Snetterton, one of my all time favourite circuits. A long technical track that, when driven right, is so rewarding. I couldn’t wait to get back out after the disappointments of Rockingham, but none the less I knew this weekend I would have to dig deeper than I have ever before as the BOP was so against us. For those wondering what BOP is well… its either a systematic way of keeping the grid full of different manufactures of race car, and used to even the cars out and provide close racing, or something for the drivers to moan about on a minute by minute basis. For us, it was the later of the two. Our car was seriously restricted, and on a power circuit like Snetterton, it really was a kick in the teeth. But still, we arrived with our heads held high and bags of confidence.
Saturday, Going into FP1 we had a set run plan, however some technical issue prevented us from keeping to that, leaving running to a minimum. FP2 struck us with some more bad luck, as the steering rack failed through a high compression corner, forcing us to retire the car from the session. Next session for us was qualifying, and both Anna and I were feeling a little unsure of the pace in the car due to the limited running we had earlier in the day. But we both strapped in and recorded our PB times, however both of us knew there was more time out there, and we just needed the seat time to find it. Now our heads were focused on the races.
Sunday. Race day! I woke up on Sunday with a spring in my step, as we had discussed our race plan the night before, and I was feeling rather refreshed about it all. After breakfast was a short 10 min warm up session, which we decided would be more useful for Anna to take part in, as she was to start the first race. Post session we decided to change the setup slightly to allow us to get more mechanical grip in the slower corners, and help us make the most of what we had performance wise. We then lined up for race 1, Anna in the pilot seat made a great start, but even from the pit wall, it was clear to see she had a problem, she wasn’t comfortable for some reason. No later than 10 seconds after I thought this, Anna came over the radio highlighting concern about the brake pedal. An issue involving brakes is never taken lightly and so she was forced to box so that the problem to be solved. This unfortunately lost us a lap in the race, and meant that my stint had become a glorified test session. However I never gave up and pushed every lap, to better understand the car and the setup, recording another PB lap time during the race. We finished without any more drama but were much further down the field than we hoped for.
Race 2 started, and with the time arriving at T minus 45 minutes there was a problem. During a set up change a part had failed and caused a huge delay to the car. The rear left suspension was in need of a rebuild, and things started to look rather bleak, but with the hustle of our engineer we managed to sort the issue as best we could and get the car out on the grid. Due to the nature of the issue it meant that the ABS in the car wasn’t working to its full potential, therefore limiting our efficiency on the brakes. never the less, I strapped in for the start of the race. I made a good clean start and and settled into my groove. Battling hard with our sister car to maintain position. However my efforts were thwarted as the faster GT3 cars came through and left me off line. Which meant I had to concede the position but I kept my head down and started to post faster and faster lap times. As the sister car drove into the pits for the driver change I opted to stay out to try and stretch the gap to them. With pure focus I managed to beat my previous PB lap time again, and got us a jump on our team mates. When I handed the car to Anna we were ahead of them. Anna put in a solid performance and brought the car home in a respectable position. The end result was not what we hoped for, but because of our BOP we really just didn’t have the pace in the car to push any further. I am still proud of what we achieved as we truly delivered the best we could with what we had. On the up, this means that our BOP will improve for Silverstone GP on the 9th and 10th of June. So now its all focus on the next round.
Four years ago, driving for Intersport Racing, the Hindhead-based driver, along with teammates Kevin Clark and former international rally driver Ian Donaldson won the Willhire Six Hour Endurance race at the famous Norfolkcircuit at the wheel of a BMW E92 M3.
This weekend marks round three of the British GT Championship where she will continue to share driving duties with up-and-coming endurance racer Calum Hawkins-Row in their Ginetta Cars Ginetta G55 GT4.
The pair have endured a difficult start to 2018, a top five class result at the opening round at Oulton Park on Easter Monday was followed by the curtailed rain-soaked race two.
Last month’s third round at Rockingham Motor Speedway resulted in a non-finish after an unfortunate engine failure just 20 minutes into the two-hour race.
“I have great memories of racing alongside Ian and Kevin that day and really like the circuit,” said the Signal Surveyors Limited backed Walewska, “We have had very little race time so far this season and I am determined to get our season back on target. It has been a difficult year so far but we will remain positive and focussed. Returning to another track where I have enjoyed previous success motivates me for a strong result on Sunday.”
Students from the University of Bolton’s National Centre for Motorsport Engineering will, as usual, join the crew over the bank holiday weekend, where they apply classroom learning to a live race environment.
Leaving the fastest circuit on the calendar, Thruxton in Hampshire, Trade Price Cars Brisky Racing’s Jake Hill praised his team for the huge efforts over the weekend, whilst recognising ‘it was a tough weekend ‘ for all four VW CC’s on track.
Hill and team-mate Mike Bushell had shown promise in practice, both running in the top-half of the times, but come qualifying the competition found additional pace, seeing Bushell qualify 19th, Hill 25th and causing some confusion.
