The penultimate weekend of the record breaking 60th anniversary Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season may have been held at the home of British Motorsport but there were few home comforts for BRDC Rising Star Bobby Thompson who left Silverstone without adding to his points tally.
Prior to Sunday’s trio of 22-lap races around the fast, wide open blasts of the 1.64-mile Silverstone National circuit there was a considerable mood of optimism within Thompson’s #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC team, which sported a sleek new black livery for rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 30-race 2018 Championship.
Not only was the 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver, known throughout the paddock as ‘Bobster’ returning to the site of his first career car racing podium, his slippery shaped VW CC was well suited to the track layout as was the case last month at the Rockingham Motor Speedway where the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion scored a BTCC career best 7th place finish.
However set up issues throughout Saturday’s two practice sessions and the crucial 30-minute timed qualifying period and contact from other drivers in two of Sunday’s three races left Thompson feeling frustrated despite finding considerable extra pace on race day.
“I can’t pretend to be anything other than really disappointed with the weekend as a whole,” commented the current BRDC Rising Star, who battled from 27th on the grid to 19th in race one despite stalling at the start and then suffering contact from another driver after fighting his way into 17th position, just two places shy of the points.
“We couldn’t quite get the sweet spot on the car during practice on Saturday and although we found some extra pace in qualifying, so did everyone else and while six tenths off pole position may not seem like much in the BTCC it is massive and around here with such a quick lap and only six corners it is more significant than anywhere else.
“I made a bit of a mess of my start in race one but we had changed so much on the car overnight that I could take advantage of the really good slipstream that you get here and pass a lot of cars,” continued Thompson who took advantage of a couple of other drivers retiring but had overtaken eight drivers on the road within the first 12 laps of an extended 25 lap race before being unceremoniously dumped out of contention at Luffield, dropping him back to 20th and out of the reach of the group battling for the final few points paying positions.
“I know what happened and I don’t want to point any fingers as I have a lot of respect of the person who basically just smashed me out of the way but I had passed him cleanly two corners earlier and was holding the inside line into Luffield when I just got sent flying. The hit broke our rear bumper, Ackerman plate and hurt the rear balance and the car was never the same after that.”
Luckily Thompson was able to continue and even regained one of his lost positions to take the chequered flag 19th and with his teammate Mike Bushell suffering a grid penalty for the second race, Thompson was promoted to a ninth row grid slot for a second race that should have brought home a decent haul of points nut instead brought nothing but more unnecessary damage to the #19 GKR Ltd backed machine.
“I felt that we were capable of getting some decent points in race two especially as we were on the soft tyre, which was the faster of the two options we had. I was going to be on the hard tyre for the third race so I knew that if I had a good run here I could maybe even get into the mix for the reverse grid for the final race which would help massively considering my tyre choice.”
Thompson made a much better getaway when the lights turned green but never got the chance to settle into a rhythm and continue his progress towards the points as a mirror image crash to that which he suffered in race one caused enough damage to the rear of the car to force him into early retirement.
“I lost two places on the first lap just because I didn’t want to get caught up in any of the bumping and barging that was going on and then as we arrived at Luffield I was hugging the inside line and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of red on the grass inside me and the next thing I know I’ve got two wheels in the air and a broken rear right tow link. I made it back to the pits but there was too much damage to continue and that was basically my weekend over as far as scoring points was concerned.”
For the second time in two races the #19 were faced with a flat out dash to get Thompson’s car ready for the third and final race of the day, for which he would start 31st on the less desirable harder tyre. Despite carrying a few battle scars Thompson made the grid for what was little more than a damage limitation exercise.
“Despite all the damage I had suffered the car still handled pretty well and I was able to pass cars while everyone was still bunched together,” concluded Thompson, who finished 21st and set the fifth fastest lap of the 13 drivers on the hard tyre in race three. “But there was still some really aggressive driving going on and there were a couple of situations where I had to stand my ground, which probably didn’t make me too popular with one or two people but it is frustrating when you catch people who would rather weave around and cost you both a second per lap rather than race and work together to catch the pack in front.
“I feel like I have raced everyone cleanly and with respect all year but even though I am a rookie in the BTCC I won’t be pushed around. I have got a great group of sponsors who all put their money into my racing and without them I would be working as a plumber with my dad. They have stayed loyal to me and when other people’s mistakes stop me from showing my potential and giving them the success that they deserve it can be massively frustrating so I had to get my elbows out and race others how they race me.”
Thompson returns to his home track at Brands Hatch for the final weekend of the 2018 season in two weeks’ time where he will look to improve on his current position of 28th in the overall points standings, 17th in the Independents Championship and 10th in the Jack Sears Trophy.
Team HARD. and Brisky Racing are very proud to announce that Mike Bushell will continue with the team in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in 2019.
Following on from a much stronger second half of the season so far and off the back of a real solid performance at Silverstone, this is a clear statement of intent as the team look to continue their upturn in performance in to 2019. Topping the times in free practice and a top 5 qualifying time before the lap being taken away showed genuine pace and a drive up to 7th in race one before the 3rd strike and a back of the grid penalty for race two stood in the way of our push for silverware.
