Barley Brands Blog'About 5 minutes Tom, and we'll need you in the car for race 1.' These are words I could have only dreamt of hearing on the 13th October 2013: finals day for the BTCC championship at Brands Hatch. The nations biggest, best, and most exciting race series.
Surely I, Tom Barley could not be making my Touring Car debut? This was always out of reach, a goal you set to keep you on your A game? You had better believe it, it's happening. The scores of racing fans outside the pit wanting to catch a glimpse of the beautiful machinery, the team at work, and of course the lovely ladies holding my name confirm it. I'd made it. I was living out a weekend that dreams are made of. The biggest names, the illustrious teams and some of the best drivers that ever did it, all in one pit lane. I was well and truly flying high.
Saturdays wet to drying free practice session left me in a very respective 17th place. My first official timed session in the series and I was on the first page! By the time qualifying came about the track had dried, and I really pushed my own limits to try and extract the best lap time possible. I finished up 23rd, out of 25. Whilst that isn't the sort of performance to sets records alight you have to remember the company that you're in. There are no slouches here, everyone is giving it 100%, using years of experience to create ultimate one lap pace. For me it was about seat time and confidence. I had the car really well hooked up, and continued to go quicker even at the end of the session.
Come Sunday morning I was incredibly excited to get onto the grid for my first race. The weather was atrocious, with standing water forming on the track the first lap produced so much spray I genuinely could not see the car in front for most of the lap. I pushed on, kept my nose clean and avoided the dangers to come home in 16th place, one away from championship points! I was over the moon. I knew that I was now well setup for race two, starting right in the middle of the action.
After a session with my engineer JR, and meeting lots more BTCC fans, and a Q+A session in a sponsors suite it was time for race two. The lights go out and we're heading towards paddock hill bend in one long, expensive fast moving train! Two taps from behind right on the apex and I'm off into the gravel. Very frustrating. I knew id now be starting race three from the back of the pack.
I dust myself off (literally) and mentally prepare for race three. I've got championship leader, and BTCC superstar Andrew Jordan starting next to me, something else to keep in mind. The heavens open just as we're about to get going, but the relentless pace of the BTCC means nothing slows down! I push on from the rear of the field and finish in 20th place, having great battles along the way. Sadly 15th was out of reach, I was expecting so much action in race three to play into my hands but it wasn't meant to be. Ah well, I'll just have to come back again to get reach my target of BTCC points!
I cannot end the season without saying a huge thank you to everyone back at base. Tony is constantly receiving praise, and he knows how much I appreciate what he's done for me. It's also the apprentice's, the truck drivers, the FAT men (fuel, air, tyres) each and every member of this team has done something for me, and I'll be forever grateful. I also have to thank IG Group, Websters Pen show and RCIB Insurance for partnering with me and making the weekend possible.
After tasting the BTCC it's very hard to think about any other form of competitive racing for 2014 so keep your eye out for me. The support has been fantastic, thank you and try your winter! I agree, 'everything else is just waiting'
Tom Barley #47