A new chapter in South-East motor group, the JCB Group, history unfolds this weekend as it announces partnership with one of the biggest teams in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), Team HARD. Racing.
The announcement is a landmark occasion for the family-owned group, which in its 20 year existence has sold in excess of 120,000 vehicles and has grown to include five different car manufacturers, commercial vehicles and parts supply to the trade industry, across 12 sites in Kent and Sussex.
Jonathan Bischoff Managing Director, explains the significance behind the partnership: “Since JCB Group’s inception, we’ve proven that there’s a healthy market for good old-fashioned service in supporting motorists, where people are looked after. As one of the country’s best-watched motor race series, the sponsorship deal with BTCC’s Team HARD. Racing is a strategic opportunity to confirm the JCB Group’s position as a trusted partner and provider of support to motor enthusiasts, first-time, and seasoned new and used car and van buyers.”
As an official team sponsor for the Brands Hatch season finale and in to the 2018 season, the JCB Group will have JCB Volkswagen branding on the cars and across the team. The 2018 season starts in March next year, annually attracting millions of TV viewers, as well as up to 50,000 spectators to each race, making this a unique branding opportunity for JCB Volkswagen.
Jonathan added: “It’s a very exciting opportunity for JCB Volkswagen and the wider group, to be part of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. When the chance arose to work with Team HARD. Racing, it wasn’t hard to resist. With our great cars and a fantastic driver line-up, I am confident that we’ll be backing a winning team, while we get our brand out there on the track in front of massive crowds and a huge television audience.”
Entering the 2018 season of the super-competitive BTCC, Team HARD. Racing, fronted by Tony Gilham has heavyweight success behind it, increased financial and technical investment from JCB Volkswagen, the skills, consistency and a driver line up that will collectively represent one of the most powerful line-ups in the BTCC.
Commenting on the new partnership, Tony Gilham said: “It is another exciting step forward for us as a team and we very much look forward to working with the JCB Group to further develop our working relationship and make the most of this opportunity. We have been working with the JCB Group for a number of years now and following a very successful year where we have secured both the VAG Trophy and the VW Racing Cup championship wins as well as several other honours, it is perfect timing to take our relationship to a whole new level.”
Will Burns has had to bring his 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season to an early conclusion on medical grounds after suffering injuries during a massive incident at Silverstone last weekend (16/17 September).
During the opening race on Sunday, Burns was impressively battling on the cusp of the top twenty when he was collected heavily by the damaged car of Rob Collard, resulting in large contact to the front-right and then the rear of his Volkswagen CC.
After being taken to the circuit’s medical centre, Burns was airlifted to the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for assessment, before being discharged later that afternoon with three fractured ribs and bruising to a lung.
With the doctor’s advising at least a month’s rest, Burns has made the difficult decision to withdraw from competing in this weekend’s season finale at Brands Hatch GP in his AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing machine.
Will Burns: “It’s disappointing not to be able to complete my maiden BTCC season at Brands Hatch this weekend, but withdrawing from the meeting is certainly the right decision to make in the circumstances.
“I want to say a huge thank you to the marshals who were the first on the scene at Silverstone, to the BTCC and Silverstone medical teams, and all the staff at the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for all their fantastic help.
“I must also say a massive thank you to everyone who has sent their well wishes since the incident, the response has been truly overwhelming. I hope to be back in a race car soon as we begin to look ahead to the 2018 season.”
Mike Epps enjoyed a return to form with a pair of top ten finishes in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone this past weekend (16/17 September), however he was left feeling there could have been more after running as high as fifth in the final race of the day.
Epps laid down a statement of intent in the opening free practice session of the weekend on Saturday morning, producing eye-catching pace in tricky wet conditions to top the timesheets for a long spell, before eventually finishing third overall as others capitalised on an improving track.
After finishing on the fringe of the top ten in improved conditions during the second free practice session, the AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing ace would unfortunately encounter a nightmare qualifying session as an issue with the rear of his car left him unable to show his potential.
