Three of the winningest drivers in British motor racing have come head-to-head for the first time in their careers this year in the WTCR, the erstwhile Touring Car World Cup that replaced the WTCC for 2018. Considering the extensive touring car careers of Rob Huff, Gordon Shedden and James Thompson, it is incredible that – despite 59 years of cumulative racing between them – this marks the first time they have all come head-to-head against each other. Here, with the help of Tamara Aller of Touring Car Times, we introduce you to three very talented legends of the touring car scene.
Career debut: 2001 Formula Renault UK Series (finished 27th)
Career wins: 40
Highlights: 2003 Seat Cupra UK Champion, 2012 WTCC champion
A veteran of the WTCC/WTCR scene, Huff (above) has been an ever-present in the series since its rebirth in 2005. The Cambridge-born racer will be looking to return to title-challenging ways this year. His most successful seasons were as part of the all-conquering RML Chevrolet team, who swept all before them in 2011-2012. Huff won the title in the latter of those two years, just reward for some consistent performances. His most notable drives have always been in Macau, hence the moniker ‘Mr Macau’ being applied by commentators every single November. 2017 saw Huff compete in five different competitions, winning races in three (WTCC, TCR Series and the Chinese Touring Car Championship.
Tamara’s verdict: Huffy moved to Sebastien Loeb Racing ahead of the 2018 season, racing with a Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR, a car he knows well from last year’s campaign in the TCR International Series. Huff has been back to the forefront of the championship with a victory and four further results on the podium in the races held so far. Approaching the season’s equator, Huffy is third in the standings, 16 points behind leader Yann Ehrlacher and just seven behind his archrival Yvan Muller. WTCR fans will be stocking up on the popcorn, looking forward to the latest edition of the battles between the two touring car stars.
Career debut: 2001 BTCC
Career wins: 55
Highlights: 2012, 2015, 2016 British Touring Car Champion
It takes courage to climb out of your comfort zone, but this is something Shedden has done for 2018. With only two international touring car races to his name prior to this season – both with Team WRT last season in the TCR Series – you could be forgiven for thinking Shedden would struggle to step up to the plate. However, he is starting to find his feet. Kudos to the Edinburgh-born racer for making the jump but, after three domestic titles and countless wins, it is fair to say there was nothing left at home for him to dominate.
Tamara’s verdict: Prior to the start of the season, I had doubts about how Shedden would fare in the WTCR, taking a huge step forward from the BTCC. But I must acknowledge that “Flash” has been a pleasant surprise, being competitive, fast and feisty from the start. He’s been penalised by the BoP assigned to the Audi RS3 LMS and a few racing incidents that have diminished his returns in terms of points scored. But, undoubtedly, Shedden has shown himself worthy of his drive in the WTCR and I hope he’s here to stay.
Career debut: 1994 BTCC
Career wins: 50
Highlights: 2002, 2004 British Touring Car Championship; 2009, 2010 European Touring Car Cup winner
It is always good to see Thompson behind the wheel of a touring car. At 44, he was thought to be winding down a glittering career that has seen wins, both domestically and internationally. He is the only one of the three to have raced in the ETCC, the precursor to the 2005 WTCC relaunch. He also won the revamped European Touring Car Cup in 2009 and 2010, adding more trophies to the two BTCC titles he has to his name. Recent years has seen a lot of time spent working on WTCC Ladas but, as with everyone, 2018 provides a fresh start and renewed impetus with the TCR rules applied to the primary touring car series.
Tamara’s verdict: Thommo was taken out of semi-retirement by Dominik Greiner with a fortnight to go to the start of the season and the Briton has shown that two years away from the racing circuits hasn’t impaired his ability on the track. However, poor qualifying performance has usually placed Thompson in the middle of the pack and he has been unable to make progress through the traffic. His podium finish at Zandvoort proved that the Briton hasn’t lost his flare and we should expect more good results from Thompson in the races to come.
Huff v Shedden
These two started out their tintop careers at a similar time, with Huff drawing first blood back in the 2003 Seat Cupra Championship. The Englishman won the title with Shedden 2nd. From this point on their careers diverged, with Shedden arriving in the BTCC two years later than Huff in 2006, who in turn had since begun his WTCC pursuit. It wasn’t until the 2017 Silverstone BTCC round, where Huff acted as a substitute for Tom Chilton, that the two raced against each other again. Shedden finished ahead of Huff in two of the three races, but the latter secured 2nd on his domestic return.
Best performer over season when head-to-head: Huff 1 Shedden 1
Shedden v Thompson
Shedden made his BTCC debut in 2001 while Thompson was securing 3rd in the series, along with four wins. They came up against each other in 2006, with Shedden coming out on top by finishing 4th in the domestic series with four wins to Thompson’s sixth with three wins. Another gap (due to Thompson participating in the WTCC) followed before they met again in 2009. Shedden led the way again (3rd against 5th), as he did in 2011 when he finished runner-up in the BTCC.
Shedden 4 Thompson 1
Thompson v Huff
These two have plenty of joint history, predominantly in international series. They first came head-to-head in 2004, with Thommo winning his second BTCC title while Huff won twice in his debut season. Both made the move to the reborn World Touring Car Championship the following year and, despite both recording good results, it was Thommo who was stronger for the next three seasons. The tables turned in Huff’s favour from 2008 though as he benefited from having the stronger Seat, then Chevvy, machinery. In the six seasons they have raced against each other since, Huff has had the upper hand.
Thompson 4 Huff 7
Huff has taken the early lead between the three, thanks in no small part to his super run of results at Zandvoort last month. These have put him right into the title hunt now. Thompson and Shedden have taken a little longer to get going but again, after Zandvoort, their campaigns look to be starting to come alive.