“We were feeling ok with the balance of the cars, but qualifying just didn’t unlock the pace we expected” said Hill.
Starting race one, a strong opening lap saw Hill move past Plato and Price then pass Nash at the end of the lap, then a problem for Ingram mid-race saw another place gained. Late on a battle between Cole and Hill’s team-mate Bushell saw side-by-side action and Hill edge past his colleague, to ultimately finish a hard-fought 20th.
“Was a really different feel to the car and the circuit temperature was over 40 degrees, so it was tough to understand how to get the best out of the car. I was so pleased to have made progress – only Josh Cook made up more places!”
Race two saw major changes to the car’s set-up, Hill saying his crew were’ Epic’ in getting things done in the time available, and a race-long battle with Jackson was settled in favour of the Audi driver late on, and Ingram headed past, but issues ahead for Smith, Oliphant, Cole and Cammish saw an eventual finish of 18th overall, but more progress.
“Jackson and I made contact late on but the car stood up to it even though it was a bit fairy after that! We learned a bit more about the set-up, so we have more data to look at and will try hard once more for race three”
In the final race Hill was promoted a couple of places when Ash Sutton had issues on the warm-up lap, and more seriously former champion Andrew Jordan was taken to hospital with the after effects of food poisoning, and a solid opening lap saw him up into P15 – the final points paying position – having passed Jackson.
Maintaining a solid pace early on, a charging Cammish in the factory Honda passed mid-race, with Butcher following on through, and thereafter a professional drive saw Hill bring the car home in 17th, once again having moved forward.
“A very challenging weekend. We tried so many things and worked so hard as a team, but just never got what we needed from the car – and that was the same for all four of us. We have made progress – I moved forward in all-three race, finished all three races – with no damage which is rare in BTCC – and I come away still leading the Dunlop #ForeverForward award for most places made up. We will work very hard to ensure we are back in the mix at Oulton Park next time out”
“We had lovely weather and a great group of guests with us – a huge thanks to all of them and it was lovely to see Richard Wheeler and his guests from Brisky Racing, Dean Barrett from Rolec, Mark McElroy from Danfoss, Roger Burgess from Scoria Tech, Paul Kenney, Mike Jarvis….for the first time this season Bill Rawles, and as always a big thanks to John Miskin, plus of course everyone from Team HARD, Trade Price Cars and all of our partners”
“I had three top-ten finishes at Oulton Park last year, and absolutely love the track. I know the boys will work hard on getting things right – our team-manager Jamie, plus the lads on my car, Josh, Carl, Nathan, Gary, my engineer Yahor and everyone else were awesome, and we will do all we can to be back in the points again”
There is no denying that rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at a sweltering Thruxton circuit were anything other than a struggle for reigning VW Cup Series Champion Bobby Thompson and his #19 GKR Scaffolding Team HARD with Trade Price Cars team.
But despite battling through a weekend where all four Team HARD VW CC’s chewed up tyres faster than the sun-baked BTCC fans drank their complimentary cans of ice cold Rio Soft Drink, the 21 year-old Hornchurch based series rookie took a philosophical approach to Sunday’s trio of high speed blasts through the Hampshire countryside.
“It was definitely an up and down weekend, with more downs than ups,” commented the current BRDC Rising Star, who secured three more race finishes at the 2.35-mile Thruxton speedbowl, a track renowned as a car and tyre breaker. “Obviously I’m disappointed not to score any points but nobody on the team managed to and although we tried absolutely everything we could think of neither myself Jake [Hill], Mike [Bushell] or Michael [Caine] could get more than a few laps out of our tyres before it was like driving on ice.”
A successful pre-season test at the track where average lap speeds easily top 110mph, gave Thompson a cause for optimism heading into the third weekend of the 2018 season but with temperatures soaring into the high 20’s and Thruxton’s notoriously abrasive surface acting more like sandpaper than tarmac, it became clear that the main positive from the weekend would be numerous chances to sport his Dirty Dog sunglasses.
Having flirted with the top 20 during Saturday’s two practice sessions, Bobby watched as his qualifying set-up gained him two tenths while everyone else’s gained them more than double that to leave the #19 GKR Scaffolding backed machine on the penultimate row of the grid for the first 16-lap test of endurance.
“The whole team went through everything we could think of on all four cars on Saturday night,” continued Thompson, who made a solid getaway in Sunday first race and quickly gained several positions while grip levels allowed. “On all four cars the tyres actually worked really well for the first four or five laps or so but then we just lost all grip and it was even worse when we were following another car closely or had to defend.”
Setting his fastest race lap on lap three Bobby soon found his ability to progress towards the top 20 hampered by the combination of his lowly grid slot and, by his own admission, a lack of practice starts. Chasing Ollie Jackson’s Audi and Tom Boardman’s MG into the latter stages of the race Bobby suffered a near catastrophe three laps from home when Boardman and Caine clashed in the final chicane, forcing the #19 machine over the grass in avoidance.
