The Yorkshireman’s highly-anticipated return to the BTCC grid – following a year away in 2017 – has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs for the Team GardX Racing with Motorbase man, whose undeniable pace has been marred by a run of incredible bad luck throughout the series’ 60thanniversary diamond year.
Staying true to form, Tordoff delivered another strong qualifying performance in the striking #600 Focus RS. Setting a fastest lap time just 3 tenths off pole on the 2.43mile circuit, the Leeds-based racer claimed 7th on the grid, securing his place as the highest-performing qualifier from the 41 competitors of the 2018 season.
Starting his 150th BTCC race from P7, the JCT600-backed race made an excellent start, taking two places by the first corner. Regrettably, that reward was short-lived when he was pushed wide at Hawthorns, relegating the GardX Racing Focus down to 8th.
Tussles with both Moffat and Jordan followed as the laps unfolded. Tordoff did well to remain in the top 10 before selflessly relinquishing his spot to Motorbase team-mate Chilton on the final lap of the race to assist the team with their challenge for the Independents’ title, and crossed the line in 11th.
Race 2 was a classic BTCC season finale door-to-door encounter as the overall Titles were decided. Coming under relentless pressure for the safety-car interrupted 17 lap contest, Tordoff eventually brought the battle-scarred #600 Focus RS home in 14th – adding to his weekend points tally.
The climax of the season brought Tordoff a final chance to shine. A radical set-up change to the GardX-car paid dividends for the team, unlocking the full potential of the Ford. Storming to 9th off the line, Tordoff quickly scythed his way through the charging pack on the opening laps and a brave lunge on Proctor as the pair raced through Clearways was repaid with a 6th place spot.
Setting the fastest lap time of the race on lap 7, he crawled all over the bumper of Ingram’s Toyota as he hunted down a top 5 finish but was unable to find a way past the Speedworks driver and had to settle with 6th as the final flag of the season dropped.
“We finished the day well but it’s been a troublesome weekend;” said Tordoff. “We didn’t really have the pace in races 1 and 2 and didn’t quite optimise everything on the car. Whilst the car was quick over 1 lap in qualifying, in the races it was quite difficult.
“We picked up some damage in race two which destroyed the front left tyre so we didn’t really get the benefit we should have running on the soft tyre. That explained our drop backwards from what was initially looking like a good finish and could have potentially put us in the draw for the reverse grid.
“We did some daring things with the car in terms of set-up for race 3;” added the Yorkshireman. “The car was fantastic in that race. We were suddenly in the race and able to attack. I was pretty miserable after race two, so it was nice to end on a high.”
In spite of enduring a less-than-ideal comeback year in the BTCC, Tordoff ends the season in a credible 11th place in the overall Championship Standings with 1 race win and podium under his belt. He also ends the season as the highest-placed qualifier on the grid, with an average position of 6.09.
Having amassed an impressive 3 Independent race wins and 10 podiums, the 29-year-old sits 5th in the Independent Drivers’ Championship, with Team GardX Racing with Motorbase 11th overall and 6th in the Indy Teams’ points.
Tordoff concluded; “It’s been frustrating. A season of ifs, buts, and maybes, but it’s just not fallen our way for lots of reasons. We can take a lot of positives to take from the year though. The car is super-fast over 1 lap and I‘ve really enjoyed driving for Motorbase.
“It’s scary how fast the year has gone. It’s a nice environment to race in, the RS has a huge amount of potential and there’s a big wish list to push the car forward and hopefully improve things over the winter. There are lots of reasons to be positive for 2019.”
Final Championship positions:
Sam Tordoff – 11th – 202 points
Team GardX Racing with Motorbase – 11th – 198 points
Sam Tordoff – 5th – 292 points
Team GardX Racing with Motorbase – 6th – 304 points