Colin Turkington stormed to his second Dunlop MSA BTCC title in 2014
The 2014 BTCC grid included a wealth of former champions
Fabrizio Giovanardi monsters the kerbs in his Ford Focus
Honda switched from a hatchback to the estate-bodied Civic Tourer
Nick Foster was Turkington's team-mate at eBay Motors
There was close fighting throughout the capacity entry list
How the field lined up at the start of the 2014 season
Plato and Tordoff both challenged for wins in their MGs
The pack streams through Craner Curves at Donington Park
James Cole scored a best finish of 14th during the season
Massive crowds attended most rounds of the championship
'Rubbing is racing' remained the BTCC's motto
Live ITV4 coverage boosted the BTCC's public profile
Matt Neal (in gravel) endured a difficult season
Proof at Brands Hatch that three into one doesn't go
The autumn sun sets over Silverstone
BTCC drivers use all the track and more at Silverstone
Former champion Alain Menu was a high-profile returnee
The Dunlop MSA BTCC review magazine is out now
Things looked tough for Northern Irishman Colin Turkington as he lined up against six other former champions at the start of the British Touring Car Championship.
The team that prepared his eBay Motors-backed BMW 125i M Sport spent time in the wind tunnel over the winter, in the end finding a specification that totally refined the car. But reigning champion Andrew Jordan hit the ground running in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic Type-R, and it wasn’t until after Thruxton in May, the third meeting, that the refreshed BMW got on a roll.
That was partly thanks to a set-up gamble on the part eBay Motors BMW team boss Dick Bennetts, who was engineering the team's second 1-series, driven by Rob Collard. After scratching their heads at Thruxton, Bennetts threw caution to the wind with a radical new set-up which transformed the BMW's handling. The set-up was then tried on Turkington's car, which flew thereafter.
But there was a cloud. Jason Plato in his KX Clubcard Fuel Save MG6 was the most vociferous in complaining that rear-wheel drive machines, such as the BMWs, had an advantage at the start of the race. Officials looked took a view and mandated a revised first gear ratio to nulify some of the cars' gain.
Then there was astonishment at how the BMW could carry the 45kg of success ballast into each meeting and still fight. Turkington said the ballast allowed him to alter the weight distribution and ‘settle’ the lively rear axle, so it was in fact handing him an advantage.
As a result, the ballast couldn’t take the shine off a summer in which Turkington snatched six victories and asserted himself at the top of the BTCC table. More impressive was his comeback from 27th to fourth in race two at Knockhill in August after he had been shunted off the road in race one. As he said at the time, the result in Fife was a pivotal moment.
Strong weekends from Plato at Snetterton and Silverstone kept him in with a shout of the crown ahead of the showdown, but it was a long shot. After the Brands Hatch showdown's opening race - won by Plato but with Turkington third – it was over. To show Turkington’s pace, his team-mate Collard could only muster one win and finished sixth.
Plato had taken six wins on circuits particularly suited to the MG’s layout, but a couple of non-finishes following electrical woes at the first race of the season and a shunt at Thruxton put him on the back foot.
The MG’s heavy front end made it harsher on its tyres than others. Nevertheless, he was a master tactician and tried his best to mix things up with the BMWs at Silverstone. His optimistic lunge cannoned a few cars into each other – including Turkington’s – but in the end things didn’t work out his way.
Plato's team-mate Sam Tordoff didn’t qualify outside the top three over the last five meetings and picked up his second win at Donington Park in April. His pace was unquestioned but if there was a car failure going around at MG, it seemed to happen to him.
As a publicity stunts go, introducing the Honda Civic Tourer was huge. The factory team had run the Civic hatchback since 2007, so cue the new, elongated Tourer version – and lots of development back at the workshops of Team Dynamics, which operates Honda's race programme. The Tourer was a podium finisher in its first meeting and a winner in its second at Donington in Gordon Shedden’s hands.
The wheels came off Shedden's team-mate Matt Neal’s title charge with a mid-season spell when he was ruled out of race three twice in succession, and he was also excluded at Croft when his Tourer was found to be under the minimum ride height.
Shedden, who had added to his first win at Thruxton, kept his tally ticking along nicely. Only a bruising Rockingham – when he failed to finish race three as he was caught up in an accident – knocked the stuffing out of his dreams. Shedden ended the campaign third in the points while Neal was seventh.
Andrew Jordan’s title defence was kicked off course by a dreadful weekend at Snetterton. He was a few points adrift of the lead going into Snetterton but a practice crash knocked him back. He ended up in the medical centre after race two the following day and that was it for his title hopes.
The Airwaves Racing Ford Focus team, operated by Motorbase, had some ground to make up. After a winless 2013 – unusual by its standards – the appointment of double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi was a statement of intent.
But it was team-mate Mat Jackson's ability to see the chequered flag that in each race that really made the difference. By season's end, he was the only driver to complete every lap of the year. It was more than that which made him stand out, though, as he twice returned Airwaves to the top of the podium and snuck in to fourth in the final points standings.
Giovanardi was disappointing. The Italian was expecting big things but they never materialised. It was only when he forged a partnership with new engineering recruit Piers Phillips over the last three rounds that things improved, and went on to take his best qualifying in the last event at Brands Hatch. He ended 13th in the points.
The Chrome Edition Restart team ran four cars. Amiable team boss Warren Scott said that he never meant to run as many cars but his plans evolved to such a degree that he drafted in Alain Menu to drive a VW CC alongside Aron Smith, while Scott and Jack Goff partnered them in a brace of Vauxhall Insignias.
The cars were fast but both Smith and Menu needed time to find their way with the set-up. By the mid-point they were getting there. Smith won at Snetterton and Oulton Park, while Menu took a second at Rockingham. There were doubts, though, because those landmarks had been achieved with the help of a reversed grid. Menu’s convincing third in Silverstone’s second race was a sign of progress, though. The Swiss finished the season 11th in the points, two palces below Smith.
The two other winners were Adam Morgan, in his Wix Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and Rob Austin, in the Exocet Audi A4. Morgan made a breakthrough at the end of the year and promises more speed for 2015. Austin conquered Rockingham’s reversed grid race.
The Dunlop MSA BTCC Season Review 2014, published by Haymarket Consumer Media, is in the shops now, priced £5.99.