Top five BTCC titles that went down to the wire


October 31, 2022

by Maciej Hamera

At the last round of the season of the 2022 British Touring Car Championship, the driver's title was still up for grabs with no clear favorite. Ultimately, it was Tom Ingram who took his first title ahead of Ash Sutton but the championship being decided at the last round isn't a rarity, in fact one might say it's rather common.

1992: The classic 

When it comes to title deciders, surely the image of John Cleland's Vauxhall Cavalier heading towards the barriers interlocked with Steve Soper's BMW 318is is one that almost every BTCC fan remembers.

After winning three rounds early in the season, Cleland held the advantage going into the final race at Silverstone. However, Tim Harvey in his BMW 318is was the man on form after some mid-season rear suspension alterations. Will Hoy in the Rouse Sport run Toyota Carina also had a shot at the title so it was going to be a close final race of the year.

After all three contenders qualified in the midfield following changeable weather conditions, the race was action packed with Harvey in particular surviving clashes with Julian Bailey and Hoy. 

The real climax was reached on the penultimate lap when that famous series of contacts took place between Cleland and Harvey's BMW teammate Soper. With them both out on the spot, the title went to Harvey. Needless to say, the objective of Soper's move has been debated ever since...

2000: Midnight combat

The end of the Super Touring era provided an all-out push from Ford to finally become the champions that they so sorely tried to be for the past eight years. While the Ford Mondeo gave the Blue Oval the manufactures title before the end of the season, all three of their drivers were still battling it out for the top spot.

The three contenders in question were Alain Menu, Anthony Reid, and Rickard Rydell with 1998 BTCC champion Rydell having the biggest points difference to reduce at the Silverstone meeting.

Following a tense qualifying session, it was Rydell who took the top honours with a pole and a front-row start being his reward. His teammates were slightly further back and ultimately this would be their downfall.

While Rickard sprinted away and ultimately took second, Menu would be out before the first lap was completed after making a rare mistake on cold rubber and cascading back into the pack. Bent steering was quickly the outcome of the debacle.

Reid was more fortunate, staying out of trouble until he was tapped into a spin by the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini. Reid would rejoin with serious damage to finish seventh.

Unbelievably it all came down to the final race which, to make it even more interesting, was being run during the night with the circuit floodlit for spectators.

Sadly Rydell was out before the race even begin with engine troubles which meant that only two challengers remained. 

Menu in particular got a great start and a forceful pass on James Thompson squeezed him into second place. The same could not be said for Reid who was in fifth place just a couple of laps from the end before being tapped into the gravel by the Vauxhall of Vincent Radermecker.

In the end, Menu was crowned champion after finishing third but even if Reid finished in fifth, the title would have still gone to the Swiss driver.

2001: Harsh rivalry reaches its climax

Following the spending frenzy of Super Touring, 2001 saw a new type of touring car for the BTCC.

Regulation brakes, the banning of exotic materials, and smaller models all came into play for the new regulations.

Clearly Vauxhall had got it right as their two drivers Yvan Muller and Jason Plato headed to Brands Hatch to fight out over the final honours.

Even though Muller took pole position for the sprint race, it was Plato who took victory after withstanding the pressure from his teammate all through the race.

The feature race was held in driving rain and it looked like Plato had thrown it all away when he spun off from fourth. As it would turn out, Muller was the one in real trouble when his engine caught fire following an excursion into the mud at Clearways. 

As the second Vauxhall coast to a silent halt, Plato was crowned champion when he crossed the line in second.  

2010: Plato shines to win the second title

2010 was an interesting year where various drives won races but ultimately no team was dominant. 

The contenders at the last round were Plato, Matt Neal, Gordan Sheddan, and Tom Onslow-Cole. The pressure was on everybody and the cracks start to show with the Ford Focus of Onslow-Cole who retired in the first race which eliminated him from the contest.

Plato was unstoppable though and his two dominant wins in the first two races of the day in his Chevrolet Cruze put the title well beyond the reach of the others.

2019: Late race tragedy for Cammish

With this being a more recent championship drama, it is perhaps unnecessary to describe the event of 2019 in great detail however that does not mean it will not be included in pages of history as a riveting finish to the season.

The man on form coming into the Brands Hatch meeting was Team Dynamics's Dan Cammish however Colin Turkington was not far behind in the points standing in his BMW 330i M Sport.

After a calm first race, race two started in controversy as Cammish's teammate Matt Neal clashed with Turkington, dropping him down the field with Turkington ultimately finishing out of the points. With Cammish coming across the line in third, the title would come down to the very last race once again.

Plenty of pushing and shoving initiated race three, but crucially Turkington and Cammish kept their noses clean to run in sixth and ninth.

This was all that Cammish needed, those seven points were enough to clinch the championship for him. Unluckily, those points wouldn't be added to his tally...

With a fading brake pedal, Cammish had been pumping the brake pedal to keep the pressure up for the majority of the race. Two laps from the end however, his Honda had cried enough and the resulting brake failure chucked Cammish into the barriers to end his title challenge. Turkington would go on to secure his fourth driver's title to equal the great Andy Rouse.

The 2022 BTCC finale reinforced the fact that the series has the nail-biting finishes it had in years gone past. Hopefully, the fans see more of the same in 2023.

Image credit: BTCC

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