GORDON SHEDDEN enjoyed a "fantastic" start to the new Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season by scoring a race win and another podium last Sunday.

The 43-year-old, a three-time winner of the series in 2012, 2015 and 2016, reached the top step of the podium in race two, having already clinched a third place, to begin the 2022 campaign in fine style on April 24.

His brother-in-law, Rory Butcher, was also in the points at Donnington Park, having recovered from a difficult opening that saw him fail to finish the first race of the day.

The curtain-raiser in Leicestershire marked the beginning of the competition's move to integrate hybrid power in its race cars, with drivers in control of when to deploy the system via a button, which gives them up to 15 seconds per lap of additional hybrid power, a benefit that can be used strategically to either attack or defend during racing conditions.

Halfords Racing with Cataclean driver Shedden, a familiar face at Knockhill Racing Circuit, claimed sixth place in qualifying but it was a frustrating session for Butcher, whose dad, Derek, is the venue's CEO and owner, as driveshaft failure consigned him to 26th after he was unable to post a representative lap time.

The Honda Civic Type R of Shedden's was one of the quickest cars on track as he made a number of moves to cross the finish line in fourth after the opening race but he received a boost afterwards when he was promoted a position after the car of Jake Hill – who had been third – was excluded for failing a ride height check.

Things got even better for 'Flash' in race two as he took his first win of the season thanks to an impressive performance, in which he moved into second place across the start/finish line on lap four, before moving ahead of Tom Ingram, the winner of race one, on the 10th lap to take the victory.

A ninth place after race three saw Shedden accumulate a points haul of 44, putting him second in the drivers' standings, and he said: "It wasn’t a lot of fun for me at the start of 2021 but that’s fantastic; a third and a win today is great!

"This is the first time that everyone’s had a different level of hybrid available to them so I’m managing what I want to do and I obviously don’t know what (Ingram is) going to do so it’s a little bit of cat and mouse. You’ve only got to win by an inch haven’t you?

"It’s great, there’s so many competitive cars. It’s just insane what’s happening out there, the level is just mega. So, the fact we’re in the mix is great – that’s just what we want right now.

"If the rest of the races are like that, it’ll be a lot of fun that’s for sure!"

There were contrasting fortunes for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK's Butcher, who was forced to retire in the opening race.

Having made up nine positions from where he started on the grid, a sudden safety car intervention heading into lap two saw the field checked up unexpectedly and the unsighted Butcher, tucked in behind Ollie Jackson, had nowhere to go, with front and end damage to his Corolla signalling the end of his race.

That left him back down in 26th for the start of race two but, undeterred, the Fifer went on a charge to secure a top-10 finish with a bold and committed performance, which he improved upon in the final run of the weekend to take the chequered flag in seventh, less than two seconds shy of the podium.

"I was so disappointed at the end of qualifying because the car felt really competitive and it meant we were more at risk of getting caught up in incidents in race one, which unfortunately is exactly what happened," Butcher said.

"Following a stellar repair job by the Speedworks crew, the Corolla was mega in race two and we made up a lot of places early on again. We were able to show our pace against the other front wheel-drive cars and I was very happy to finish 10th. The hybrid element was fun and definitely gives us more to think about, requiring a little bit of strategy with regard to when and where is best to deploy it.

"We put up another good fight in race three and whilst I lost a little bit of performance in the closing laps, I was pleased to bring the car home in seventh and score some decent points.

"Clearly, we wanted a lot more than that from the weekend but we can definitely move forward from here."

Rounds four, five and six of the BTCC – which visits Knockhill over the weekend of July 30-31 – take place at Brands Hatch Indy on May 14-15.