Tordoff considering his motor racing future despite stellar season

Sam Tordoff on the podium.

Sam Tordoff on the podium.

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LEEDS racer Sam Tordoff would be forgiven for having sleepless nights when reflecting on this year’s British Touring Car Championship.

Leading the drivers’ standings heading into the final weekend, the Yorkshireman was ultimately pipped to the post by just two points by Gordon Shedden.

There are, though, bigger dreams held by the Leeds speedster, who may soon quit motorsport altogether – with his day job at JCT600 and purchasing a family home with girlfriend Georgina Stapleton more pressing goals.

Tordoff, 27, appeared destined to become a national champion in one of motorsport’s most prestigious championships heading into the final weekend at Brands Hatch over the first weekend in October.

The Team JCT600 with GardX racer led the chasing pack by 11 points heading into the final three races yet a 10th-placed finish in race one followed by two finishes in fifth saw the Yorkshireman demoted into second spot after the final race by Shedden whose fifth-placed finish in race one was followed by two thirds.

Tordoff, who has been racing since he was eight years old, might never have a better chance of becoming a BTCC champion – though this year’s second-placed finish came in only his fourth attempt at the series – following a sixth-placed finish in 2015, a seventh-placed finish in 2014 and a sixth-placed finish on his debut as a 23-year-old in 2013.

With age on his side – the Leeds racer is ten years younger than this year’s victor Shedden – a championship victory ought to be inevitable one day given natural progression.

But for Tordoff there are other motivational drives in life, whose business role at his family car dealers business JCT600 takes top billing, so much so that this year’s BTCC assault may even have been his last – even if there is a strong suspicion that deep down inside there is unfinished business to complete after this year’s near miss.

“Racing is not my life,” says an honest Tordoff, in an exclusive interview with the YEP.

“That doesn’t mean for one second I don’t give it everything I’ve got and I do work really hard at racing.

“But then it gets to Monday morning and I park that and I become something else for the rest of the week.

“There are lots of other things that I want to do ultimately. There’s lots of other goals I would like to achieve and there’s lots of stuff that I want to get on with like the JCT sub group and the family business. I have got huge aspirations to be a successful businessman as well as being a successful racing driver so at some point sooner or later I probably will stop because I just can’t fit it all in my life any more.

“I am dealing with them both the best I can at the moment but at some time, sooner rather than later, that will become too big of a thing in its own right. When that time comes, that’s when I’ll have to call it a day.

“But if I do want to continue then there’s a real chance we can go again and I think we have really shown ourselves what we are capable of now. All of the sponsors are really happy and when you give them the level of exposure that we have this year, they want to continue with it.

“Basically, I am in a lucky position where everybody is happy and I can ultimately decide what feels best for me.”

Quite rightly, after a stellar year that featured three race victories and seven podium finishes, Tordoff is in high demand.

And that sentiment extends beyond the race track and even beyond business.

The Bradford-born racer has been dating London-based girlfriend Georgina for the last year though Tordoff can thank motorsport for finding him love having met his better half through her role in marketing for IHG who sponsor Tordoff’s team-mate Jack Goff.

Continuing to thrive as a business is one clear goal for the Leeds star – and buying a first home with his girlfriend is another with his business ties meaning the imminent property search will most definitely be focused on abodes in Yorkshire.

“Georgie works in marketing for IHG but I met her through racing and racing seems to be the focal point if my life!” laughed Tordoff. “Now it’s got me a girlfriend as well.

“We have been together for about a year now and she’s from London so that makes me be even more on the road.

“When I’m not travelling with work or racing I am going down the M1 to London but that’s good and exciting. It keeps me busy and it keeps me busy seeing her! I am basically just living in my car!

“I love London as a city and to be honest I would probably go there if I didn’t have JCT as a stranglehold and holding me back. I do spend quite a lot of time in London but JCT are predominantly Yorkshire based and I am stuck in Leeds as long as our names are above the door!

“I have got my little first house in Rodley but it’s about time I grew up and got a proper family home and started thinking about all of that.

“Georgie is going to be moving in shortly so then obviously the longer term plan is to get a proper semi, a three bed semi, something like that.”

More imminently, though, Tordoff will soon have to make a decision as to whether there is a fifth assault at the BTCC title in 2017. Tordoff is now out of contract and reasoned: “It’s a strange one because in years gone by, by October we have decided what we are doing and we have gone on and signed a deal. This year, because we were so close to winning the championship all of the focus went in on that so we never talked about next year.

“We just put that to one side and said we’ll deal with that after Brands Hatch so it was only really the last two weeks that we started talking about it.

“It’s actually really early days yet. I am hoping to have something concluded by the end of November so we have got probably a five-week time frame now in which to have a few meetings and put all the cards on the table and see what looks like the best option.

“I look back on this year really positively – it’s been a great year.

“All right, yes, we missed out but the positives are we won the constructors’ championship for BMW, we won the team’s championship for JCT and we have lost out on the championship by two points. I can’t really be too disheartened by that to be honest and I’m not.

“We have had a really good year, it’s my best year yet if you take in everything so I’m looking at it that way rather than losing out at the final hurdle.

“Obviously, it was a bit of bitter pill to swallow at the time but later that night, sat in the bar, as a team we all celebrated. It felt like a celebration because there was loads to celebrate about.”

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Sam Tordoff with his father John, CEO of JCT600, and the MD of GardX with the 2016 BTCC Team champions trophy. PIC: Dennis Goodwin

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