Taking his third consecutive British Touring Car Championship title will be anything but easy for Honda’s Gordon Shedden, but is still mathematically possible.
After difficult rounds at Rockingham and Silverstone, Shedden is 66 points behind championship leader Ashley Sutton. It means he’ll have to take maximum points from the Brands Hatch season finale, whilst hoping neither Sutton nor Colin Turkington take any, in order to claim the title. Extremely unlikely, but not impossible.
Shedden kicked off his 2017 campaign with a second in the opening race. He started third but wasted no time passing pole sitter Jeff Smith after an early safety car. He couldn’t close the gap to leader Tom Ingram and was left defending against Adam Morgan. Shedden kept Morgan behind him, finishing just two tenth of a second ahead of the Mercedes driver.
Second was followed by Shedden’s first victory of the season. After Jason Plato collided with the pit wall at the race start, the race was shortened to 20 laps, but it was more than enough time for Shedden to find a way past Ingram. He took the lead on the second lap after the race restarted and pulled away from Ingram as the Toyota driver was left to battle with Rob Collard.
Starting eighth in the reverse grid race, he moved up to sixth but dropped back to seventh before the end of the race. He solidified a strong opening round, putting him top of the order after round one.
Shedden picked up seventh and sixth in the opening races at Donington Park before claiming victory in race three. Almost. The Honda driver picked his way forward in the difficult conditions to take the race lead from Dave Newsham before the end of lap five. He stayed there until the chequered flag, but was later excluded from the results as his car failed to pass technical scrutiny.
Shedden bounced back at Thruxton, where he took a pair of second place finishes. The first came behind team-mate Matt Neal as part of the Honda 1-2-3, the second behind Rob Collard in the shortened race two. The Scot could only manage fourth in the final race of the weekend, but it was enough to move him back into second in the standings.
After a seventh and fourth place in the opening two races at Oulton Park, Shedden claimed his second victory of the season.
Starting third, Shedden collided with pole-sitter Josh Cook on his way to second. Cook was forced to retire with broken suspension, but Shedden continued to chase after Andrew Jordan. A safety car neutralised the race, putting Shedden on the leader’s tail. When the race restarted, Shedden moved past Jordan at Cascades to take the lead and victory four laps later.
The strong results at Oulton Park and a solid weekend at Croft put Shedden at the top of the order as the summer break began, 11 points ahead of his closest rival.
With maximum ballast on board, he could only qualify 21st for the opening race after the summer break but made up 10 positions in the first part of the race. Now in 11th, Shedden was on the defence, trying to keep Aiden Moffat behind him. The pair collided and fell backwards on the final lap. He crossed the line 13th.
Shedden made up more positions in race two, taking seventh to start on the front row of the reversed grid for race three.
Jordan swept past him at the start of the race as pole-sitter James Cole fell backwards. Shedden was forced to battle against Collard and Turkington for second. The trio, with Shedden ahead, kept Jordan under pressure, but they were never close enough to challenge the race leader. Two laps before the end of the race, Jordan’s BMW slowed to a stop, handing Shedden the victory as Collard and Turkington battled for second.
He got off to a difficult start at his home round, taking 11th and sixth place finishes in the opening races. It put the Scot fifth on the grid for the final race at Knockhill. He picked up positions early and was running second before the end of the sixth lap. Collard and Turkington closed in on the Honda but a late safety car meant they ran out of racing laps before they could make a move.
More difficulties followed at Rockingham. Shedden was already falling backwards in race one when he picked up a puncture and finished a lap down. Race two ended early, when Shedden crashed on the opening lap, bringing out the safety car. Starting 30th for the final race of the weekend, Shedden managed to climb up to 12th, taking four points from the difficult weekend.
Now 55 points behind championship leader Sutton, Shedden needed strong results at Silverstone to stay in the title fight.
Strong results did not come.
Shedden could only manage 11th in the opening race, though did manage to climb up to seventh in race two. It put him third on the reverse grid, but a collision with Rob Ausin on the opening lap sent him backwards. After a spin late in the race, he took the chequered flag 21st.
At this point, only a difficult race for Sutton and Turkington could really save his title hopes.
Luckily for him, Turkington was forced to pit after being caught up in a collision, whilst a penalty for Sutton meant he had to start at the back of the grid. The championship leader did finish inside the points, but only extended the gap to 66 points, keeping Shedden in the championship fight.
Image credit: Caroline Rhea