dignified’ manner in which he handled the most recent season.

The West Surrey Racing driver enjoyed the best of his four BTCC seasons to date, grabbing two victories and nine visits to the podium with the BMW squad in 2016.

Tordoff entered the final round at Brands Hatch GP holding an 11-point championship lead over reigning champion, Gordon Shedden, but would come up short by just two points as the latter successfully defended his crown in an eight-way title battle.

The former was dignified in defeat afterwards, entering the winter season as one of many drivers in the dark over plans for the 2017 campaign.

One of Sam’s biggest supporters has been his father, John Tordoff, a man who was left with the bittersweet feeling of seeing his son narrowly miss out on title success while his JCT600 company lifted the Teams and Constructors’ Championships in partnership with WSR.

Speaking to The Checkered Flag, John said: “I’m always very proud of Sam. He has always been a very fast and clean racer but this year, more than ever, he’s driven with intelligence and a maturity beyond his years.

“When the car has been quick he’s maximised the opportunity; when it’s been less quick, he’s minimised his losses by driving with his head and keeping out of trouble – something that’s easier said than done in the BTCC.”

Photo: West Surrey Racing

Photo: West Surrey Racing

The first of two race victories in 2016 came the way of the BMW driver in round 11 at Oulton Park, a weekend that moved him to the top of the championship for the first time.

The Leeds racer briefly surrendered that lead after a driveshaft failure on the warm-up lap of the final race at Snetterton in August, his father adding: “Believe it or not, the drive home from Snetterton was a more sombre affair than the drive back from Brands Hatch!”

In what has been described by many drivers on the grid as one of the toughest seasons to be successful in recent years, one factor that stood out was the level of on-track respect shown between many of the championship contenders.

That was displayed considerably during the final meeting of the season in Kent, both Shedden and Tordoff quick to greet one another after the curtain-closing race before asserting their respect when questioned of the title battle afterwards.

Tordoff’s father commended the way in which the Brands Hatch finale outcome was handled, on a weekend in which the BMW 125i could not quite keep tabs on Shedden’s rapid Civic Type-R.

“[Sam] told me at the start of the year he genuinely believed he could win the Drivers’ Championship and so nearly did”, added John. “To say we were all gutted after race three at Brands Hatch is an understatement, but credit to him, he handled the situation with dignity.

“I’ve read some people saying Sam didn’t want to win the championship badly enough and that’s complete nonsense; he did everything he could all weekend in a car that [on the day] just wasn’t as quick as his championship rivals.”

Above: Oulton Park weekend was a highlight (Photos: BTCC Media)

While Shedden himself moves into a very elite club of triple BTCC title winners that includes Bernard Unett, Bill McGovern, Frank Gardner and Dynamics team-mate, Matt Neal, Tordoff admits that time remains on his side for a future crack at the title.

Following his fourth BTCC season, Sam told TCF: “It wasn’t to be this time, but I’ve certainly got time on my hands. In the end, the best man won. We’ve jumped to the next level and firmly established ourselves as championship contenders, but I can be proud. I think I belong at this level and I feel I’m getting better and better.”

While Tordoff has plied his trade in both national motorsport and also at International level with a 2015 European Le Mans series outing in Ferrari machinery, another passion lies within that is lesser known.

The 27-year-old is also a fully-qualified accountant, holding a role within the family JCT600 dealership firm that is currently one of the largest in the UK.

Speaking in AUTOSPORT, Tordoff opened up on his own personal ambitions outside of racing, insisting that his role in the family business remains a focal point of his future.

“I don’t know what I want to do and that is something I need to go away and contemplate”, commented Sam on the subject of his plans for 2017.

“I do get a buzz from motor racing, but my ambition is to be successful in business too and sometimes the decisions are tough. I never said I was going to be motor racing for ever.

Photo: West Surrey Racing

Photo: West Surrey Racing

“I have been racing since I was eight years old, since it was just myself and my dad John at Wombwell kart circuit in Yorkshire. It has been quite a journey over 19 years.”

Since graduating to BTCC full-time in 2013 after race-winning spells in both the supporting Renault UK Clio Cup and Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Tordoff has finished no lower than seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, with six race wins to his name.

Quite where Tordoff will be in 2017 remains a decision that rests on his shoulders, one that would be respected by all involved, particularly close to home.

John himself told TCF on the subject: “Sam is one of the most level-headed, grounded and determined people I know – and I’m not just saying that because he’s my son. He’s already told me he wants my job (CEO) by the time he’s 40!

“But, he’s also sensible enough to understand that he won’t get the job without making a few sacrifices along the way.”

Tordoff’s BTCC Career So Far In Numbers:

 Results from 2010-16
Pole Positions4
Best Finish In The Championship2nd (2016)

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