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Top five Brands Hatch BTCC title deciders

Monday, September 26 2016

This weekend (1/2 October) will see the fifth consecutive Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title-decider on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, with an unprecedented eight contenders srcapping for the biggest prize in UK car racing.

On this occasion five of the eight contenders are within 21 points - the same as a race win. As the past has shown us, anything can happen in a BTCC finale, with seemingly unassailable championship leads whittled down to nothing. Here's our favourite five Brands Hatch title deciders.

5. 2005
Contenders: 2

BTCCfinale1After four seasons of Vauxhall domination, the Astra Coupé was replaced by the next-generation Astra Sport Hatch, but the previously-dominant team was hit by the form of the impressive new Team Dynamics Honda Integra Type R. Matt Neal used the car to great effect and led the standings heading into Brands Hatch, but needed to beat Vauxhall's double champion Yvan Muller to claim his maiden title.

The Frenchman scored a second place to Neal's fourth in the opening encounter, won by Neal's team-mate Dan Eaves, to reduce the gap. In the second race, there was drama as pair clashed on the run to Hawthorns, but Muller dropped to 11th place, whilst Neal recovered to third and secured the championship.

4. 2001
Contenders: 2

The BTCC's immediate post Supertouring era may have been short on entries, but it had one of the all-time great title duels as Muller and Jason Plato staged an increasingly bitter fight for the title. At the previous Silverstone round the pair came to blows on the track and Muller refused to shake hands with Plato on the podium.

The Brands Hatch finale, on the Indy circuit this time, took place on a wet and windy Autumn day. Both drivers suffered in the slippery conditions but despite pole and fastest lap, Muller lost out to podium-finisher Plato in the opening race. It all came down to the final race, when an off-track excursion for the Frenchman was followed by an engine fire. With second place, Plato claimed his first title by 18 points.

3. 2013
Contenders: 5

BTCCfinale2Andrew Jordan headed into the final round with a seemingly unassailable 34-point lead over four rivals, all of whom were former champions. The then Pirtek Honda driver even admits that he didn't believe anything could prevent him winning the title ahead of the weekend.

All seemed to go to plan with third in qualifying followed up by a solid fifth place in the opening race, Jordan losing a mere handful of points to winner Plato and runner-up Gordon Shedden. But in the second race a misunderstanding at Surtees with Neal and Rob Collard ended in suspension failure and with Plato winning again, Jordan looked vulnerable. With Plato now just 15 points behind and Shedden on pole position for the finale, back-row starter Jordan threw caution to the wind and salvaged a ninth place to win the title by just seven points from race-winner Shedden.

2. 2015
Contenders: 5

BTCCfinale3Last year's finale was a thriller. All five former champions in the field made the final showdown, but with MG's Jordan only a mathematical contenders, the fight was split into the rival Honda and Team BMR camps, led by Shedden and Plato respectively.

The Scotsman's 23 point lead barely changed after race one when he finished behind the VW CC in sixth place, but crucially, Plato had prevented Shedden from posting a fast lap, then used to determine the race two grid. Starting from 12th, the title leader was involved in a midfield scuffle, and dropped to 20th place, out of the points. Plato finished sixth, closing the gap to just 12 points, and with a front-row start in the finale, was poised to take the win. This he duly did, but a stirring drive from Shedden, his Honda finally freed from success ballast, netted fourth and the title by a mere four points.

1. 2009
Contenders: 3

BTCCfinale4Our favourite title decider had it all - drama, excitement and an element of surprise. Going into the final rounds on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, Colin Turkington was on course for his and WSR's first drivers' title, but only had a 13-point cushion over Fabrizio Giovanardi, who was chasing his third straight championship, and a final one for the outgoing Vauxhall team. Plato was an outside contender, with a 28-point deficit to overcome. That he was in reach at all was a minor miracle, having pieced together a Chevrolet drive on the eve of the season-opener.

The two title leaders fought with each other, and Giovanardi made up valuable ground with third place in the opener to Turkington's eighth. In race two the Italian was second, with the title leader third. The final became very physical, with Fabrizio's team-mate Neal doing all he could to help, but Turkington held onto second place to his rival's fourth. The headlines, however, were stolen by Plato who opened the day in style by slipstreaming past polesitter Tom Chilton on the run to the line for the first victory of the event. He also won the second, and in the reverse-grid finale breezed past the title contenders to complete a clean sweep and finish the season just five points shy of new champion Turkington.

Tickets for this weekend's BTCC finale at Brands Hatch on 1/2 October are available in advance from £27, with free entry for under-13s. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click  here.