Both Colin Turkington And Ashley Sutton go into the final round of the BTCC with a chance of scooping the title, but only one can be crowned champion on October 1st
Even for a series with a reputation for delivering year long, non-stop action, 2017 has been a watershed year for the BTCC, with a record 13 different winners, up and coming youngsters battling (and often winning) against seasoned pros, and some of the closest racing seen in the UK since the Super Touring era. It’s made for compelling viewing both for those watching from the Armco and the sofa, with last weekend’s trio of races at Silverstone, the penultimate round of the series, serving to eliminate all but 3 of the championship contenders.
With this in mind, here’s our rundown of the protagonists, their season so far and what they must do to clamber to the top step of the podium at Brands Hatch.
Gordon Shedden – The Outside Bet
Gordon Shedden chances of retaining his championship took a hammering at Silverstone, so much so that he’s now an outside bet for the title. That said, Shedden is a seasoned pro and a multiple BTCC champion; he knows what’s required to win at this level, is at one with his car and team, and can even count on the support of his team mate Matt Neal. These are significant points and will no doubt give the a sliver of Scot hope going into the final race weekend of 2017, but he’ll still require an incredible amount of luck to actually win; he’ll be required to take 1st place at all 3 races, claim pole and the fastest lap of the race, all while hoping for chaos to befall both his title challengers. An uphill challenge, true, but we can expect Shedden to drive like his life depends on it come Sunday 1st of October.
Gordon Shedden sits 3rd overall on 272 points, 66 points behind 1st placed man Ashley Sutton
Colin Turkington – The Seasoned Pro
Another former champion at the top of his game, Colin Turkington made the switch from Team BMR’s Subaru Levorgs to WSR’s BMW 125i M-Sport in time for the 2017 season, a move which caused more than a few raised eyebrows in the BTCC paddock. ‘Turks’ has always been a demon behind the wheel of Munich metal though, and he claimed his first title in 2009 using a WSR BMW 320si, then followed it up with another in 2014, this time using a 1-Series.
Turkington encountered more than his fair share of bad luck last time out at Silverstone; he clawed back a few points on Ash Sutton with 4th in the opening race before it was red flagged (his team mate Rob Collard was lucky to walk away from the shunt in question), while Race 2 saw him claim a 3rd spot, this time thanks to the steward’s decision to penalise Ash Sutton for his last corner lunge at the Northern Irishman. Sutton’s subsequent demotion to the back of the grid should’ve allowed Turkington to take points off him, but the 3rd race brought chaos on a grand scale, chaos which he was caught up in! A coming together with Jason Plato, Josh Cook and Stephen Jelley saw Turkington limp home well out of the points, while arch rival Sutton (starting from back) climbed his way up to 11th!
He might’ve endured more than his fair share of bad luck at Silverstone, but Turkington’s speed, consistency and never say die attitude means he retains a strong chance of taking another BTCC title at Brands Hatch.
Colin Turkington sits 2nd overall on 328 points, 10 points behind Ashley Sutton
Ash Sutton – The Future
It would be wrong to call Ashley Sutton a rookie; he’d already won in the BTCC prior to the start of this season and had evidently done enough to land a plum drive at Team BMR. No, the real surprise has been the degree to which he’s stepped up to the plate, becoming de facto team leader as a result of illustrious team mate Jason Plato’s torrid year, and, thanks to a run of stunning form, has come from behind to mount a serious title challenge. He now sits atop the table with a scant 10-point lead over Colin Turkington, and faces a tough battle to retain it at Brands Hatch at the end of the month.
Sutton has displayed an uncanny knack for being able to conjure up strong points finishes from seemingly insurmountable grid positions, in the process treating us to some stunningly ballsy overtakes. Silverstone saw Sutton cling onto his points lead through a mix of plucky overtaking and, in the case of the 3rd race of the day, mid grid chaos.
Race 1 saw him cross the line in 5th, one place behind Turkington. The second race was even closer, Sutton and Turkington engaging in one heck of a battle, one that ultimately ended in acrimonious fashion post-race with Sutton sent to the back of the grid for his enthusiastic overtake through Luffield. The chaos which enveloped his 2 title rivals in the third and final race of the day allowed Sutton to work his way up to 11th by the time the flag fell, earning a handy 5 points in the process.
Ash Sutton sits 1st overall on 338 points.