Interview : Rejuvenated Shedden aims high
Sat 29th January 2011 Gordon Shedden finished third in the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and returns in 2011 with his sights set even higher.
By Matt Salisbury
Twelve months ago, Gordon Shedden's BTCC future was very much up in the air after a 2009 campaign he won't want to remember in a hurry.
Having started the season with Team Dynamics, Shedden suddenly found himself dropped after the opening round and eventually found a berth with Cartridge World Carbon Zero Racing only for the team to drop out of the championship.
While he managed to remain on the grid under the Club SEAT banner, a lowly 14th place in the championship was far less than he had hoped for going into his fourth season in the series.
There were plenty of doubts about what the future held for the Scot last January, but with the issues that had forced him to leave the team prematurely the previous year put to one side, Shedden duly returned to the Dynamics fold in 2010 with a late deal confirmed to join old sparring partner Matt Neal in the newly-named Honda Racing Team.
Showing that bygones can be bygones, Shedden enjoyed his best season to date as he won five times – taking his career total to 15 and putting him ahead of the likes of Frank Biela, Steve Soper and Gabriele Tarquini on the all-time winners list.
It also meant he went into the final weekend of the season with a shot at the title, and although he ultimately had to settle for third in the standings after a tough weekend at Brands Hatch, there was little doubt that Shedden had bounced back to form in the best way possible.
"Effectively having 2009 out meant that the fire in my belly was bigger than it had ever been and made me more determined than ever to do well," he reflects. "It was critical that I had a good year in 2010.
"Everyone at Dynamics worked really hard going into the season to give both me and Matt a car that was capable of winning and the year got better and better for me as it went on. From Croft onwards, my year really got going and I think I must have scored more points than anyone else in the second half of the year, which gave me a fighting chance of the title at Brands Hatch. The car worked fantastically well all season, we worked hard as a team and the fact that we had both drivers up there in the standings and won both the constructors' and teams' titles shows what a good job we did.
"We worked really hard on set-up all year as from the outset, the Civic was one of – if not the – best handling car on the grid but we couldn't compete with the turbo engine in a straight line. That was the only weakness the car had, and that was down to the rules and not down to us."
The issue of competing against turbo-engined cars isn't one Shedden will face for the 2011 season as Honda prepares to swap to a new engine based on the NGTC regulations that will form the basis of the BTCC in the coming years.
With Dynamics working hard with engine partner Neil Brown on the 2-litre turbo-charged engine, Shedden is now waiting to get his hands on the updated package for a testing programme he admits could be one of the most important the team has faced in recent years.
"We are obviously hoping for more power, although I don't think it will be masses," he said. "We'll take what we get with both hands but we have plenty of pre-season testing planned to make sure we are in a position to hit the ground running when we get to Brands Hatch.
"There is no doubt that the testing programme is going to be massively important for us. We are doing things the right way as we have a base chassis in the Civic that we know worked very well last year so we have a good place to start from. It isn't like we are starting from a completely blank sheet of paper as we are integrating the engine into what is already a strong chassis package and assuming we can do that – and it looks good on paper – then it should be strong again."
If that is indeed the case and the Civic performs as expected, then Shedden insists there is only one goal for Honda for the year ahead.
"Last year, we won just about everything there was to win so we want a clean sweep if possible this year," he said. "But we know it is going to be difficult to achieve and there is a lot of racing between now and the end of the year."