Top 10 BTCC drivers of 2016

Motorsport
The Top Ten BTCC drivers of 2016

A new year brings a new feature to The Car Expert – in future we will be offering regular Top Tens from across the automotive world. We start with a sporting countdown…

Britain’s biggest motorsport series, the British Touring Car Championship, again provided plenty of action over its 10-weekend, 30-race 2016 season. Yet again the title was decided at the final meeting, with an unprecedented eight drivers starting the day with a chance of glory. Eventually Gordon Shedden secured his second championship in a row, this time by a mere two points. Yet while points might make prizes they don’t always tell the full story – who amongst the 32-strong BTCC field most impressed us in 2016?

Tom Ingram

Tom Ingram, Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis
Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis
Championship position: 10th. Pole positions: 2. Wins: 2.
Tom Ingram surprised most onlookers by taking the first race of 2016 at Brands Hatch, his maiden win in the series. A second victory followed at Silverstone in September, though only after Ashley Sutton’s winning MG was disqualified, and while Ingram was always on the pace of the leaders he struggled to maintain the consistent strong results that title bids are built on. He did improve as the season went on and will be one to watch in 2017.

Andrew Jordan

Andrew Jordan, Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST
Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST
Championship position: 8th. Pole positions: 0. Wins: 2.
Just how good Andrew Jordan is forms one of the more common arguments in BTCC media centres. He suffered some poor luck during the season, but was also overshadowed by his team-mate on occasions, while on other days he proved to be one of the fastest drivers on the track. The search for a repeat of his 2013 title success will see Jordan in his fourth team in four seasons in 2017, will he finally find the consistent form of the past?

Jason Plato

Jason Plato, Team BMR Subaru Levorg GT
Team BMR Subaru Levorg GT
Championship position: 7th. Pole positions: 1. Wins: 1.
The BTCC’s biggest star, loved and hated in equal measure by the fans, had a curate’s egg season in 2016. One of his largest contributions was perhaps being the driving force that brought Subaru into the series, and once the car was made competitive Jason was consistently at the sharp end. However he was outshone by team-mate Colin Turkington, and some of his actions were questionable, such as seriously challenging Turkington at Brands Hatch when the Irishman was the only Subaru driver capable of winning the title. Just one win for Plato in the season, but it was his 95th in 500 starts, and that’s impressive in anyone’s book.

Matt Neal

Matt Neal, Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type-R
Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type-R
Championship position: 6th. Pole positions: 0. Wins: 3.
Several pundits, including this one, were beginning to write off Matt Neal at the start of 2016, considering he had lost his edge. He proved us all wrong with a consistently strong season in which he was always in the chase, until his title bid ended in cruel fashion when a concussion-causing impact at Brands Hatch kept him out of the final race. There were poor moments, such as an ill-advised criticism of rival Josh Cook following Neal’s own bad decision-making at Thruxton, but the Honda man remains every inch the committed racer.

Rob Collard

Rob Collard, West Surrey Racing BMW 125i M Sport
West Surrey Racing BMW 125i M Sport
Championship position: 5th. Pole positions: 0. Wins: 2.
For much of the season Rob Collard looked like WSR’s strongest title hope, despite so consistently being unable to nail a strong qualifying time. Generally mired in the back half of the grid, he showed his incredible race craft to fight up to the sharp end and be in the title hunt all year long. One wonders what could have been had be started up front more often…

Matt Jackson

Matt Jackson, Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST
Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST
Championship position: 3rd. Pole positions: 0. Wins: 5.
Possibly the most underrated driver in the BTCC? The dominance that Jackson had shown in the latter half of the 2015 season was not repeated in early 2016 mainly due to required technical changes to the car. He was consistently quick and got quicker as the season went on, and but for some cruel luck, such as the puncture that removed a likely win at Thruxton, he could well have taken the title.

Ash Sutton

Ash Sutton, Triple Eight Racing MG6
Triple Eight Racing MG6
Championship position: 13th. Pole positions: 2. Wins: 1.
Without doubt the find of 2016. This was former Clio racer Sutton’s rookie year and he made the most of it, proving that the ageing MG was not nearly as past it as some might have thought. He finished fourth in his first race, started his fourth race from pole position and by the end of the fifth meeting at Croft was a BTCC race winner. He took a second victory at Silverstone only to have it removed when the MG’s rear wing was found to be incorrectly adjusted after the event. Through it all Sutton proved himself able to battle with the best – winning the Jack Sears trophy for first-season drivers is surely the first of many BTCC prizes for the 22-year-old.

Sam Tordoff

Sam Tordoff, West Surrey Racing BMW 125i M Sport
West Surrey Racing BMW 125i M Sport
Championship position: 2nd. Pole positions: 0. Wins: 2.
Sam Tordoff rose from good team player to serious title contender in 2016, and did it mainly through consistent performances that kept racking up the points. Making the most of winter engine improvements to the BMW he looked dominant at the mid-season point and was only overtaken, cruelly, at the final round. Criticisms? He regularly struggled to secure top grid spots and once under pressure seemed to lack as much determination as his rivals. But he heads off to GT racing in 2016 with an impressive BTCC record behind him.

Colin Turkington

Colin Turkington, Team BMR Subaru Levorg GT
Team BMR Subaru Levorg GT
Championship position: 4th. Pole positions: 3. Wins: 5.
Race wins would have been an ambitious target for a team debuting an all-new car with major differences to its rivals, notably the Subaru Levorg GT’s so low down and tiny flat-four ‘Boxer’ power unit. Irishman Turkington plugged on through the difficult early rounds, including missing all three races at Thruxton, and once a new inlet manifold unlocked the Subaru’s potential he made more of the car than did his team-mates. To be in with a serious title chance at the final weekend was deserved reward for his effort.

Gordon Sheddon

Gordon Shedden – Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type-R
Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type-R
Championship position: 1st. Pole positions: 2. Wins: 4.
It may seem easy to pick the champion as the number one driver but Scotsman Shedden showed true maturity and determination to fight back from a dire first half of the season blighted by mechanical failure and accidents not of his making, and for a second year in succession to be in the mix on finals day. Again, he kept his nerve to overtake title rival Tordoff and top the points for the only time in 2016, and the one time it mattered. Shedden remains the most consistently strong driver in the series.

All photography courtesy Jakob Ebrey/BTCC

Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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