A startling lack of rear end grip meant Epps could only guide his Volkswagen CC to the 25th best time during an incredibly close session, which left him firmly on the back-foot as he headed into the penultimate race day of the season in front of a huge trackside crowd.
Rainfall in the early stages of the opening race would present Epps with the opportunity to replicate his free practice one pace and the Hemel Hempstead racer took full advantage to produce a sensational climb through the field over the first half of the race.
Into the top twenty within three laps, Epps would produce some superb overtaking manoeuvres, including storming around the outside of three-time BTCC champion Gordon Shedden at Brooklands, as he scythed his way through to tenth position.
Unfortunately, his charge would be halted following a massive incident for his Team HARD stablemate Will Burns that ultimately led to an early red flag conclusion to the race, though tenth place would still mark a sensational climb of fifteen positions in just ten laps.
The 25 year old would be right in the thick of the action at the bottom of the top ten throughout the second race of the day, battling with the likes of Shedden and former World Touring Car champion Rob Huff on his way to another tenth place finish at the flag.
After cruelly missing out on the reverse grid pole position for race three, Epps would dive into the limelight as a loss of momentum for the pack ahead through Copse allowed him to storm into fifth position on the approach to Becketts.
A lengthy safety car period followed, but once the action resumed Epps would stick to the rear of the car ahead over the next few laps, however his efforts were made tougher by the fact he was battling with the option hard compound tyres for the race.
Slipping back to sixth, the defining point of the race would come on lap fifteen as contact behind sent Shedden spinning over the grass and straight across the front of Epps’ Volkswagen, the duo a matter of inches away from a massive incident.
Epps would luckily recover at the tail of the top ten once again and eventually took the chequered flag in twelfth position in his Simply Race and Anytime Fitness backed machine, a result that completes a brilliant points finish hat-trick for the weekend.
Mike Epps: “It’s definitely been an up and down weekend, but it was certainly nice to be up at the top of the timesheets in free practice one after having some wet weather to play with, as when it rains I’m able to do a little bit more with the car.
“Qualifying was therefore immensely disappointing, but we made a massive step forward in the races. I was delighted to come through the field so quickly in the first race and pick up back to back top ten finishes.
“The final race was frustrating but enlightening. It was fantastic to be running in the top five for a long spell, but in truth we were struggling on the hard tyres. I have to thank the skies that Gordon [Shedden] didn’t collect me and I was ultimately able to make the finish.
“I really feel like we’re in a position now that we can build on for the final weekend of the season. It’s certainly all come a bit late in the year, but nevertheless hopefully we can end on a high at Brands Hatch.”
The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season comes to a conclusion in two weeks’ time (30 September/1 October) around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent.
The Northampton based driver will contest the final round of the SRO British GT Championship at Donington Park in the Team HARD. run 2016 Ginetta G55.
Coming off the back of a great result in Monza where Abbie made history by being the first woman EVER to win at a Blacpain Endurance Race event in a Ferrari 488 GT3. For having minimal seat time in the Italian machine and to produce an amazing result Eaton is hoping that she gets to grips with the 2016 GT4 Championship winning car just as quickly.
Abbie said on the switch to the Team HARD. run Ginnetta; “I’m really looking forward to learning about the characteristics of the Ginetta GT4 and being back in the British GT paddock. It’s a fun weekend for me but I’m hoping a little rain dance will bring the Ginettas into podium contention at the usually ‘power dominant’ Donington Park.”
Team HARD. Boss Tony Gilham said on having the young lady in the car; “Abbie has been around a long time and has driven some fantastic races, we have spoken about working with each other on many occasions, but it has never happened for whatever reason, but the stars have seemed to have aligned and I am excited to see what Abbie can produce behind the wheel of our title winning GT4 Ginetta”
Joining Eaton in the Team HARD. Ginetta will be Jake Giddings. The young driver who has previously piloted the G55 for Team HARD. with his last outing being at the famous Belgium circuit Spa where he finished 10th overall, 7th in Class and towards the end of the race was quickest on track in the GT4 Class.
