The final round of the season took place at Brands Hatch, located in Longfield in Kent. The race weekend was held over the 10th and 11th of October on the Grand Prix circuit layout. The focus of the spectators was firmly on Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden as the pair were fighting for the overall title, however Colin Turkington and Matt Neal were still in fight for the crown too.
At the end of the final qualifying session of the year once again Mat Jackson would start the first encounter of the weekend from pole position with Aron Smith alongside in second. Third on the grid was Adam Morgan with Gordon Shedden alongside in fourth. Next up on the grid in fifth was Colin Turkington with teammate Jason Plato alongside in sixth, seventh was Tom Ingram with Matt Neal for company in eighth. Ninth on the grid was Andy Priaulx and rounding the top ten qualifiers was Josh Cook.
Jackson got a brilliant start off the line and lead the field into Paddock Hill Bend, Aron Smith had a good battle with Adam Morgan for second place. Smith kept Morgan at bay and kept second place as the duo went round Druids. Turkington made a strong start and jumped past Shedden when he was too busy looking in his mirrors for Plato as they exited Paddock Hill Bend. Once Turkington got past Shedden he was left to drive off into the distance in a lonely race to the flag. Shedden was left to battle with Plato, they had a good battle going until some contact from the Volkswagen CC sent Shedden wide. There were some concerns during the race about the speed Plato’s soft tyres were degrading but the two mid-race safety cars helped him manage to preserve the tyres. Shedden’s race was doomed by the earlier contact as well as having broken powered steering. At the beginning of the race both Triple Eight Racing driver’s Jack Goff and Andrew Jordan dived into the pit lane in an attempt to set the fastest laps to start the second encounter from higher up the grid. Alain Menu also darted into the pit lane in the earlier stages of the race in an attempt to get race two pole but unfortunately had to retire later in the race.
For race two of the weekend Mat Jackson started from pole once again with Aron Smith alongside in second. Third on the grid was Adam Morgan with Dave Newsham in fourth, Tom Ingram started in fifth with Jack Goff alongside in sixth. Seventh on the grid was Andy Priaulx with Jason Plato alongside in eighth. Lining up in ninth place on the grid was Colin Turkington with Jeff Smith starting alongside in tenth.
The Ford Focus of Mat Jackson stormed ahead into the lead of the race off the line, Adam Morgan in the Mercedes followed him through in second. Tom Ingram was well in the mix with everyone in the top five during the first lap. Ingram went three wide with Andy Priaulx and Josh Cook as the trio entered Paddock Hill Bend and he succeeded to gain places. Then Ingram managed to gain another place when Aron Smith was pushed wide by Adam Morgan on the run round Druids. As Morgan and Ingram powered from Westfield down into Dingle Dell Ingram managed to get past the Mercedes. Ingram’s next target was to chase down Mat Jackson to challenge for the lead of the race. However, Jackson was too far ahead for Ingram to catch in the eighteen lap race around the GP circuit.
Behind the leading trio the championship action began to heat up. Aron Smith backed the fifth placed Dave Newsham and sixth placed Jack Goff up because he intended to help teammate Plato, who was running in seventh, to gain more places to have a better chance of winning the championship. After a few laps Smith dropped back behind Newsham and Goff, moved aside so that Plato finished higher and was more likely to be involved in the reversed grid draw for the final race of the season. Meanwhile Shedden was having a nightmare as he received contact at Surtees and again into Westfields, this made him drop down into 16th. There was a mid-race safety car period as marshals needed to recover the stricken cars of Martin Depper, Rob Austin and Derek Palmer from the gravel trap at Clearways. Shedden’s soft tyres went off and he had issues with his brakes after the contact he received. Colin Turkington suffered a puncture on the last lap so he was ruled out of the title as he retired from the race.
Mat Jackson took the victory in his Ford Focus followed by Tom Ingram in his Toyota Avensis in second and Adam Morgan’s Mercedes in third. Fourth place went to Power Maxed Racing’s Dave Newsham and fifth went to Triple Eight’s Jack Goff. Sixth across the line was Jason Plato in his Team BMR Volkswagen CC followed by Honda Yuasa’s Matt Neal in seventh and Team BMR’s Aron Smith in eighth. Ninth went to Andy Priaulx in his West Surrey Racing run BMW and rounding out the top ten was Rob Collard in the second of the West Surrey Racing BMW’s.
