• Honda Yuasa Racing celebrates another history-making moment at Donington Park
• ‘Home’ glory for Team Dynamics-prepared Civic Tourer
• Gordon Shedden steals the lead in a ‘Flash’ with dramatic last corner pass
Honda Yuasa Racing continues to re-write the history books in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), after a dramatic last lap pass in the final race at Donington Park saw Gordon Shedden secure the new Civic Tourer’s sensational maiden victory.
The result marked the first BTCC triumph for an estate car, and came in the ‘home’ meeting for Team Dynamics, Honda’s long-time championship partner. It also propelled ‘Flash’ to within a point of the top of the drivers’ title standings and consolidated Honda’s advantage in both the manufacturers’ and teams’ classifications.
Honda Yuasa Racing had arrived at Donington buoyed by a trio of podiums and sextet of top six finishes for Shedden and team-mate Matt Neal in the Brands Hatch curtain-raiser three weeks earlier.
The 2012 champion maintained that strong form by snaring a front row starting slot in qualifying for race one – another ‘first’ for an estate in the BTCC – after lapping an impressive half-a-second quicker than he had done around the Leicestershire circuit last season. Hampered by Brands Hatch success ballast, Neal placed ninth.
Following morning rain, the opening encounter took place on a damp track surface – a new experience for the Civic Tourer. Shedden initially ran third, valiantly staving off attacks from behind before succumbing to his rivals’ attentions in the tricky conditions and winding up a battling sixth at the chequered flag, two spots ahead of Neal, who crossed the finish line eighth.
Race two was rather wetter, and the rooster-tails of water made visibility a real issue. With the success ballast gone, however, Neal was back on form with a vengeance and soon storming his way through the spray and up through the order, taking Shedden along for the ride. By the end of lap five, the Civic Tourer twins were running line-astern in fourth and fifth.
Following a lengthy mid-race safety car period, a small mistake by Neal at the re-start enabled Shedden past into fourth. From there, the flying Scotsman set about hunting down Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Racing Civic hatchback, seizing third place and the final podium position when the reigning champion ran briefly off-piste. After recovering well from his minor lapse, Neal fought through to a strong fifth at the flag, right on Jordan’s tail.
The BTCC’s reverse grid format for race three meant Neal would begin the weekend finale from second, with Shedden fourth. In another lively and entertaining outing, both Civic Tourers played a starring role, dicing energetically as part of a frantic five-way tussle over second place. Well, it looked like it would be for second place, anyway – but ‘Flash’ had other ideas…
After working his way up to second by lap 12 of 18 and clearly on a mission, the charging Shedden brought the appreciative crowd to their feet as he scythed into the sizeable 5.3-second deficit separating him from race leader Colin Turkington. With a sideways slide through McLeans bearing testament to his unerring commitment, the 35-year-old had reduced the gap to just six tenths by the start of the last lap.
Perhaps inevitably, the duel came down to the very final chicane, and with Turkington protecting the inside line, Shedden had no choice but to try to go the long way round. A tap from the Northern Irishman sent both cars skating spectacularly across the gravel, but the Honda driver held his nerve and kept his foot in to clinch a famous and popular victory, with third position for Neal sealing a double podium and a superb finish to the weekend.
“What a fantastic race!” Shedden enthused. “After just managing to miss Andrew Jordan spinning in front of me in the first corner, I was miles away from the lead, but the Civic Tourer absolutely came alive on the soft tyres – even with the success ballast. Honda really has done a great job with this car.
“As soon as I got into clear air, I couldn’t believe how good it was; I had mega traction and so much extra pace all the way round, and I was catching Colin by over a second-a-lap. With five laps to go I was six seconds behind, and what a last lap! History has been made with this first win for the Civic Tourer.”
Shedden’s points haul from the weekend has elevated him to third in the drivers’ table, a single marker shy of the top spot. Neal is similarly in close attendance in fifth, and acknowledged that it had been a positive conclusion to an at times difficult weekend.
“The weight hurt me a little in qualifying,” confessed the three-time BTCC Champion. “Just two tenths-of-a-second would have moved me six or seven places up the grid. We got caught out in race one learning the car a bit in different conditions – every circuit we go to with the Civic Tourer, we’re breaking ground with it – and a small mistake cost me on the re-start in the second race, although fifth place was still solid points.
“Whilst we struggled a little earlier in the day, you could see we were getting there in the wet conditions and once the car was on the soft tyre, it really came to us. I’m stoked for ‘Flash’ in race three. I was willing him on – to have a bird’s eye-view of his last couple of laps was awesome! To get a podium for the team myself and see the Tourer get its first win this weekend makes me very proud.”
“It came good in the end!” concurred Honda Yuasa Racing Team Manager Peter Crolla. “We obviously struggled a touch in the first two races. We were a little disappointed with the balance of the car in the tough conditions, so we’ve definitely got some work to do there – we need to go back and assess where we didn’t quite get it right – but the third race in the dry was a real highlight for us.
“The Civic Tourer is a very different animal to the hatchback we ran before, so to get its first win in only the second event of the year is really pleasing. Now we’ve just got to carry this momentum on to the next race weekend.”
Providing some extra entertainment and light relief for the rain-battered crowds, Honda’s extraordinary Mean Mower – which recently broke the world speed record for a lawn mower by averaging an astonishing 116mph at the IDIADA Proving Ground in Spain – lapped Donington Park during the race day lunch break.
To relive the weekend and to hear exclusive behind-the-scenes action, download the official Honda Yuasa Racing podcast, free of charge, right here: