It was a quick-fire year for the British Touring Car Championship, with the state of the world forcing the series to try and squeeze a full season into just three-and-a-half months. Some excellent work from everyone involved saw yet another great season of non-stop action with some of the best tin-top drivers in the country going wheel-to-wheel week in, week out.
The top 10 BTCC drivers of 2020
Ultimately it was Ash Sutton in his Infiniti Q50 who came away with the trophy for the second time in his career after a season-long battle with four-time champion Colin Turkington in the Team BMW 330i. While the two of them took the majority of the headlines, they were far from the only two drivers in the fight – and we now look back at who we think were the top 10 drivers in an historic BTCC year.
10th: Ollie Jackson
Championship: 12th – 152pts
Ollie Jackson is probably the driver who made the biggest improvement across 2020, and certainly one no-one would have expected to be gracing this article pre-season. Heading into his 10th year in the BTCC Jackson only had one podium result to his name, which in itself was a rarity thanks to the manic nature of the 2018 season opener.
After seasons of midfield competition, Jackson seemed to turn a corner this year, and suddenly it wasn’t too surprising to see him lingering around the upper echelons of the timesheets. His breakout drive at Brands Hatch came as such a surprise that there were questions being asked as to whether former Motorbase favourite Mat Jackson had taken over the car in secret – all in jest of course. It was great to see Jackson finally make his mark on the championship, and his wins at Silverstone and Snetterton showed that it wasn’t just luck at Brands and after a decade in the series, Jackson could finally call himself a race winner.
9th: Adam Morgan
Championship: 8th – 206pts
Adam Morgan has been one of those ever present names in the BTCC over the past few seasons. You know he’s there, you know he’s quick, you know he knows how to win, yet he never seems to be able to put it all together to become a regular front runner. 2020 was an important year for Morgan, though, as he racked up his 250th start in the most competitive touring car series in the world, and celebrated that milestone by ending his two-year win drought on home soil at Oulton Park. While on the whole it was more of the same for Morgan in 2020, we did get to see one more win for the Mercedes A-Class, which seems to be on its way out having been a loyal servant to Morgan and the Ciceley squad for the past seven years.
8th: Tom Oliphant
Championship: 6th – 228pts
It was always going to be tough for Tom Oliphant in 2019 when he was sharing a garage with Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan, two of the finest drivers to compete in the BTCC in recent years. While two trips to the podium showed signs of promise, he never really came out of the shadow of his champion teammates, and really needed a strong 2020 to prove he was deserving of the coveted WSR seat. And that’s exactly what he did.
It wasn’t until Thruxton that Oliphant finished outside the top ten, and he visited the podium on no fewer than four occasions. Along with doubling his podium count from the previous year, Oliphant finally scored that elusive first victory with a fine drive at Brands Hatch in August. It may not have been the title-challenging drive we would have had if Jordan was still with the team, but it certainly wasn’t a bad season by any stretch of the imagination. Will Oliphant ever be a true title contender? Probably not, but he’s certainly got the ingredients to be the next Rob Collard of the WSR stable.
7th: Jake Hill
Championship: 7th – 212pts
Best result: 2nd
The BTCC equivalent of George Russell, Jake Hill was very much a Saturday man in 2020. With an average grid position of 5.5, Hill showed he knows exactly how to squeeze the most out of the aging Honda Civic Type R FK2 shape on a Saturday afternoon (a talent he used to full effect in the SpeedWeek Shoot-Out presented by Mastercard last month). That’s not to say he couldn’t do the job on a Sunday, and some impressive performances, despite being in a car that’s well past its use-by date show that Hill really deserves to have some top machinery at his fingertips. While Hill has the security of sticking with MB Motorsport in 2021, they are yet to confirm what the car will be – here’s hoping it's something a little less long in the tooth and something to make sure Hill gets those wins he’s so capable of.
6th: Josh Cook
Championship: 9th – 196pts
Going into the 2020 season Josh Cook was many people’s dark horse for the overall title – this writer included, but it just wasn’t to be. Not that it had anything to do with Josh’s ability behind the wheel, but more to do with his ability to attract drama. Cook took just eight points from nine races across Brands Hatch GP, Oulton Park and Knockhill – two of which were in the form of the fastest lap while finishing well out of the points. Many of those non-scores came as a result of contact while in a front running position and in very few, if any, of those incidents could the blame be put solely at Cook’s feet.
With his momentum well and truly shot and any hope of a strong championship result out of the window, Cook set about getting the most out of each weekend in the latter portion of the season, equalling his career best of three wins across the year and finishing in the top ten in all of the last 15 races of the season although that will be little consolation for a season that had much potential before it even began.
5th: Rory Butcher
Championship: 5th – 286pts
When Rory Butcher entered the BTCC with Motorbase in 2017 as a replacement for the injured Luke Davenport, there were many happy motorsport fans who had followed his career through Porsche Carrera Cup, British GT and the European Le Mans Series. Some strong drives but no real results over his first season-and-a-half suggested he was going to be another of those midfield drivers who’d do okay if you put them in a great car. It was after a stellar 2019 with AmD that Butcher really made his mark, earning himself a spot, rather fittingly, back at the team where it all began for him in the BTCC.