For the final race of the 2015 season Matt Neal started on pole with Jason Plato alongside in second. Third on the grid was Jack Goff with Dave Newsham in fourth and Adam Morgan in fifth. Sixth on the grid was Tom Ingram, seventh was Mat Jackson and eighth was Aron Smith. Lining up ninth was Andy Priaulx and rounding out the top ten starters was Rob Collard. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘who will reach Paddock Hill Bend first off the start?’.
Both Plato and Neal got brilliant starts, as the cars plunged into the first bend the rear of Neal’s car slipped and caused him to run slightly wide. This allowed Plato to dive ahead to start leading the race. Goff was busy defending third whilst Neal attempted to catch Plato up. On the opening lap Tom Ingram was pushed out wide at Druids which landed Ingram beached in the gravel trap. This occurred when Jackson dived up the inside of Newsham pushing the Chevrolet into Ingram’s Toyota. Whilst Ingram’s stricken Toyota was in the gravel, Jake Hill spun on his own and slammed into it. A safety car was deployed to allow marshals to clean up the stricken cars and for medics to attend to the two drivers involved. As the field were released to restart the race, Stewart Lines spun his Houseman Racing Toyota avensis and came to a halt in the Clearways gravel trap. This meant another safety car had to be brought out so they could remove the car and put it in a safe place. This time when the field were released to restart the race again Dave Newsham spun into the gravel trap at Clearways, prompting another safety car. All the safety car periods were frustrating Jason Plato as he had already had to nail two race starts, Shedden was also getting frustrated as this meant he had less laps to gain places to take the title from rival Plato.
At the second restart Goff jumped past the Honda Civic of Matt Neal to take second. Shedden was on the hunt for the title but had a lot to do to be able to come out on top as champion. He managed to dive up the inside of Jeff Smith, halfway round that same lap Shedden was running in 10th place. On lap ten of the race Shedden fought past Andrew Jordan along the back straight of the GP circuit. His next mission was to pass Andy Priaulx. Smith pushed Priaulx off line whilst the duo were battling, which allowed Shedden to dive past into eighth place. Next up was Aron Smith. As they began lap twelve Shedden powered alongside Smith and managed to hold out to take seventh place. One lap later he pulled the exact same move on Rob Collard to get into sixth but Shedden still needed to gain more places because Plato had the points for leading plus the fastest lap. Shedden had a sneaky tactic up his sleeve, prior to the race there was an agreement that if necessary Neal would drop back to assist Shedden to climb higher up the pack to win the championship. With Plato being ahead and in the lead of the race, the plan came into action. Neal dived up the inside of Goff to slow the MG down, allowing Jackson up into second. Shedden was up to fifth after passing the Mercedes of Adam Morgan. Neal dropped behind Goff and Shedden so that Shedden had enough points to become champion. Shedden was not done fighting, he attempted to pass Goff and constantly kept him on his toes. Plato may have lead the race and won the race but Shedden was the new 2015 champion.
Jason Plato took the win in his Team BMR run Volkswagen CC followed across the line by Mat Jackson in his Motorbase run Ford Focus. Rounding out the podium was Jack Goff in the first of the Triple Eight Racing run MG6’s in third followed across the line by Gordon Shedden in the first Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Type R in fourth. Fifth place went to the sister car of Matt Neal, sixth went the way of Adam Morgan in his WIX backed Mercedes, seventh went to Rob Collard in his West Surrey Racing run BMW and eighth went to Andrew Jordan in the second MG6 run by Triple Eight Racing. Ninth across the line was Aron Smith in his Team BMR run Volkswagen CC and rounding out the top ten finishers was Andy Priaulx in his IHG rewards sponsored BMW.
Gordon Shedden was crowned the 2015 British Touring Car Championship Champion! Jason Plato finished second in the overall driver’s championship just four points behind Gordon Shedden. Colin Turkington was crowned the 2015 independent driver’s trophy champion with Plato coming runner up, just 9 points behind his teammate. The Jack Sears Trophy winner for 2015 was Josh Cook with an astounding 196 points lead ahead of Mike Bushell in second place.
© Fay Tilley 14th February 2016