Once again the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship went down to the wire, with the destination of the Drivers’ crown undecided until the final round of the campaign – and, once again, Gordon Shedden was the man that wrested control of the honours right at the death.
This year undoubtedly provided one of the Scot’s toughest challenges to date. The 2016 season was as unpredictable as it was fiercely competitive, with an unprecedented 12 different drivers taking to the top step and eight heading to the finale weekend at the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit with a shot at the main prize.
After a near-perfect opening weekend – second in qualifying and race one at Brands Hatch Indy, backed up by an opening win of the year in race two – it was a completely different story from there on in for the defending champion.
Following that encouraging trip to Kent, Shedden slipped away from the points benchmark set by Team JCT600 with GardX man Sam Tordoff. A double did-not-finish at what was one of the Scotsman’s worst meetings in recent memory at Thruxton was followed shortly afterwards by a torrid time up in North Yorkshire at Croft – his season’s low point. A 15th placed finish, 13th and then 22nd rounded off a weekend to forget and left the reigning champion 52 points adrift of table-topping Tordoff and ninth in the overall tally.
The summer break brought with it a chance to regroup and rethink and when the BTCC reconvened to race at Snetterton, Shedden was back. Pole was built upon by a podium and a win, sparking what was to be a remarkable comeback throughout the second half of the campaign.
It wasn’t just the results themselves from Norfolk that signalled that the fightback was on but the manner in which Shedden went about getting them. Race three’s victory came via a typically never-say-die drive from the Honda man, whose pursuit of leader Rob Collard came to a head on the final lap.
“Three laps from the end, I began to think I might be able to catch Collard and my car just came alive,” said Shedden. “With two laps to go, I felt sure I could have a go and that a win might be on the cards and then it all happened on the last lap, when it was bumper-to-bumper until we reached the chequered flag. It was fair racing, and I couldn’t be happier. That win put me right back in contention.”
From there on in, there was never a finish outside of the top ten for ‘Flash’ as he fought tooth and nail to reel in the early-season points deficit to his rivals. Three consistent points-scores on home turf at Knockhill maintained the upward trend, followed by a third win of 2016 in the opener from Rockingham. Over that same weekend, Tordoff was forced into a pair of stunning recovery drives – fighting his way through the pack from outside the top 25 to 10th in race one before taking the victory in race two. Shedden would not be getting anything for free – all ground gained would need to be gained with a ruthlessness, and every opportunity to garner an advantage taken.
Silverstone provided such an opportunity and duly, Shedden pounced – though not without having to contend with difficulties of his own. The West Surrey Racing BMW of Tordoff ended up outside of the top ten at the chequered flag all three races from Northamptonshire. Meanwhile, Shedden battled back from a puncture in the opener to eighth and a win in the final bout of the weekend to capitalise and bring himself to within 11 points of Tordoff.
“It isn’t easy to fight your way through at Silverstone, but I got my head down in race two, opened as many doors as I could and squeezed through them all,” said Shedden. “It was exactly the kind of weekend we needed around a circuit where we had feared we might struggle.”
Heading to the finale, of the eight in contention Shedden would certainly have been among the most-fancied. His 2015 crown was won in similar circumstances, under pressure and needing to deliver. The Honda man again produced with the title then out of his hands, passing Tordoff to overhaul the long-time leader at the last – by just two points.
“It’s unbelievable – an incredible feeling,” said the triple champion. “I felt really relaxed all weekend, but even going into race three, I thought it was going to be really difficult – and it was! All year, I really stuck my neck on the line and made some bold, heart-in-the-mouth moves that were on the edge more often than not.
“After Croft back in June, it looked like we were down-and-out, but we stuck to our guns, kept plugging away and gave it absolutely everything to claw our way back. It just goes to show that every single point really does count in this championship. Winning the championship for the first time felt phenomenal, last year was a real rollercoaster ride and this year it was just a huge release of emotion.”
Click on the images below to download posters and wallpapers commemorating Shedden’s third BTCC title.