Matt Neal and first-time winners Aron Smith and Frank Wrathall may have shared the victories in Sunday's British Touring Car Championship finale at Brands Hatch, but it is was Gordon Shedden who left the wet Kent venue as the series' latest champion, fulfilling a childhood ambition in the process.
The Honda Yuasa Racing Team driver went into the weekend's second race knowing that he would be crowned king if he could extend his advantage to at least 22 points, given his superior winning record compared to rivals Jason Plato and team-mate Matt Neal. As it was, Shedden secured second place and set the fastest lap to extend his lead over Neal to 23 points, putting him out of reach in the standings with one race still to run.
Neal and Andrew Jordan led the way in race one, while Shedden took fifth. The Scot's closest challenger at that point, MG KX Momentum Racing's Jason Plato, was only eighth. In race two, Smith was in unstoppable form en route to his maiden BTCC race win in Redstone Racing's Ford Focus, but second place and the fastest lap for Shedden was enough for him to put the title out of his rivals' reach. Out-going champion Neal was third, moving back up to second in the standings after passing Plato, who finished in fifth. The last of the season was also won in emphatic style, this time by Wrathall, whose victory was the first for himself, his small family-run Dynojet team and Toyota's Avensis model. Taking second, third and fourth in a line-abreast Honda formation finish were Neal, Shedden and Jordan.
Shedden's podium finish in race two meant that he became the first Scottish driver to lift the most coveted prize in UK motor sport since his own hero, John Cleland, did so in 1995, and the 33-year admits that following in the legend's footsteps only helps to make his own achievement more special.
“All I ever wanted as a kid was to race touring cars," he explained, "It was never about F1 – and it was John Cleland who was my hero when I used to go and catch a glimpse of the BTCC at my home track at Knockhill.
"I never thought I'd ever get the chance to race them though, let alone win a race. Now I'm the champion, and it is mind blowing… What a season, not just for myself, but for everyone at Honda. I'd also like to thank everyone who was cheering for me back home in Scotland today – including in the bar at Knockhill! I can't wait to get home and celebrate with them.”
Honda enjoyed a successful day at Brands Hatch, cleaning up in a sweep of all five BTCC titles. In addition to Shedden, Andrew Jordan collected the Independent Drivers Trophy, Honda/Dynamics the Manufacturers/Constructors Championship and the Honda Yuasa Racing Team and Pirtek Racing the outright HiQ and Independent teams' trophies respectively.
Neal, who went to finish second in the standings in a Yuasa Honda 1-2, was quick to pay tribute to his team-mate, who he had beaten to the title in 2011.
“Gordon has driven superbly all season, has amassed the most wins and massively deserves to be champion," he emphasised, "As a team, we all pull together at Honda, and the Civic has simply been the class of the field all year. A clean sweep of titles is the perfect result.”
Plato, who switched teams over the winter to head up MG's return to the series, wasn't happy to have missed out on the crown, but insisted that 2012 had still been a success.
“I'm here to win, so I'm obviously disappointed it's not gone our way but, that said, the MG KX Momentum Racing team are still winners," he stressed, "We have far exceeded our expectations in MG's first season back in the BTCC and will return much stronger for 2013.”