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Marcus Simmons

Ranking the top 10 BTCC drivers of 2022

Tom Ingram and Excelr8 Motorsport were victorious at the end of the first campaign under the new hybrid regulations. Their Hyundai i30 N was a winner in the opening race of the season, and Ingram remained in the title hunt throughout before an invincible performance on finals weekend at Brands Hatch.

Insight: The double act that carried Ingram to long-awaited BTCC title glory

The hybrid penalties in place of the old success-ballast regulations proved an enormous success and, as a result of these, spectators around the country were able to enjoy season-long battles between the leading quartet of Ingram, Ash Sutton, Jake Hill and Colin Turkington.

Here’s how we rated them, along with those who challenged them through the year.

10. Adam Morgan

Morgan lost many points due to factors beyond his control (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

The experienced Lancastrian and his family Ciceley Motorsport team made good progress in their second year with West Surrey Racing-built BMW machinery, to the extent that they were occasionally able to get in among the WSR boys. Indeed, Morgan was the highest-placed BMW driver in the points after the opening round at Donington.

Also at Donington, Morgan lost his use of hybrid in race one and couldn’t access it again until after qualifying for the following round at Brands Hatch, and that became something of a running theme for the team. Under cheerful tech chief Steve Farrell, an ex-F1 engineer, Morgan and rookie team-mate George Gamble were frequently quick, but all too often their weekends were ruined by woes from the hybrid or a maddening series of electronics shutdowns.

How to be an ace engineer: Steve Farrell

Morgan’s only win came in the reversed-grid race at the first Thruxton event, under pressure from Turkington, but he was more competitive at other circuits such as Oulton Park, where he was well in the mix until spun into the barriers by Gordon Shedden; Knockhill, where the car conked out even before the green-flag lap for race one; Snetterton, where he fought Ingram for third; and Silverstone, where he pressured leading duo Rory Butcher and Hill. So many points went begging, and Morgan deserved more from this season.

9. Dan Lloyd

Lloyd recovered well from Oulton smash to take a brace of wins at Croft (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

This hard-trying – both on and off the track – Yorkshireman was given what seemed a gilt-edged opportunity for 2022 with a seat at the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai team. But it didn’t quite work out in the way he wanted – or as many expected.

The big story, of course, was his enormous shunt at Oulton Park that landed Lloyd in hospital and with a massive dent in his bank balance. He responded by pulling out all the stops to raise backing from supporters via a scheme of incentives, and finally Excelr8’s main backer Bristol Street Motors stepped in to ensure he could complete the season.

In between, Lloyd got back in the saddle at Croft in a completely rebuilt Hyundai, and pulled off a stunning performance, showing aggression, pace and composure in defence to beat Turkington and Ingram to victory in races one and two respectively. His other win came in the final race of the season, where he beat Josh Cook to reversed-grid honours.

Elsewhere it was slim pickings, and it’s for Lloyd’s genuine pace in the two northern English events that he edges Morgan here: Croft was obvious, but it’s easy to forget that he was on for top results at Oulton had a wrong decision to fit new brake pads not been made – without that, he arguably wouldn’t have been having the battle in race three that triggered his crash.

8. Dan Cammish

Cammish enjoyed his best weekend of the season at Thruxton on his return to the BTCC following a year back in Porsches (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

After a year back in his old happy hunting ground of the Carrera Cup GB, Cammish made his BTCC return as part of a juicy double act with Ash Sutton at Motorbase Performance’s new NAPA Racing superteam. But whereas Sutton got into the title fight straight away and remained in it until the very last race, Cammish couldn’t.

The fourth-generation Ford Focus ST made its debut in 2020 but already it appears that it’s among a group of front-wheel-drive cars that have been outdeveloped by the standard-setting Hyundai, which is why Motorbase has been looking into rear-drive options for 2023. Furthermore, Cammish opined at the second Thruxton round – an event where he was absolutely superb and took pole, one win, and gave away another victory to Sutton – that the Focus requires more profound set-up changes from qualifying to race than the Honda Civic he was used to from his days at Dynamics. He also had his fair share of bad luck, including a fire in qualifying at the Donington opener caused by a broken fuel-system union.

That apart, Cammish played a key part in Sutton’s title bid. Working with James Mundy, who led the technical team on the design of the Focus, he was able to plough more of a conventional front-wheel-drive furrow on set-up whereas Sutton and Antonio Carrozza, who had reworked the Infiniti Q50 into a double-title-winning package, went more experimental with their rear-drive background. Such things are crucial to a team’s data bank, especially when the quality of both drivers is so clear.

7. Gordon Shedden

Shedden's title-contending form from the opening round didn't last the season as Team Dynamics found its Honda Civic Type R being out-developed (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

The three-time champion felt that he’d needed the 2021 season – his BTCC comeback after three years away – to build up the kind of telepathic driver-engineer relationship required for success, in this case with veteran Team Dynamics tech supremo and Matt Neal sidekick Barry Plowman. So he was confident of hitting the ground running in 2022.

This he did. Shedden was a force at the Donington opener, passed Ingram to win the second race, and appeared to be shaping up as a pukka title contender. But by the end of the season there was an undercurrent of feeling that the FK8 derivative of the Honda Civic Type R, once the benchmark front-wheel-drive NGTC car, is now struggling to keep up with the Hyundai.

That said, it remains the class act on high-speed curves: at Croft, team-mate Dan Rowbottom scored his only podium finish of the season, while Shedden was forced to fight back after a clash with Sutton in the first race broke his suspension before waltzing to victory in the finale; at the second Thruxton, he was battling Sutton in the podium positions. The Scot was also in the mix at Silverstone.

What also didn’t help was the fact that Dynamics suffered more problems with malfunctioning hybrid than pretty much any other team. Still, Shedden remained the ultra-forceful racer he’s always been, and for a 43-year-old he remains pretty darned quick.

6. Rory Butcher

Butcher stitched together a strong end to the season in his Speedworks-run Toyota Corolla GR Sport (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Not until 2022 had Shedden’s brother-in-law gone into a BTCC season with the same team and engine as he’d contested the previous campaign. And then along came the introduction of hybrid, with all the extra weight and different set-up demands that entailed, and the switch of TOCA customer engine supplier from Swindon to M-Sport! So, back to square one…

It’s fair to say that Speedworks Motorsport and the Toyota Corolla GR Sport were lacking something over the early events, although a slick-tyre gamble in the damp first race at Brands Indy set Butcher up for a second-race podium. By mid-season at Oulton, we were at last seeing genuine pace, but there did seem to be a recurring theme of the Toyota’s front tyres fading in race conditions.

Come the final two rounds, Butcher was right there at the front. Silverstone, as in 2021, was mighty for him, and he only narrowly missed out his second win of the day to an inspired Hill. He also did a good job of overshadowing most of the title contenders over the final weekend at Brands GP.

Did the M-Sport engine hamper Speedworks? The team was far less vocal about it than main rival BTC Racing, but it was possible to read between the lines of frequent utterances that “well, the chassis is working really well”. Whatever, Butcher clearly has a proper BTCC title attack in him. Only Cook matched his record of 29 points-scoring finishes out of 30, and for Butcher it’s a run of 29 consecutive after a DNF in the first race of the season. Furthermore, no one scored more heavily than him over the last three events.

5. Josh Cook

Cook's tally of five wins was bettered only by Ingram, but too often straight-line speed deficit held him back (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

He was beaten by Butcher in the final points standings, but Cook has to be above Butcher here because his tally of wins was beaten only by champion Ingram, and for half the season he was either leading the championship or well in contention for it.

PLUS: The grassroots rise that shaped an understated BTCC star

In hindsight, that early status was because the early events had masked the shortcomings of the BTC Racing/Honda Civic package. Cook was beaten only by the BMWs in qualifying for round two at Brands Indy, then scored two brilliant wins in the wet. And despite the high-speed nature of Thruxton, scene of round three where he claimed another sensational brace of victories (and round eight, one more win), the Hampshire venue is all about balance in fast corners.

Next time out at Oulton, and from here on, it was generally glum faces thanks to the car’s lack of straight-line speed, echoed by new-for-2022 team-mate Jason Plato. Unlike Dynamics, which uses a bespoke Honda powerplant from Neil Brown Engineering, BTC is a TOCA engine customer, and the team struggled with the transition from former supplier Swindon to M-Sport.

Its arguments were a little undermined by the increasing pace of Butcher in the similarly powered Speedworks Toyota and the often sparkling form of Bobby Thompson in Team Hard’s Cupra Leon, and by Snetterton in August the team was talking of having worked on improving its installation package. It was all such a shame, and BTC finished the year investigating at least a change of engine supplier for 2023 or even an all-new car.

Cook himself was uncharacteristically getting involved in a few knocks – he thumped Sutton at Snetterton and spun around Turkington at Silverstone. At least the arrival of Cook’s long-time friend and mentor Danny Buxton as team principal on the eve of the season eliminated the sort of operational shortcomings that had marred previous campaigns. Now there’s a winter ahead to address the rest.

