Honda happy to end season on a high
Gordon Shedden ensured Honda Yuasa Racing head into the off-season in the best possible fashion by scything his way through the spray at Brands Hatch to the final victory of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season last weekend.
Honda Yuasa Racing travelled to Brands Hatch’s legendary GP Circuit off the back of a brace of challenging outings at Rockingham and Silverstone – but on a damp-but-drying track in qualifying Shedden was firmly back in business by clocking the third-quickest lap time in his striking Civic Tourer, although a late red flag just as conditions were at their optimum denied team-mate Matt Neal the opportunity to join him up at the sharp end of the order.
That theme continued at the beginning of the opening encounter, when a multi-car melee at Paddock Hill Bend removed both drivers from contention on the spot. The Scotsman’s Civic Tourer was touched by the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus of Fabrizio Giovanardi, sending him spinning across the track on the entry to the corner – and despite doing his best to avoid it, Neal was lucklessly collected in the ensuing pile-up.
Hefty damage to the back of Shedden’s car meant the Honda Yuasa Racing crew had no room to breathe before race two, whilst Neal was airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks after complaining of pain in his ribs. Thankfully, he was soon discharged and returned to the track to cheer on his team-mate over the remaining two races.
From 25th on the starting grid in the first of them, Shedden flew through the field. Lapping fastest on the circuit on occasion, he pinched seventh position on the finish line – which subsequently became sixth following a penalty ahead.
That left the Fife racer fifth on the reversed grid for race three, by which point the heavens had opened with a vengeance. Immediately gaining a spot to fourth in the treacherous conditions, by the end of lap three he was up into second and he manoeuvred his way past the Crabbie’s Racing Focus into the lead on the entry to Dingle Dell chicane on lap four.
In torrential rain, Shedden thereafter sped away from his pursuers, building up a healthy margin before a mid-race safety car intervention and sprinting clear once more when the action resumed. A commanding third victory of the season was just reward for his and the team’s efforts – and cemented his third position in the final championship standings. He also set fastest lap by more than a second.
“After what happened in race one, I had doubts we would even get on-track again today,” the 2012 BTCC Champion confessed. “It was a 28G impact and the back end of the car was destroyed – it looked more like a Civic hatch than a Tourer! Matt’s pretty beaten up and I don’t feel at my best, but this just goes to show that you can never keep a good team down!
“All the guys have worked incredibly hard all year, and in race two, I was desperate to hold onto third position in the championship and repay them for their efforts. That was probably one of my best races of the season.
“The rain is always a great leveller, and in race three, it just underlined how good the Civic Tourer’s chassis is – this car really handles well. To win was an absolutely fantastic result for everybody at Honda, Yuasa and Team Dynamics. We took on a bold project at the start of this year and created a bit of history with the Civic Tourer. It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey, and now it’s great to go into the winter on a high.”
Honda Yuasa Racing concluded the campaign placed third in the teams’ standings, with Honda runner-up in the manufacturers’ classification – motivation, affirms Technical Director Barry Plowman, to do even better in 2015.
“That’s how you pull off a turnaround!” he enthused. “What started out as a seriously bad day ended up on a much more positive note. Looking at the car after race one, I honestly don’t think many people expected to even see it out on the circuit again today – let alone achieving the results it has done. Gordon produced a storming drive in race two and had race three well under control all the way through.
“We’ve had a disappointing run recently, so to close the season out with a win is hugely satisfying and rewarding for everybody involved. We were all a little bit down after the first race, but we leave Brands Hatch with smiles on our faces and ready to attack afresh in 2015.”