Now that the dust has settled on the 2017 Dunlop BTCC season, I thought I’d take a look back at my top 5 drivers in 2017, that demonstrated their skill on numerous occasions and out-performed their initial 2017 predictions.
At the other end of the spectrum, I’ll take a look at the 5 drivers that simply didn’t live up to expectations this season, or had the opportunity to shine taken from them on a number of occasions, robbing of us of seeing their true potential.
Top 5 BTCC drivers in 2017
#5 – Tom Ingram
On the cusp for the last couple of years, Tom Ingram and the Speedworks Motorsport team have had flashes of brilliance for the past few seasons, with dominant performances on several occasions. In 2017 it all came together. Tom was able to capitalise right from the start, and in a carbon copy of 2016, won the opening race of the season. He would go on to be in real title contention until a torrid few rounds at Oulton Park and Croft would ruin his championship bid, however strong performances at both Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP would ensure he claimed the Independents title, along with the Independents Team title, for the first time.
#4 – Aiden Moffat
Believe it or not, 2017 marked the 5th season in the BTCC for the young Scotsman. 2017 would be the season we saw Aiden’s true potential behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class though, with two controlled drives to race wins at Donington Park and Brands Hatch GP. Unfortunately misfortune and several incidents throughout the season would prevent us seeing more from the 21 year old, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on in 2018.
#3 – Jack Goff
Another to keep an eye on next year will be Eurotech Racing’s Jack Goff. Jack is no stranger to the podium, having raced for Triple Eight Race Engineering and West Surrey Racing in previous seasons, but 2017 was somewhat of a break-through season in the Honda Civic Type R. Four poles and a race win at Silverstone would lead him to be in the Independents title hunt up until the final round, finishing a career-best sixth in the overall standings.
#2 – Colin Turkington
With BMW providing manufacturer backing for the first time in 21 years, Colin Turkington felt all season he had to repay their commitment. Following a disastrous opening race, he demonstrated his raw skill with a ferocious drive that would be replicated in the final round as well, carving his way through the field to make his way to the sharp end. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time ultimately ended his championship hopes, but helping claim both the Teams and the Manufacturers trophy for WSR and BMW should lead him to keep his head high over the winter break.
#1 – Ash Sutton
Unsurprisingly, the 2017 Champion is my pick for driver of the season. His raw pace was evident right from his first weekend in the BTCC, however this year he stepped it up once again, collecting a string of accolades along the way; most wins, most podiums, most positions gained in a race weekend; whatever your thoughts on the 23 year old, you cannot deny what a remarkable season he has had, which by no means was given to him on a plate.
5 drivers who didn’t show their full potential in 2017
#5 – Adam Morgan
A strong 2016 season and new backing from title sponsor Mac Tools meant Adam Morgan began his 2017 campaign with many backing him for the title as an outsider. Unfortunately we never really got to see his full potential after the first three rounds, a fire at Oulton Park severely damaged the car and never looked to handle the same on-track afterwards. Two podiums at Rockingham and Silverstone would provide little consolation for the team on what could have been a great season.
#4 – Mat Jackson
In 2016 Jackson tied with Turkington for the most wins in a season, in 2017 he scored a solitary win at Croft. The Motorbase squad never appeared to be on form this year, in a season dominated by RWD machinery it may be attributed to a car that wasn’t up to scratch, but Jackson never seemed to show his old style until Brands Hatch GP. Take Knockhill for example, with all three Motorbase drivers starting from the back of the grid in Race 2, Jackson was outshone in equal machinery by both Depper and BTCC debutant Butcher. Let’s hope its a return to old form in 2018.
#3 – Tom Chilton
When it was announced Tom Chilton was returning to the BTCC, many pegged him for race wins similar to those he has recently achieved in the WTCC, however following a podium for Vauxhall in the opening round, Chilton was plagued with the curse of mid-field incidents at many rounds, unable to show his full skill behind the wheel. When he did, such as at Brands Hatch GP, solid 5th place finishes were always on the cards.
#2 – Gordon Shedden
The end of a two-year dominant stint for the flying Scotsman, he never looked in full control in 2017. Despite a number of wins, it all came unstuck massively at Rockingham, with two DNF’s, showing just how vital it is to perform at every round this season. Poor qualifying hampered Shedden more evidently in the second half of the season than in previous years, but with the current Civic Type R model receiving no changes to boost throughout the year, was it destined to not-be even before the season started?
#1 – Jason Plato
The last two years have not been Jason Plato’s strongest. Just two wins and two pole positions, all at Knockhill, have been added to his remarkable career tally. An opening shunt at Brands Hatch bent the chassis on his Subaru Levorg, however despite apparently finding the source of the problem at Knockhill, after a strong outing in Scotland he simply seemed to disappear again. With poor performances at both Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP, there doesn’t appear to be any reason for the poor form given his teammate consistently winning races. His 20th season in the BTCC, easily his worst, here’s for better things in 2018.