Gordon Shedden made a solid start to the defence of his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title coming away from the opening round of the 2017 season at Brands Hatch with a win, a second place and a six-point lead over race-winner Tom Ingram in the drivers’ championship.
The Halfords Yuasa Honda driver, bidding to become the first person since touring car legend Andy Rouse some 32 years ago to win three consecutive BTCC titles, emerged unscathed from a dramatic and incident-packed curtain-raiser.
Andrew Jordan completed the trio of winners on his debut for West Surrey Racing on a weekend that saw three different makes of car on the top of the podium, while his team-mate Colin Turkington put in a starring role as he raced from the back of the grid to second place in just two races.
With five manufacturer-backed teams (Honda, BMW, Subaru, Vauxhall and MG), a full grid of 32 cars and a new wider Dunlop tyre to contend with, Saturday qualifying set the tone for a dramatic weekend. Twice the session was interrupted for red flags to recover cars caught out by damp and greasy track conditions. It also threw up a massive shock when Jeff Smith timed it perfectly and stole pole position from far more established opposition just before the second of those stoppages.
The 51-year-old Eurotech team owner, who runs a pair of privateer Honda Civic Type Rs for himself and Jack Goff, delivered a lap of 48.367s around Brands Hatch’s Indy layout just as the red flags waved for a second time to recover Ash Sutton’s Subaru from the barriers at Paddock Hill Bend.
Impeccable timing aside, Smith’s lap was impressive and only a couple of tenths shy of Tom Ingram’s free practice pace. The Speedworks Toyota Avensis driver duly took second on the grid.