A look the top ten moments which sculpted the decade.
With the new decade here, I thought this would be a perfect time to look back at the ten best bits from the past decade of the British Touring Car Championship.
There have been amazing moments throughout each season so narrowing it down to ten was tricky, however I have tried to look at the headlines as well as the best bits of driving (and if they were meant or not!)
I hope you all enjoy!
10. Matt Neal & Jake Hill - Oulton Park 2019
The tenth biggest moment of the decade has to be from last season where Jake Hill “won” his first BTCC race at Oulton Park, only for it to be taken away from him later the same evening.
The headlines were written in the final race of the day where Hill and leader Matt Neal were diving for the lead. As Neal defended into turn 1, Hill attempted the switchback on the exit, clipping the rear of Neal, tipping him into a spin down the hill towards Cascades.
It left Hill with a huge lead as thankfully everyone avoided the spinning Neal who disappeared into a cloud of his own tyre smoke as the Honda driver attempted to regain control. The accident left Neal way back in the pack and forced old rival Jason Plato to retire as his avoidance resulted in him bouncing over the grass puncturing his radiator.
Hill went on to take the flag but Neal, furious with Hill’s attempt, approached the 25-year-old in parc ferme letting him know what he thought of the move. This drove the crowds watching at the circuit and at home into a social media frenzy, was he right to approach him? Did Neal do the right thing? Were Neal’s actions justified?
It was a moment which split opinion and to this day still does. Hill deservedly went onto win his first race at Knockhill later in the season.
9. The Rise of Ashley Sutton and his 2017 Title
2017 was only Ashley Sutton’s second season in the BTCC however by the end of it, he was a BTCC champion, cementing his name in the history of the sport.
It was a remarkable rise for a truly remarkable driver who made his debut in 2016, partnering Josh Cook in a pair of Triple Eight MG6 GT’s. The two immediately blossomed, both on and away from the circuit, as they developed a close friendship with Ash taking his first BTCC win at Croft in treacherous conditions in his debut season.
A year later and after winning six times, two more than closest rivals Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram, Sutton went into the final three races of the season at Brands Hatch leading the standings. Despite a shaky race 2, Sutton claimed the championship in dramatic style after
Turkington retired following contact at Graham Hill Bend.
It was an amazing achieving to win the championship so early on in his BTCC career, and a championship which was fully justified as his pace all season was superb. Sutton still remains a powerhouse of the BTCC to this day, the new decade will see him partner Aiden Moffat at Laser Tools Racing in a pair of Infiniti Q50’s.
8. Neal and Shedden Clash - Oulton Park 2011
Rule number one of motorsport, never take out your teammate. Sadly for Matt Neal, this rule evaded him as he and Shedden came together on the last lap at Oulton Park in 2011.
It was a damp day and both Neal and Shedden were cruising to a one-two finish, a result which would have been their third lockout of the season. A relaxed Shedden took his normal line into the final corner, as he prepared for his third win of that year.
Neal however, the typical racing driver, saw the gap and went for it, locking up on the wet inside and clattered the side of his teammate, pushing them both off into the gravel. Neal retired on the spot however Shedden was able to recover eventually finishing a lowly sixth.
It reminded many of other famous clashes between teammates, Muller and Thompson in 2002 spring to mind for me however the most famous of all must be between Will Hoy and
Andy Rouse in 1992 at Brands Hatch.
It was not all bad for Neal in 2011 however as he went on to take his third BTCC title.
7. Shedden’s Best - Snetterton 2011
Time to look at what for me is the best bit of driving of the decade which occurred at Snetterton in 2011.
While battling James Nash at the then brand new Snetterton 300 circuit, Gordon Shedden’s left front wing became lose due to contact, ensuring he received a black and orange mechanical flag which states the driver must come in to fix the fault with their car on safety grounds. With only two laps to go this would have put Shedden well out of the points and with little chance of clawing any time back.
To avoid this fate, Shedden deliberately ran wide out of Williams and clipped a haybale which was put there by race officials to discourage drivers from using too much track on the outside of the bend. The clip was enough to remove the wing causing the Scotsman so much grief and with that the black and orange flag was withdrawn.
Despite commentator Tim Harvey’s initial scepticism that Shedden meant it, he said himself if he did it would be the best bit of driving of the year. I am in no doubt he meant it, turning left slightly just before clipping the bail at over 100 mph is incredible.
Shedden finished 2011 second however he went on to win three BTCC titles later on in the decade.