With a race-winning car at his fingertips, Butcher kicked off the season in fine style and for a while looked like he would be the man to be “best of the rest” once Sutton and Turkington had sorted themselves out at the top. Some unfortunate luck, including an almighty shunt at Silverstone, and a strong turn of pace for some of his rivals meant that Butcher ended the season fifth for the second year in a row, but showed that he’s very much a force to be reckoned with in the BTCC.
4th: Dan Cammish
Championship: 3rd – 334pts
Heading to Brands Hatch for the season finale will have brought back some nightmare memories for Dan Cammish, for the Kent circuit had been host to the moment he felt the championship slip through his fingers and into the tyre barriers. Twelve months later and Cammish can hold his head high, even if he came away once again with the bronze medal. He made amends for his heartbreak right from the off, with victory coming in the very first race of the delayed Donington opener. In fact, race one seemed to be the speciality of Cammish through the season, with all four of his wins coming in the first race of the day.
In an unfortunate turn of fate, it was the Brands Hatch GP circuit that really hampered his season once again. Mechanical problems forced him out of contention in races two and three and having secured maximum points in the first race of the day, got a big fat zero out of the afternoon races. With Cammish ending the season just two points behind runner-up Colin Turkington, and just 16 points shy of champion Sutton, it was yet another season of what could have been for the Honda driver. While nothing is confirmed for 2021 in terms of Honda and their plans, one would hope that the works squad remains as Cammish has proven for the last two years he has the talent and the equipment at his disposal, he just needs that little bit of luck. One of the best drivers on the grid in recent years, it would be criminal if Cammish never added a BTCC title to his trophy cabinet.
3rd: Tom Ingram
Championship: 4th – 326pts
Tom Ingram is one of those drivers who always seems to be on the fringe of the title. Having been runner up in the Toyota Avensis’ swansong year in 2018, the Speedworks team were hoping that they would be able to grow from the impressive Corolla debut 12 months ago. It was a bit of a slowly, slowly, catchy monkey for Ingram in 2020. If you look back at the results on paper, they paint an incredibly impressive and consistent picture. In the 23 races that he finished, Ingram only came home outside of the top ten in one, and while he took one fewer victory when compared to 2019, there were eight additional trips to the podium, of which six were in the runners’ up spot.
Although mathematically in the running come the Brands Hatch finale last weekend, Ingram was never really going to trouble the trophy engravers, but he can very much hold his head up high. The consistency was certainly there across the condensed calendar and now that both team and driver are fully up to speed in the Corolla, you have to put him as a real force to be reckoned with going into 2021.
2nd: Ash Sutton
Championship: 1st – 350pts
Many people questioned Ash Sutton’s decision to jump ship to the Laser Tools Racing squad and their pair of Infiniti Q50s at the start of the season. Here was a car that struggled to be anything other than a failure in its initial appearance in 2014. But the Moffat boys north of the border clearly knew something, and the once ridiculed car was one of the big players in 2020.
Some may wonder why the champion hasn’t taken the top spot in this list, but the fact is that Sutton could have made the title a lot less competitive had he been a little more reserved behind the wheel in the early stages of the season. While it is often said that his driving style is exciting it, in his own words, came back to bite him on a number of occasions, leading him to be a little more mature at the Brands Hatch finale.
It was rare to see Sutton passing without at least a glancing blow on his opponent at times throughout the year, and while the result worked this time, it could easily have gone the other way.
1st: Colin Turkington
Championship: 2nd – 336pts
The hot tip going into the 2020 season and eyeing up a record fifth title, the pressure was certainly on Colin Turkington’s shoulders as the season made its delayed start at Donington Park. Throughout August, Turkington seemed to be making the right moves and gliding his way to his third championship in as many years. Four rounds in one month tested everything the drivers and teams had to offer and for BMW it was the dream start. Turkington visited the podium in 50 per cent of the first twelve races and held a ten point lead over the chasing Sutton heading to the second half of the season, with Rory Butcher a further 43 points back.
It was three rounds later at Croft where it all seemed to unravel for Turkington where, despite a podium in the opening race, a pair of non-scores in the afternoon allowed the chasing pack of Sutton, Dan Cammish and Tom Ingram to close up. Turkington showed his true class just two weeks later at Snetterton, however, where fresh off the disappointment of Croft the BMW man visited the podium three times out of three and seemed to be teeing himself up perfectly for a title celebration at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
Something just didn’t seem to be right for Turkington and the BMW squad at the finale, however. Whether it was the weather or just the car not enjoying the shorter layout, Turkington never got into his stride. Try as he might he just lacked the pace and just watched as the title slipped out of his grasp. Turkington’s lesser scores throughout the year could seldom be blamed on driver error. It was a totally professional effort from start to finish, he just lacked that little bit of luck that’s needed to end the year receiving the trophy from Alan Gow.
Photography courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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