4. Colin Turkington

Turkington faced a stiff challenge for supremacy within West Surrey Racing from team newcomer Hill, but was at his peerless best at Snetterton (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

In a parallel universe, the four-time champion didn’t stall as a result of clutch problems at the start of the second race of the season at Donington; he didn’t get wiped out in a massive shunt with Lloyd at Oulton Park; he didn’t get spun out early doors at Silverstone and then suffer hybrid problems that carried over into qualifying for the Brands GP finale and meant that his 330e had reverted to pre-2022 330i spec… And he’s now a five-time BTCC champion and number one in our review.

But this time it didn’t quite work out for the ever-charming Northern Irishman. Besides, for the first time in a while, there were moments when Turkington wasn’t the undisputed leader of the West Surrey Racing BMW gang. The arrival of Jake Hill in the stable provided a real talking point of the BTCC, and their mighty battle in the first race of the season at Donington served only to allow Ingram to take a cheeky win.

At Brands in greasy conditions, Hill clearly had the pace as Turkington struggled before triumphing with a full-wet set-up on when the rain increased in intensity for race three. At the second Thruxton event, Turkington went off twice at the Complex before qualifying 15th, while Hill lined up third on a day when no other rear-wheel-drive car was in the top 13.

But there were beautiful moments too. A Brands Indy pole, with four laps quicker than anyone else’s best; pole at Snetterton with no hybrid use allowed as the championship leader, followed by two elegant victories. The Oulton crash in the new-for-2022 330e chassis 06 forced WSR to drag the 2019 title-winning chassis 01 out of mothballs – it had been bound for Turkington’s father’s collection – for the rest of the season. Thanks in part to repairs over the years, it was 7kg heavier than #06, but it’s a testament to the team and driver that Turkington was subsequently able to move into the championship lead and hang on in title contention until the penultimate race.

“It’s been a difficult finish to the season,” he acknowledged at the conclusion of the season. “Silverstone derailed my campaign and it took a long time to iron out the issues I was having with hybrid, so I was always on the back foot right up until race one [at the final round].

“I gave my best, but I always needed the sort of impossible to happen. I needed all the others to have a problem, so I just had to really go for it and attack and score points and keep the pressure on. I hung in there until race two but obviously that was me out of it.”

3. Jake Hill

Hill set a new record for the most points scored in a BTCC weekend at Knockhill and took the title down to the wire in a superb first season with WSR (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

There’s something to be said for spending time ragging uncompetitive equipment because, when you get your hands on a jewel, you can extract everything from it. This was the case for Hill on his arrival at the WSR BMW team – although in fairness, he’d had machinery that could do the job on its day in 2020 and 2021.

Even before the first race of the year, the Kentishman was getting sick of people asking about the transition to rear-wheel drive – after all, it was no problem for him in a Capri at Goodwood.

PLUS: The increasingly varied CV behind a new BTCC title challenger

And by the end of the year, the Hill/BMW combination was the season-long fastest combination, witness his securing of the Goodyear Wingfoot award for qualifying points. But it was team-mate Turkington in second place in this classification, indicating that the BMW played a large part in this.

Certainly, there were days when the 330e M Sport was the tool to have – qualifying at Brands Indy, Knockhill and Snetterton for example. But, like Turkington and the other rear-drive racers, Hill had to go through the pain of waiting for his tyres to switch on at the start of races, and the BMW brigade took a further hit from round four at Oulton when their starting boost was further restricted.

Hill was also unlucky at times. He lost points at the first Thruxton event when he was given a black-and-orange flag for a loose rear bumper after contact from Ingram; his qualifying at Oulton was ruined when an apologetic Tom Chilton wandered out of the pits onto his racing line and forced him off; he was run off the road in the reversed-grid race at the second Thruxton.

And there were times when Hill was utterly superb: his 59 points at Knockhill are a record for a BTCC race weekend; his move on Butcher to win at Silverstone was lovely; his passes into Dingle Dell/Sheene at Brands were amazing. But there were also mistakes: clouting the chicane tyre stack at Donington, causing his BMW to fail the ride-height test and be excluded; errors chasing Cook at Brands Indy; getting outwitted by a chicane tyre stack that had moved at Knockhill. Without these, perhaps he’d have become champion.

“It’s been incredible,” enthused Hill. “I love this team so much and I love everything that we work towards. I just hope that we can come back and do it all again next year. I would rather retire from touring car racing than drive anywhere else – it feels like home, lovely rear-wheel-drive car, and I love the tie-up with BMW.” The smart money is on him doing exactly that.