Giddings expressed his joy at the chance to jump into the Team HARD. car again “Really looking forward to be getting back out on the grid. It was great to be asked to come back to Team HARD. to push for that result that everyone deserves and to try finish on that high for the last round of the British GT championship. I am really looking forward to driving with Abbie she’s a quick pedaler, we’ve battled on track so will be good to share a car and see if together we can put the Ginetta though it’s paces.
Tony followed up what Jake had to say with “Having Jake in the car again is a massive plus for the us, having worked with the boys before at Spa they are all keen to work with him again and it has definitely brought a much needed buzz to the team again. We hope that Abbie and Jake will work well together and help us end a disappointing year with a smile and Silverware.”
RACE REPORT: VAG TROPHY 2017 – ROUND 5 THRUXTON CIRCUIT – 2ND SEPTEMBER 2017
Saturday 2nd September saw the MaximumGroup.net VAG Trophy head to Andover and the UK’s fastest circuit, Thruxton for the penultimate round of the championship. Kyle was set for a long and challenging weekend starting with much needed testing as this track is always a test of skill in not only handling the constant high speeds, but also tyre management.
Thruxton, unlike most circuits, has very limited testing but, fortunately, Kyle has a great partner in Motion Simulation Ltd and had made very good use of their simulators in the weeks leading up to the race in order to get some circuit familiarisation in and to understand the different braking point and racing lines on the track. With the simulator preparation done it was time to head down to the circuit and get on track in his #GetacRacing race car run by Tony Gilham’s Team Hard Racing.
Kyle didn’t take to the track straight away, preferring to wait until the frantic early sessions had calmed down somewhat. As session 3 approached, Kyle got his race gear on and got re-acquainted with his superb office and headed out onto track. As he exited the pits and got onto the track, the car wasn’t feeling 100% and felt down on power. This is less than ideal on a power circuit where speed matters. With around 85% of the lap spent on full throttle, a power disadvantage could prove very costly. However, undaunted, Kyle persisted with the session, in order to get an actual feel for the circuit with the power that he did have.
Following this first session and the good understanding it gave him of the track, the team got to work on trying to identify the power problem. Having made some set up changes to the rear suspension and replaced some engine sensors that were suspected as being potential culprits, Kyle exited onto the track for a second time. He accelerated out of the pit lane until, at around 80mph, a race drivers worst nightmare happened; a massive bang!
In a split second, the car bonnet got caught by the increasing speed of air flowing over it and flipped up, smashing the windscreen and leaving Kyle with only a sliver of space to see through to stop the car safely while at the same time having to deal with shattered glass coming in to the cockpit. It was a complete accident, and something that happens in even the top flight of racing, but Kyle’s team were devastated, as was Kyle. Understanding that these things happen from time to time, and ever the diplomat, Kyle took time to reassure the team not to worry. Fortunately for Kyle it had happened on the practice day rather than during qualifying or the race. With a new windscreen fitted, it was unfortunately too late to head out for testing to establish whether the engine problems had been fixed but at least he could live to fight another day…
Saturday arrived, and the anticipation of what was to come. While at a disadvantage owing to a lack of track time the day before, and still unsure if the power issues had been resolved, Kyle took solace from the fact that at least his tyres would be in better condition than those who had done more extensive testing the day before. He strapped himself in and headed out for the 15 minute qualifying session.
Pretty much immediately it was obvious that the sensor replacement hadn’t cured the power issues. However Kyle persisted with the session, using as much kerb at the two complexes as possible to get a representative lap time in. At the end of the session Kyle had managed 12th and was only 0.02 seconds off 11th place. Not what he was looking for. However, due to being down on power, he hadn’t taken as much life out of my tyres which may well play into his hands come the race.
With the qualifying session over it was back to the pits and the team got to work on the car once again to try and rectify the power problems. Just in time for the first race, the team managed to make further sensor replacements and a change to damper settings to allow Kyle to be slightly more aggressive on the kerbs should he still be down on power. This is always a risk though as Thruxton is notoriously tough on tyres and taking more kerb risks damaging the tyres. It was going to be a tough balancing act but it’s not an uncommon situation for a driver to face so Kyle just made the call for what instinctively felt right and went for it.