“It happened in a flash right in front of me and all I could do was flick the car right onto the grass and hope that the splitter didn’t break. Even though the car had nothing left to give I felt that I would have a chance to gain a few more spots before the chequered flag as by that point nobody had any grip left.”
Although Bobby regained the circuit without damage, he was now in 26th place, several seconds behind his nearest rival and had to console himself with the distinction of being the fastest Team HARD driver by almost half a second.
With a near record Thruxton crowd watching on, hundreds of whom took time to visit the all-new Rio Soft Drink stand in the paddock that was raising money for the eight air ambulance charities for whom Bobby is an ambassador, the #19 machine slipped back a few places at the start of race two before Bobby began one of his trademark charges.
“When I get the hang of the starts I will have much better track position in the early laps, which are so important if you want to score points,” continued Bobby, who set his fastest race lap on lap three and, was the fastest of the toiling Team HARD quartet.
“I can only put it down to my own lack of experience when it comes to the starts as I can’t go and do what a lot of other drivers do and just spend a day wrecking a clutch doing start after start. But at least it gives me plenty of overtaking practice and I have shown all year that I can race the veterans cleanly and get the better of them.”
Overtaking four cars in a single lap while his tyres allowed him to, Bobby was quickly on the fringes of the top 20 but by half distance he found himself just fighting to hang on through Thruxton’s dauntingly fast sweeper sections whilst trying to pass James Nash’s Honda. But Bobby tenaciously stuck to his task and finally ousted Nash on the final lap to claim a deserved 20th place and a maiden top six finish in the Jack Sears Trophy standings. More importantly Bobby had elevated himself onto the tenth row of the grid for the final race of the day and within striking distance of an unlikely championship point.
“The car actually felt amazing for the first couple of laps,” said Bobby who, for the first time all year actually gained places away from the start of the final race to move into a strong 17th position. “The car worked best when I had clear track all around me and for a while I had that. But of course with 32 cars you are always going to be in a battle sooner or later and when Dan [Cammish], Rory [Butcher] and Ash [Sutton] got onto my rear bumper it was a different story.”
In arguably the most impressive drive of his short BTCC career to date Bobby was able to keep the #19 machine inside the top 20 and within striking distance of the points as the race progressed despite being surrounded by a swarming pack of far more experienced rivals. However a penultimate lap brush with defending series champion Sutton forced Bobby wide and allowed several drivers to sneak through, leaving him a disappointed but philosophical 22nd.
“The touch with Ash was nothing major and he came up and said sorry afterwards,” commented Bobby, whose trio of race finishes helped move him into the top 10 in the Jack Sears Trophy standings. “At the end of the day he is a champion and I am a rookie and although I tried to keep him behind me I knew that at some point he would say ‘OK, I’m coming through whether you like it or not.’ The main thing for me is that I’m racing everyone hard but fair and earning their respect.
“Although I am disappointed that I couldn’t give my supporters and my guests from GKR and Vanarama a points scoring finish, I’m not as frustrated as I was after Donington Park because it was clear early on that there was nothing anyone on the team could do to help us get the tyres to last.
“I am pleased I was fastest of the team in the first two races and only a couple of thousandths slower than Jake in the last race but as thrilling as Thruxton is to drive, I’m glad we only race here once a year. I never thought I would say this but I’m hoping the weather at the next round is more like it was at Donington than today!”
Bobby and the rest of the BTCC brigade now have three weeks to prepare for rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2018 season, which take place at Oulton Park in Cheshire on the weekend of June 9-10.
Team HARD. today are delighted to announce its new partnership with asbestos specialist Spectra Analysis Services Limited. Spectra Analysis Services Limited is one of the UK’s leading UKAS accredited asbestos consultancies, HSE licenced Asbestos Removal Contractor and Enabling works contractor. The Essex based company have been in and around the BTCC paddock for a few years and have decided to join one of the biggest teams in the UK, in terms of its overall operation, for the remainder of the 2018 season. Managing Director of Spectra Perry Winch had this to say on the new partnership, “I have known Tony for a while and watched him build Team HARD. from nothing to what it is today, I have to say watching the growth has been very impressive. The hard work and the drive to be the best is what drew me to them and at Spectra we strive to be the best and offer a trusted and reliable service that makes our clients want to deal with us. As a company we were looking to have a year away from any sponsorship involvement, but the draw of the BTCC and the TOCA package was too strong. Supporting Jade Edwards in the Clio Cup already, my wife and I absolutely love being in and around motorsport, so decided to extend our investment and see how we can build on our relationship with Tony and the team. We are looking forward to a long and successful partnership with Team HARD. both on and off the track.” Team boss Tony Gilham echoed Perry’s words “Having known Perry and Spectra from the paddock and on a personal level, it was nice to get a deal done with him. When we sat down at HQ we both realised that we have a lot in common and we both want the same things for our businesses. I’m looking forward to working closely with Spectra and I hope we have a long and prosperous relationship. We have a very unique concept as a race team and the addition of Spectra to our business hub should work very well for us both moving