During the build-up to this season, a lot of focus has been about the seven champions that will all be racing together on the grid throughout the year.
This ‘Champions Chart’, if you will, breaks down each individual ahead of this weekend’s opening rounds.
We’ll start off with Andrew Jordan, the youngest and most recent champion on the grid. Jordan made his BTCC debut in 2008 alongside his dad Mike Jordan and since has become the rising star of the paddock. Jordan has taken the Independent’s Championship twice, both in 2012 and 2013 respectively – and took the overall crown last year with the help of his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
When Gordon Shedden crossed the line at a rainy Brands Hatch in 2012, he became the first Scotsman to take the BTCC title since John Cleland back in 1995. Having come close in previous years, 2012 was Shedden’s time to shine as he battled against his Honda Yuasa Racing team mate Matt Neal to the bitter end to finally lift the trophy.
Three time champion Matt Neal clinched his titles in 2005 and 2006 with the help of Team Halfords before moving back to Honda Yuasa Racing – run by dad Steve Neal – to win the trophy again in 2011 narrowly beating Shedden to the post at Silverstone. Neal is still fighting for a fourth title, and last year celebrated his 400th BTCC race start.
Jason Plato is the series’ most successful driver in history, racking up an astonishing 84 victories since his debut in 1997, overtaking icon Andy Rouse in 2010. Plato took his first title in 2001 with Vauxhall and a long nine years later took his second crown in 2010 whilst driving with Silverline Chevrolet.
Colin Turkington started his BTCC career in 2002, racing for Team Atomic Kitten. Since then, the Irishman moved from strength to strength, eventually settling with West Surrey Racing who helped him take the overall championship trophy in 2009. Turkington last year made his return to the series after a break competing in the World and Scandinavian Touring Car Championships.
Swiss champion Alain Menu last raced in a full British Touring Car Championship season back in 2000 – where he won his second drivers crown against Ford team mates Anthony Reid and Rickard Rydell. Menu’s first title came in 1997 when he drove for Renault. It was announced that Menu would return to the series for 2014 with the Chrome Edition Restart Racing team with Aron Smith and Warren Scott as team mates.
One of the most anticipated returns to the grid this season is that of BTCC legend Fabrizio Giovanardi. The Italian was last seen in the series in 2010; however sponsorship issues saw him only race at the opening round at Thruxton. Giovanardi made his debut in 2006 racing for Triple Eight under the VX Racing banner. He remained with the team for three years and won two consecutive driver titles in both 2007 and 2008 respectively. Airwaves Racing confirmed that Fabrizio would join their outlet for 2014 alongside Mat Jackson driving a Motorbase Ford Focus ST.
Could one of these experienced champions take this year’s prize or will a new winner be unleashed? By Nikki Thompson , photos by Marc Waller