The eventful 2021 narrative of the BTCC paved way for various drivers standing out in the field, for the both right and wrong reasons.
We were privileged once again to witness a characteristically action-packed year of the British Touring Car Championship.
A field of 29 drivers was always enough to generate the close racing we got throughout the year, but a selection of them made their name throughout the 30-race campaign.
The BTCC enables drivers to prove themselves within the competitive field they race in.
As Last Lap continued to select out ‘Winners and Losers’ from the most recent weekends, it was perfect to reflect on the year by doing the same based a selection out of the whole season.
Winner: Ash Sutton
With his third BTCC crown accredited to his record at the second Brands Hatch race, Ash Sutton proved just how consistent and record breaking his 2021 campaign was.
With just five wins across the whole season, his consistency and intelligent approach allowed him to always keep his title rivals at arms length throughout the season.
Sutton accredited his smarter and more reserved style of driving to his race engineer, with radio messages coming at decisive moments in a race to guide him in the smartest way possible.
This utmost level of trust and co-ordination between a driver and their team is extremely rare, and that in itself is to be praised. Laser Tools Racing and Ash Sutton did everything right from the first lights out and there are little to no blotches en route to landing a consecutive title together.
Winner: Josh Cook
The driver who sports a ’50s and ’60s-inspired racing helmet put on a stellar performance from start-to-finish.
A dominant first weekend in Thruxton unsettled Sutton fans up and down the country, and fought closely with the eventual champion. Josh Cook’s season had it all.
If it hadn’t been for a couple of poor qualifying performances, Cook could have potentially been much more involved in the title fight at Brands Hatch. However, he did arrive in Kent with a mathematical chance and that has to be applauded considering the struggles BTC Racing have faced this season.
Being the highest performing driver in the pink and black outfit, he was really taking it to Sutton and his good friend Colin Turkington throughout this year.
Cook attained the same amount of race wins as champion Sutton, finishing just 54 points behind the Infiniti driver.
Winner: Dan Rowbottom
With critics picking him apart before the season had even started, and the team losing factory backing from Honda; Dan Rowbottom had everything to prove in the legendary Team Dynamics outfit.
He would replace now-Team Director Matt Neal at short notice, having never won a race and partnering three-time champion Gordon Shedden for the length of the season. The pressure was piled on from the start.
With a shocking fourth place in Race 2 at Thruxton and his first win in at Oulton Park’s opener, Rowbottom made sure he was fighting hard for the Jack Sears Trophy, the title for the highest point scorer who had never stood on the podium in the championship before.
Rowbottom was in control of the trophy by the halfway point, with closest opponent Sam Osbourne a comfortable 50 points behind him.
In fact, he led the standings since the second race weekend and was only in in that vice position before taking first place.
Rowbottom wrapped up the trophy at Donington Park with a strong showing. Unfortunately for Sam Osbourne, it was mathematically impossible at Brands Hatch.
Rowbottom’s eyes will be on the big prize next year, with a year more experience to his name. At least contending for the overall title is not out of the realms of possibility after his encouraging performances.
Winner: Dan Lloyd
Downforce issues and other mechanical struggles meant the Power Maxed team and their Vauxhall Astras have faced issues this season. But Dan Lloyd well and truly excelled in the second half of the season.
With three second places and one third across the final three events of the season, Lloyd kicked his Astra into brilliant form and outperformed legendary teammate and two-time champion, Jason Plato, by 34 points at the end of the season.
With the Astra lacking straight line speed, and the inability to perform at its best when following traffic, qualifying was vital to have the fewest cars in front of the Astra. Lloyd had Plato beaten considerably on that front with Plato out-qualifying him just four times across the whole season.
Lloyd will be looking to the Hybrid era next year where he will pick up where he left off. Whether that is to be with Power Maxed Racing, is not yet guaranteed.
With a season so full of drama, there are unfortunately the losers of 2021 who weren’t able to show their full potential this year. Will they be able to hit back in 2021 and prove they are worthy of their coveted seats in the BTCC?
Loser: Carl Boardley
The lowest finishing of the Infiniti trio, Carl Boardley didn’t have the season some were expecting him to have in 2021.
Only one top-10 finish throughout the entire season in a championship-winning car is not a what the four-time world champion Hot Rod megastar was looking for.
Finishing below a driver who only competed in the first three races in Thruxton (Dan Cammish) is a fact Boardley is going to want to forget in a hurry.
Loser: Jade Edwards
Jade Edwards’ first full season in the BTCC was a story of what could have been.
Right from the start, she was the victim of other driver’s mistakes and was caught up in over 35% of collisions during the season.
Two of the stand-out incidents took place at Thruxton when Gordon Shedden’s and Andy Neate’s careless scrap at the start sent Edwards barreling towards the armco barrier along will Glynn Geddie’s CUPRA Leon which took the majority of the damage.
This wouldn’t be Shedden’s and Edwards’ last clash of the year.
At Silverstone, Shedden threw a move up the inside of Edwards’ Honda halfway through Woodcote corner sending both parties into the gravel, with only Sheddon recovering.
With signs of promise and genuine raw speed in her Honda, Edwards is looking like a much more promising prospect for points come 2022 if she decides to stay in the championship as long as she can avoid other drivers’ mistakes.
Loser: Tom Chilton
His plentiful amount of success in the past with front wheel drive cars enabled him to develop a well-loved character throughout the BTCC paddock by fans and drivers alike.
However, 2021 would be one of his hardest years in the championship as he would be behind the wheel of a rear wheel drive car for the first time in his near-two decades in the BTCC.
The BMW 3 Series platform is challenging to the very best and most experienced rear wheel drive-optimised drivers. For Chilton to have such vast experience in the opposite, his transition to rear wheel drive was always going to be challenging.
A scattering of good results is well out of form for the Brit. There were only four top-10 finishes in the whole season – three of those in the final three races at Brands Hatch.
Teammate Adam Morgan, who is far more experienced with the rear wheel drive platform, scored two wins and two third places further putting Chilton’s seasonal performance on the chopping board.
Chilton and Ciceley Motorsport have parted ways and as it stands, he currently doesn’t have a drive for 2022.
However, with only a sprinkling of the grid confirmed so far for 2022, there’s plenty of options for him to choose from if he decides to stay in the mix for the championship.
Loser: Andy Neate
With one of the hardest starts to a season a driver in the BTCC has had in a very long time, Andy Neate was at the centre of attention during the opening rounds at Thruxton for all the wrong reasons.
Neate was put solely to blame for a gargantuan crash that sent Glynn Geddie into the air and put Jade Edwards out of the race.
Neate would contribute to the repair costs, however he took four weekends off to recover and prepare himself once again for the might of the BTCC environment.
He would later be involved in multiple other incidents throughout the calendar, resulting in an additional 4 retirements from the fifteen races he entered this year.
Neate finished inside the top-20 once at Croft, and decided to sign off his career in the BTCC in favour of supporting his son, British F4 star Aiden Neate.
Do you agree with our ‘Winners and Losers’ of the 2021 season? Let us know in the comments!