In the second and final instalment looking back on what turned out to be a rollercoaster 2015 campaign in the BTCC, Chris Ashby picks out his top ten highlights from the season.
10. Mat Jackson and Motorbase Performance return and dominate
Forced to take a sabbitcal from the series for the first half of the season, Motorbase Performance roared back into action at Snetterton and although that proved to be a tough weeke nd – the resot of 2015 wasn’t. Running the new Mountune EcoBoost engine, Mat Jackson hustled his Ford Focus to three consecutive pole positions and four wins to pose the question what they could have achieved had they started in April.
9. Matt Neal reaches 25th BTCC anniversary landmark
Making his debut in 1991, Matt Neal has gone on to enjoy a storied career which has seen three drivers’ titles being secured. At Silverstone in September the Honda Yuasa racer returned to the circuit where it all began 25 years before.
8. Andy Priaulx bags pole position on series return
Returning to the BTCC for the first time in 12 years brought with it an air of anticipation around Andy Priaulx and the triple-World Touring Car champion delivered on his West Surrey Racing debut by storming to pole position around the Brands Hatch Indy layout.
7. Nicolas Hamilton makes BTCC history
Inking a deal to compete at five events piloting the AmD Tuning-run Audi S3, the younger brother of triple-Formula 1 champion Lewis made history at Croft. Becoming the first driver to compete with a disability (cerebal palsy), Hamilton would go on to feature at four meetings and make steady progress throughout.
6. Jason Plato’s dominant Oulton Park showcase
Since debuting in 1997, Cheshire’s Oulton Park has been a favourite of Jason Plato’s and the annual visit in June underlined that fact. From the moment the Team BMR driver arrived on the Island layout he was in a commanding mood and went on to top both practice sessions before taking pole position in his Volkswagen CC. Race day would see him continue his dominance by taking a lights-to-flag win in race one before then becoming the first driver to win with the maximum 75kgs of success ballast on-board.
5. Jack Goff clinches popular breakthrough victory
Stepping into a factory seat for 2015 brought with it a lot questions that needed answers for Jack Goff.. Partnering Andrew Jordan at MG Triple Eight Racing, the 24-year-old often matched the Red Bull athlete and at Snetterton he finally pulled into parc ferme as a race winner. Converting his reverse grid pole position into a lead he held until the end, Goff showed his class to withstand a late wobble and pressure from Jason Plato to take a maiden victory in the series.
4. Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard go wheel-to-wheel at Croft
Coming to blows in race two at Croft in late July only whetted the appetite for the early battle that Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard provided in round 15. Dicing for the lead during the opening laps, Shedden went on to complete a ballsy move for the lead through the high-speed Esses.
3. Josh Cook and Aron Smith survive Donington Park stunner
Donington Park’s triple-header will live long in the memory for a number of reason, most notably race three. Leading the way in only his sixth BTCC race, Josh Cook soon had a charging Aron Smith to contend with and the two then found themselves both heading down the Craner Curves on the grass. Rejoining the track in amongst the likes of Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan, the pair managed to escape making contact with other cars and went on to finish the race.
2. Tom Ingram comes of age at Rockingham against Jason Plato
Coming towards the end of his second season in the BTCC with Speedworks, Tom Ingram showed his class in the reverse grid encounter at Rockingham. Launching from pole position, the Toyota driver diced with Jason Plato for much of the race before finishing a stellar second at the checkered flag.
1. Gordon Shedden defies the odds in round 30 to be crowned champion
Having entered the final weekend of the season with a healthy 23-point advantage, Gordon Shedden saw his dreams of a second title slipping away at Brands Hatch after a nightmare race two. Scoring no points and ultimately left to start the final race of the season from P19, the Scotsman charged through the field. Despite title rival Jason Plato winning the race, Shedden made it to fourth on the road to take the crown by four points.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Sayle Photography