6. Senna Proctor’s first win - Brands Hatch 2018
Over the last three seasons we have seen a rise of the new generation of BTCC drivers coming through the ranks such as Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram. Another one who has shone in recent years is Senna Proctor, who made his debut in 2017 for Power Maxed Racing.
A year later at the season opening Brands Hatch weekend, the weather was wet and clouds were gathering, however, there was a dry line appearing, so what if the rain which was expected did not come?
That’s what Proctor and a few drivers thought, with the Vauxhall driver along with others, including Aidan Moffat, Ollie Jackson and Jake Hill, opting for slicks. Initial signs were that they had all made an error with their lap times way-off those on wet tyres. However, people trackside, myself included, realised how much the dry line was appearing and clicked that it would only be a matter of time until the switch happened.
That switch happened, with drivers on slicks suddenly lapping over three seconds a lap faster than those on wets. The only problem was they were filling the lower positions, miles back from the leaders of the race.
Amazingly, all of those on slicks clawed it back in a matter of laps, and fought for the win in front of those of us trackside.
After some strong duals it was Proctor who came out on top ahead of Jake Hill and Ollie Jackson, all three of them with their first podiums of their BTCC careers. Everyone in the paddock was crying with happiness as emotions ran high, it was a truly wonderful moment for three very talented drivers who deserved the praise they received.
5. Brands Hatch 2019 - It Couldn’t Happen Again, Could It?
A year on and once again the conditions were wet, however in a weird case of deja vu, the conditions were drying once more as the first race of the day got underway.
There was an initial delay to the proceedings as thick fog covered the circuit, making visibility impossible. It was an amazing atmosphere, thousands of us at the circuit anticipating the new season, in the strange silence which often partners thick fog. Once the race track was declared safe, a decision was on the horizon, play it safe with wets or risk it all on slicks.
Like 2018, those who opted for slicks plummeted back to the rear of the pack, those who risked the rain this year included Jake Hill who was joined by Josh Cook, Tom Chilton and Aiden Moffat.
Again, trackside you could see the crossover happening but far earlier than the previous year, leaving Cook to dominate the race ahead of Hill and Chilton. For me, the first race of the day at Brands Hatch was the best of the season and it was amazing to watch the action unfold in front of me, along with my dad.
Let us hope 2020 has more thrills in the same vein!
4. Jason Plato Rolls - Donington Park 2011
Onto one of the most dramatic moments of the decade, Jason Plato’s roll at Donington Park.
Despite the accident being replayed multiple times in montages and BTCC round-up videos, the off started as an innocuous skate across the grass down the Craner Curves after Plato was clattered by Liam Griffin’s Motorbase Ford Focus.
However, Plato was unable to avoid contact with the grass verge with his car damaged from the initial impact. Even once Plato had hit the grass bank the impact was minimal however the car dug into the gravel and carnage ensued as Plato’s Chevrolet Cruze rolled end over end multiple times before coming to a stop on its wheels, completely and utterly totalled.
The crash was by far the biggest of the year and one of the biggest of the decade, thankfully Plato was completely uninjured, the end result every proper motorsport fan likes to see.
Amazingly, Plato’s team were able to get the car back out for the final race of the day, although it still did show signs of its previous roll with parts of the roof and bodywork still caved in! Plato would go onto finish the championship third.
3. Dan Cammish's Heart-Brake - Brands Hatch 2019
Last season’s finale at Brands Hatch must go down in history as one of the most dramatic final weekends in British Touring Car Championship history.
With three drivers going for the championship, Dan Cammish, in only his second season in the series, was up against the WSR superstars of Andrew Jordan and reigning champion Colin Turkington.
Turkington went into the weekend as title favourite however he had an horrendous second race in tricky conditions which saw his hopes slip away, gifting the advantage to his rivals.
Throughout the day, all three drivers had a chance of winning the title however as the final race of the day went on, it appeared to be Cammish in pole position for his first title.
The gap to Turkington was close, with the Northern Irishman carving his way through the field after his second race calamity. Cammish on the other hand was losing ground, letting drivers through with his car off the pace.
It was also apparent that his brakes were glowing much brighter than any of the cars around him. This would come back to bite Cammish as with two laps to go, and the title in his hands, his brakes failed as he slowed at the bottom of Hawthorn Hill, bouncing through the gravel and into the barriers backwards at some speed. This ensured he retired for the first time of the season, gifting the championship to Turkington.
The phrase emotional rollercoaster is an overused phrase however I still can’t believe it happened to this day and I’m sure Dan can’t either. Hopefully he can bounce back even stronger into the new decade.
