Sam Tordoff is a name which will be familiar to many BTCC fans. From his debut BTCC season at Triple Eight MG in 2013, he was thrust into the spotlight in a team which demanded success, and he delivered. After taking a year away from the BTCC following his 2nd place finish in the championship in 2016, Tordoff returned to the series in 2018 behind the wheel of a Motorbase Performance Ford Focus. He lines up on the grid in 2019 with a new car and team in AmD Tuning and the Honda Civic Type-R, but with the same high hopes of race wins and a championship challenge. I put my questions to Sam ahead of the 2019 campaign.
What’s your first BTCC memory?
My first BTCC memory was playing TOCA Touring cars on the PlayStation! That was in 1997 when I was 8 years old, and that’s when my love of motorsport and the BTCC began. 12 months later began racing Karts!
What’s your favourite UK race circuit?
My favourite UK circuit is Brands Hatch GP. I am a huge fan of the ‘old’ race circuits so Brands, closely followed by Oulton Park. I love the undulations, blind corners and driving through the trees – the sense of speed is incredible!
Tell me a bit about your background, and how you ended up in the BTCC.
Having started in Karting aged 9, I competed there until I was 19. Initially, it was just some Sunday fun with my Dad, but it wasn’t long before the competitive edge takes over and you invest more of your time and money! By the time 19 came around, I’d won the British Championship and was regularly competing in Europe and the World Championships. From here I jumped straight to the TOCA package spending 2 years in the Clio Cup. That then led me to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB for 2 years before I made my full debut into BTCC with Triple Eight and MG.
You were so unlucky last year with mechanical issues and would have almost certainly finished much higher in the standings if they hadn’t have happened. Was it tough to keep motivated at times?
Absolutely! I don’t race in the BTCC to finish 11th in the Championship. In fact, in the 4 previous seasons, I’ve finished no less than 7th so 2018 was definitely tough. Many things went wrong – often different things, which made it difficult to pinpoint problems and rectify them. In the end, it was just one of those years which you put down to experience and move on. At least my qualifying performance was one positive to take away!
How did the drive to AmD Tuning come about for 2019?
I’ve known Shaun (team boss) for a long time and previously tested the Audi 12 months ago. We’ve kept in touch since and when the Motorbase deal fell through, AMD was the perfect fit. I had watched with interest to see where the Eurotech Honda’s would end up and Shaun getting these is the No1 reason I signed for AMD.
You’ve driven for some of the biggest teams on the grid in Triple Eight, WSR and Motorbase. How did you find your full debut season in 2013 coming into a factory-backed team with Jason Plato as a teammate? Did you feel the pressure to get results right away?
To be honest, no, because nobody expected me to get results and I don’t think I did either! As it was, I ended my first weekend with a podium and we never looked back! I probably enjoyed this period the most where being young, naïve and carefree with little expectation was a fantastic experience. I learnt a huge amount in those two years and I am very grateful for the wisdom Jason gave me.
How did you deal with the tough end to 2016? Did you need the season away in GT racing to recharge your batteries or was British GT something you’d always planned to do at some point? Any plans to do the occasional race in the series later down the line?
I just got on with it, to be honest – I am not one to reflect on the past. 2016 was a fantastic year and we were very consistent picking up points everywhere. Unfortunately, we were not actually fast and struggled a lot with the engine (which WSR/BMW then replaced for 2017). I’d always wanted to have a go at GT racing and at the end of 2016, it seemed like the perfect fit. My relationship with WSR/BMW had run its course, I needed a fresh challenge and going racing around Europe in Blancpain really enticed me! In 2017 I raced at Dubai, Monza, Spa, Paul Ricard and Catalunya – all tracks I’d never even visited before! Le Mans still remains on the bucket list and is an itch hopefully one day I’ll get to scratch…
What motivated you to come back to the BTCC last year and what did you miss most about the series whilst you were away?
Tricky question. In 2017 I learnt that I actually didn’t enjoy sharing a car with teammates – I preferred to drive on my own. Being in that situation didn’t allow me to develop the car as I like, work on setup and build on that over the course of the weekend. So in that sense, I realised for 2018 I wanted to return to a single-driver championship. The second and probably more important reason was the commercial aspect. I have built up some amazingly loyal sponsors over the years in BTCC who received amazing exposure and enjoyment from being at BTCC weekends. The longer I stayed away from the Championship, the more likely I was to lose these sponsors which I could not afford to do. So I knew if I wanted to carry on racing I’d have to return to the BTCC sooner rather than later.
If there’s one race in your career so far you could re-live, which one would it be?
Probably Oulton Park 2016. That day I had a win and two second places – an amazing day for me!
What are your hopes for 2019? Where do you think AmD will fit in the pecking order and how do you think you’ll adapt to the Civic?
We are setting our stall out to win races and be in the title hunt! AMD having purchased these Civic’s have nowhere to hide now and Shaun is well aware of this. The team have really stepped up their preparation over the winter and many new faces have also joined with serious pedigree. We have a thorough testing programme planned and so I am confident we will arrive at Brands Hatch in great shape. It was also very important for me to have a strong teammate and I am thrilled Rory is on the other side of the garage. We are predicting big things in 2019…