Unfortunately for Kyle, and in spite of the best efforts of the team, the car was still down on power which meant a tough race was coming Kyle’s way. Kyle’s get away from the line was great but as he was accelerating he felt a little push from behind from a competitor that clearly had much more power. Undaunted, Kyle pushed on knowing that the setup changes he had made would mean that the corners would be where he regained some ground. And so it was with him executing the complexes perfectly lap after lap and taking “Church” corner flat in 5th gear. He ended up having a great battle with Martyn Cully all race long but, a little later in the race, someone had a tyre blow-out which left debris all across the circuit. The race was nearing its completion so the race officials, putting the drivers’ safety first, red flagged the race. In spite of the premature end of the race Kyle came home in 11th place. Whilst he had been aiming for a top 10, he was happy with the result, especially given that he was on average 12mph slower through the lap and massively down on power.
As soon as the car returned to the pits the every dedicated team got to work on the car once again to try and rectify the lack of power once and for all. After replacing yet more sensors, it seemed that there could be nothing more electronically that could be causing the power issues. The team then got to work on removing the front end of the car and found that the intercooler had a leak; a minor leak but a leak nonetheless. So, with the intercooler replaced, and all engine sensors replaced, it was time for race two.
With hope that the issues was finally resolved, Kyle headed out on to the track. It was soon obvious that the car was still down on power and that Kyle was in for another tough race. Nonetheless, the same spirit of dogged determination kicked in and Kyle set his focus on the start lights.
As the lights went out Kyle got a fantastic start, especially considering his power disadvantage. As the first lap unfolded it seemed that Kyle was in for another race long battle with Martyn Cully. With the leading part of the field pulling away, Kyle was taking even more risks over the kerbs in the complexes and was gaining massively on Cully in the corners where he had far superior grip but Cully was pulling a gap on the straights. As Kyle’s battle with Cully continued and the race neared its completion, there was quite a big incident with four cars involved, including some championship challengers. The safety car was called, and on passing the incident on the following lap, Kyle was relieved to see all the drivers walking away from what was left of their cars. It was only as Kyle pulled back off the track at the end of that lap that it dawned on him that he had finished in 8th place with some of this closest championship rivals not scoring points.
In a typically mature moment, Kyle later reflected on the weekend. Being down on power had taught him by far his biggest lesson as a racing driver to date; to take away the positives from a bad situation. He had come away scoring more points than a number of his championship rivals and now found himself sitting in 7th place with a healthy gap to his nearest challenger in 8th. The Team Hard Racing crew had done a superb job in persisting with their rugged determination in getting his #GetacRacing race car back up to power and he had come away from the UK’s fastest circuit with two finishes, a host of points and was sitting in a comfortable place in his opening season in very competitive racing.
Kyle later said, “This is all thanks to my amazing sponsors Getac who have seen potential, determination and dedication from me to represent them in the best way possible and on a huge stage. I cannot express my thanks to Getac enough, they are truly very special to me, and I will always be extremely grateful to them for seeing potential in me and my abilities. I have to also express huge thanks to Tony Gilham and his Team Hard Racing, along with each and every one of their mechanics who persisted with trying to get my race car back up to pace.“
“Thank you Getac for all of your continued support, and a big thank you to all the team and mechanics who persisted to get my car back to full power for the main event, it just wasn’t our weekend. I must also extend my thanks to Varoosh Sports Partnerships Ltd, Jellyfish Designs Ltd, Allprint Supplies (Slough), Slough Audi, Motion Simulation Race Room, Drift Innovation, Dread, Bespoke Automotive Customs and so many friends and family who have continually supported me every step of the way.”
With the final round of the championship looming in late October, Kyle is determined to finish the season in the best possible way as a way of justifying the belief shown in him by all those who are on this journey with him. The last round of the 2017 MaximumGroup.net VAG Trophy will take place on the 28th October at the Oulton Park International Circuit in Cheshire.