The 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship saw thirty four drivers enter at least one of the ten race weekends and out of those thirty four drivers, twenty five scored points, eight drivers won at least one race while another seven drivers stood on the podium.
Who are the top five drivers from the 2011 Championship though?
5. Jason Plato – Silverline Chevrolet.
2010 Champion Jason Plato finished the season as the highest placed normally aspirated runner in a field of turbocharged cars.
Plato took the Championship battle to Silverstone having secured a double win at Brands Hatch, and taking advantage of the various restrictions placed on the turbocharged cars as the season progressed.
He was generally more vocal about the apparent lack of parity compared to the rest of the normally aspirated entrants – which resulted in an outrageous TV outburst after securing victory in the second of the races at Oulton Park – as well as other pops, blaming the turbocharged entrants for his Thruxton puncture.
He did become the most successful driver of all time in the history of the BTCC as he secured his sixty first victory during the opening race of the season at Brands Hatch – and is now comfortably in the lead of the winning drivers stakes, with sixty eight victories.
Championship: 3rd, 236 Points.
8 Wins, 4 Pole Positions, 5 Fastest Laps.
4. Matt Neal – Honda Racing Team
2005 and 2006 Champion Matt Neal finished the 2011 Championship as a triple Champion, having come out on top of a season long battle with Plato and team-mate Gordon Shedden.
His season started off slowly – having qualified on Pole for the season opener at Brands Hatch, he was pushed into the gravel at Druids on the opening lap but responded by securing the final victory of the day.
He traditionally kept his nose clean – most of his incidents throughout the season weren’t of his own making – apart from the infamous Oulton Park incident where he took out team-mate Gordon Shedden at the final corner.
Rockingham showed that there were tensions as he and biggest nemeses Jason Plato came to blows in the pit lane after qualifying – Plato had blocked Neal, Neal had tapped Plato and the two of them went for it afterwards.
Neal was an expected title contender and so it proved – and he’ll be back to defend his crown in a new NGTC Honda Civic, sporting the number 1 car.
Championship: Champion, 257 Points
7 Wins, 3 Pole Positions, 6 Fastest Laps
3. Frank Wrathall – Dynojet
Frank Wrathall joined the BTCC for 2011 in one of the new NGTC Toyota Avensis and set out to impress in his maiden season and very quickly proving himself as a future Champion.
He arrived in the BTCC as the Ginetta G50 Cup Champion and the opening few weekends of the season were a testing time for the youngster as he and the team got to the bottom of the teething problems with the car.
After the mid season break, he started to show his true form – he took the first ever NGTC Independents win during the first race at Snetterton, which in turn was also the first ever NGTC points finish.
The following weekend, at Knockhill, he took the first outright NGTC podium in the second race of the day – this started a run of four consecutive podium finishes, including a career best second place in the second race at Rockingham.
Already, he has built himself a reputation of being a firm but clean racer – something the big names within the series acknowledged as the series drew towards its conclusion.
Wrathall has a bright future in the BTCC.
Championship Position: 12th, 65 Points
0 Wins, 0 Pole Positions, 2 Fastest Laps
2. Gordon Shedden – Honda Racing Team
Gordon Shedden found himself in the best car/team combination for the 2011 season and responded to his first free practice accident at Brands Hatch with a consistent season which ultimately saw him fall tantalisingly short of his maiden crown.
He had a consistent season and very rarely got caught up in any trouble – and if he did, again it was rarely down to him, as the now infamous Oulton Park incident showed.
Shedden is known as one of the cleanest and smoothest drivers on the grid and he demonstrated this throughout the season, a key skill with the added weight over the front wheels due to the turbocharged engine.
He led the Champion during the Snetterton weekend and was in contention for the whole season – having had a taste of what it takes to win the crown, the Scotsman will be better positioned next time around, when he returns alongside Neal in the NGTC Honda Civic.
He must surely wonder “what if” though, if he hadn’t had the puncture during the penultimate weekend at Brands nor the Free Practice one accident at Brands Hatch, on the Indy circuit – could those two moments have lost him the crown?
Championship Position: 2nd, 249 Points
6 Wins, 2 Pole Positions, 2 Fastest Laps
1. Mat Jackson – Airwaves Racing
2011 was the season which saw Jackson truly come of age – he had proved himself during the previous seasons as a top line driver but never quite consistent enough for a full Championship charge.
It was a season of two halves for the 2008 Championship runner up – during the opening half of the season, he only failed to score and finish once while after Snetterton – where he took over the lead of the Championship – he failed to score a top ten finish for six races on the trot, only picking up a single Fastest Lap point at Knockhill.
He kept himself in contention for the outright title with a brace of podiums at Brands Hatch before another disaster of a weekend at Silverstone, where he failed to finish inside the top ten in any of the races and only picked up two fastest lap points.
This mid season slump in form also denied him the chance to secure his first Independents’ title – and the first for the team – and Jackson must look back at the positives and not the negatives. He has demonstrated himself as a future Champion, and the success will arrive sooner rather than later.
A crown will come for Jackson – 2011 he proved himself as one of the fastest guys on the grid in race spec and with fantastic race craft as well, as shown at Croft, where he recovered from twelfth to a very close second in changeable conditions.
Championship Position: 4th, 191 Points
4 Wins, 0 Pole Positions, 7 Fastest Laps.