2. The Seven Champions of 2014
After three seasons of integrating the new NGTC regulations into the BTCC, in which the championship struggled with consistent entries for a couple of seasons, 2014 appeared with a bang as no less than seven champions took to the grid, for six different teams.
Jason Plato, Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington, Alain Menu, Fabrizio Giovanardi and reigning champion Andrew Jordan all fought for honours in a variety of different cars, with the drivers boasting a phenomenal twelve titles between them. In addition to the champions, proven race winners such as Rob Collard, Mat Jackson, Sam Tordoff and Adam Morgan were all present, as well as rookie Tom Ingram completing an all-star grid.
The championship certainly did not disappoint however some champions fared better than others in the notoriously difficult machinery with Menu and Giovanardi finishing the season outside the top ten, neither driver being able to add to their win tallies.
At the front, the current generation of challengers were taking control as Turkington, Plato and Shedden locked out the top three finishing positions in the championship, as Northern Irelander Turkington took his second crown with relative ease.
Nonetheless it was a superb season for the BTCC which saw record attendances trackside throughout the year and viewing figures sky rocket as fans tuned in to watch the best drivers contest ten enthralling weekends of racing.
What 2014 also did was regain the BTCC’s momentum and see the championship return to its absolute best, something the series had not seen since the mid-nineties during the SuperTouring era.
For me, the series is still riding that wave to this day with new manufacturers still interested in the series six seasons on.
1. The Return of Colin Turkington
Time for the biggest moment of the decade in the British Touring Car Championship which, for me, was Colin Turkington’s return to the championship in 2013.
Since returning to the championship after a three-season hiatus, Turkington has won three championships in six seasons, an amazing record for, in my opinion, one of the best tin top drivers in the world at the moment.
It is amazing to think that Turkington was out of the championship at the beginning of the decade, after winning his maiden title in 2009 he found himself on the side-lines, as budget restrictions ensured he lost his seat at WSR after their main sponsor RAC ended their sponsorship deal with the team.
It left Turkington in the wilderness for three years, in which he suffered from Bell’s Palsy. Thankfully he made a full recovery although he was still affected come his return, however he with the support of his wife overcame it through diet and training.
Although it took Turkington a year to get back to speed, come 2014 Turkington was dominant, up against one of the most competitive grids of the past two decades he won the title by 35 points. However, astonishingly he was once again without a drive in 2015 as WSR once again lost their sponsor, although this time he was able to secure a drive with Team BMR in a VW CC.
Turkington had two successful seasons before returning to WSR in 2017. His return saw him race arguably his best ever race, the penultimate round of the season at Brands Hatch, where he won the race having started fifteenth on the grid. It was a driving masterpiece in which he showed why he is a true champion, an accolade he achieved again a year later in 2018, beating nearest rival Tom Ingram by twelve points.
2019 saw Turkington win the series once more to make it back to back championships, and became only the second driver to win four BTCC titles, equalling Andy Rouse’s record.
Turkington is a BTCC great and will be remembered forever in the history of the sport, without his return who knows what could have happened? It will be fascinating to see what 2020 and indeed the decade brings.
A moment of the decade which deserves a mention for so many reasons is Billy Monger’s accident and what followed. Although not part of the BTCC, Billy was a part of the TOCA Tour and the circus which follows the series all around the country.
We all know so much about his life changing accident at Donington Park in April 2017, however what followed was truly special. With Billy still in hospital recovering, a crowdfund was created to help pay for Billy’s future rehabilitation with donations coming in thick and fast from around the world, including the likes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
However initially it was the BTCC fans and team members who got the fund’s momentum truly shifting. As part of the crowdfunding efforts, Adam Weaver’s young son Alfie, Weaver being the team boss of Power Maxed Racing, organised a track walk of Thruxton to take place on
Saturday evening with all donations raised going towards Billy’s recovery.
It was an amazing event which showed the solidarity of the motorsport family, and the brilliant thinking of Weaver’s son who I am sure will go onto do fantastic things. A recommended donation of £5 was set per person, although kids went free, with 1000 people being the target to take place.
Thousands of us did indeed turn up in what was a fantastic event. Despite the sad circumstances surrounding the walk, the atmosphere was incredible as those of us who had stayed to take part got together to support Billy and walked the track, along with multiple BTCC and support category drivers and team members. It was great to see the motorsport family come together in such a way and hear the conversations which were going on as the walk went on.
In the end a staggering £7499.97 was raised for Billy.
It is so great to see Billy doing so well now, both on the circuit and away from it as he finds himself on Channel 4 helping the F1 panel on punditry duties.
Additional photos from: www.btcc.net