2. Ash Sutton

Sutton came closest to wresting the title from Ingram, but limitations of his Focus occasionally led him to overreach (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

The three-time champion was magnificent in his first front-wheel-drive BTCC campaign since 2016. The Motorbase Performance-run NAPA Racing Ford Focus ST was far from the best car, but Sutton spent most of the season well in contention for a fourth crown, and led the points going into the Brands GP finale.

In contrast to 2022 champion Ingram, whose preparations began almost as soon as the chequered flag fell on the 2021 campaign, the doubt over where Sutton would race meant he and engineer Carrozza were relatively late in beginning their preparations. It wasn’t abnormal for a race weekend to be about honing the balance through free practice, qualifying and the three races before arriving in the sweet spot for the final race, and then having to start all over again at the next venue.

The mid-season test at Snetterton did provide a step forward, and Sutton was dynamite during the next race weekend at Knockhill, where his battles with Hill (one win each) were a highlight of the season and where he massively outpaced every other front-wheel-drive competitor in qualifying.

What also wasn’t abnormal was Sutton overreaching in qualifying – he didn’t put his sectors together at Oulton, he spun off at Snetterton, he spun off at the second Thruxton when team-mate Cammish was on pole (albeit with a stack more hybrid use). These you could potentially put down to attempting to transcend a car that wasn’t a match over the balance of the season for the Hyundai or the BMW.

In the races Sutton was absolutely superb, not only in attack but in defence that stayed just the right side of legit: grumbles from Hill and Morgan came his way at the Brands GP finale, where the car just wasn’t quick enough, but no action was taken. Winning the title in 2022 was a step too far, but not a very big step…

“Realistically, where we were in the middle of the season, or even at the start of the season, we were not in a car to be fighting for a championship,” Sutton summarised. “We turned it around as a whole, we all kept pushing and digging deep, and we came second.

“That’s the first loser, but Tom’s chased that title in a front-wheel-drive car for many, many years, and we’ve been able to jump in for our first season and be in that position, so I’m incredibly proud of the guys, myself, and everyone that put any ounce of effort into that programme.”

1. Tom Ingram

Champion Ingram pipped Sutton to the top spot in the standings and in our rankings (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

The top four are all very close in this review, and the top two are the closest of all. On the one hand, it’s tempting to put Sutton at the top because of the job he did in a car that was inferior, but that would not be fair on Ingram.

Put simply, the title he won at the wheel of the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N Fastback was set up from the beginning of 2021, when Ingram and engineer Spencer Aldridge arrived at the Suffolk squad from Speedworks Motorsport. They worked hard on transforming what had hitherto been an undeveloped package (owing largely to the COVID restrictions from 2020).

Its slippery shape meant it was always going to be quick in a straight line, but the development meant that it also became a weapon in the corners, especially in the hands of Ingram, whose peculiar, spectacular but effective driving style makes it look as though he’s driving a rear-wheel-drive car. So, Sutton had to perform at 100% to keep up or win; sometimes – Oulton and Brands GP – the Hyundai was so good that Ingram arguably only needed to be at 90%.

“Many sportsmen over the years have spoken about this out-of-body experience, and I had it in qualifying,” said Ingram of his decisive pole performance at the Brands finale. “I had all the time in the world, I felt the world was in slow motion, and that I was able to think about everything else other than driving a car. I wasn’t driving it by thought process – I was just doing it; it was just happening.

“To pull four laps out like that was immense, just immense. I could have chatted through it with Spencer as I was going around – it’s something that’s never happened in my life, hopefully it happens again, but to have had it when we needed it the most…”

But that’s a legacy of the hard work, and who’s to say that Ingram could also not have performed Sutton-style heroics if he’d had to? Certainly, when the chips were down he was totally on it: at the first Thruxton, he was forced to pit to remove grass from the radiator after avoiding a first-race incident, yet charged from 21st to eighth in race two. At Snetterton, he was the only realistic front-wheel-drive opponent to the BMWs on pure pace and got massively stuck into a first-lap fight before his front tyres faded in the baking heat. And, as Ingram himself has related, his season was a triumph of picking his battles, somewhat reminiscent of Turkington at his best. He very rarely got that wrong, and for that reason he was – narrowly – the best driver of the 2022 BTCC.

Ingram was on superb form in qualifying at Brands Hatch GP where he scored a crucial pole to set up his title-defining weekend (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)
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