The CC has been extensively developed over the winter and throughout the season and we now believe we have a package to rival any other team and driver combination on the grid. We still have more to come and will be looking to build in certain areas where we need to in order to compete at the front consistently. We are still a young family team, but are very determined to succeed at the very top and in Mike we have the perfect driver to do that.
With the confirmation of new sponsor Fox Transport for Mike in 2019, we have been able to get a deal done early so we can really work hard in the coming months to hit the ground running come the start of the 2019 season.
Tony said, “Mike is an unbelievable talent and I have never met a more driven and ambitious driver in my life. He has extensive knowledge about the car and has been a real asset for the team in the engineering department. He is the complete package and one that we wanted to hold on to in our quest to be a top team in the best championship in the world. It is amazing for the team to have a deal in place already for 2019 and will enable us to improve in all the areas where we feel we can really work on over the winter.”
Mike added, “”I am delighted to be staying with the team for the 2019 season. After the struggles early on this year, hard work and the determination to not give up has rewarded us with strong pace and several great points finishes. Topping the timesheets at Silverstone in Free Practice was a real highlight, not to mention achieving the team’s best ever qualifying with 4th place at Rockingham. The key to success in the BTCC is consistency. I always look up to the likes of Tom Ingram and Speedworks who stick together, keep making progress and are now fighting for the overall driver’s title. I see Team HARD. as the perfect place to further my racing career as my relationship with the team goes beyond the race weekends and I have been able to be heavily involved with the preparation and engineering. We’ve become a family and every success is shared between us all. We’ve had some real flashes of speed this year and we have a great winter testing plan lined up to build on the solid package we have now. All of this would not be possible without the help of Tony Gilham and I look forward to rewarding the faith he has in me”
Tony continued “The whole team are behind Mike and we must say a huge thank you to every single person involved in what we are building. We have shown glimpses of pace but now it is time to take it to the next level.”
SAM Randon may have had a frustrating 2018 motor racing season – but the young Ashbourne driver knows exactly what he will be doing next year.
Randon has been signed up by Team Hard – the BTCC and GT racing team he made a winning guest appearance for recently. This season saw Randon struggling first with funding issues then, when he had funding in place to drive a Maserati in the GT Championships, he was unable to find a funded co-driver for the endurance race format, which requires drivers to swap over.
Sam raced and won the last Britcar round at Donington Park with Simon Rudd. This weekend they race against each other.
“It will be strange racing against Simon this weekend.” said Randon.
When one of Team Hard’s drivers was unavailable in July, Randon stepped in – and he and Simon Rudd not only won their GT4 class but won the race outright in Team Hard’s Ginetta G55.
Team Hard boss Tony Gilham, an ex-British Touring Cars driver, said: “We’ve been watching Sam’s progress over the last couple of seasons.
“It was great to finally welcome him to the Team Hard family for the last Britcar round at Donington.
“As expected, Sam was the perfect choice to replace Tom Barley and went on to win on his debut and put in a complete performance to keep our championship aspirations alive.
“Sam is a great driver and very professional on and off the track, which is needed in modern day motor sport.
“Being the complete package is essential and Sam is exactly that, so we are very much looking forward to building a great relationship moving forwards.”
Randon had stepped up to GT racing from Clio Cup competition, in which he had also struggled for finance. But, despite the big, powerful cars involved, GT racing represents relative value for money for aspiring drivers and, as a team event, the costs are shared between two or sometimes three drivers.
Randon’s 2018 season is not quite done, as he will guest again for Team Hard in another round of the Britcar Championship this weekend at Snetterton, standing in this time for the team’s other car in the championship.
This time he will be racing with Angus Dudley, also in a Ginetta, but against his teammate last time, Rudd, with whom he clearly hit it off.
“It will be strange racing directly against Simon,” said Randon.
“We got on so well at the last round and were very similar paced. But at least we know the team this time and the car so it won’t be quite as daunting.
“Angus is a quick driver so I’m hopeful we will work well together and can be challenging for the silverware.”
By Colston Crawford – Ashbourne News Telegraph
A DREAM will come true for one of the UK’s most promising young motor racing talents when he makes his debut in a world famous championship later this month.
Ethan Hammerton, 17, will be the youngest current driver in the illustrious British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) when he competes in the championship’s last two rounds at the legendary Silverstone and Brands Hatch circuits.
Ethan will replace fellow Team Hard racer Michael Caine, 49, a former British GT Championship winner who has been racing in the BTCC since 2011.
Last year the Northallerton teenager beat off stiff competition from almost 100 other drivers to win the Team Hard GKR Scaffolding Scholarship and has since been racing in the prestigious VW Cup Championship, which is seen as a proven training ground for drivers with professional ambitions.
The move up to the BTCC has come far earlier than expected and is recognition of a rare talent.
“I have been watching British Touring Cars at Croft with my mum, dad and brother since I was a young boy and I can’t believe I am now going to be actually racing in the championship,” said Ethan.
“I switched from racing karts to racing cars in the Junior Saloon Car Championship when I was 15, in 2015, and it was my goal then to race in the BTCC and I’ve achieved that ambition – it’s a dream come true,” he added
Ethan will line-up on the BTCC’s Silverstone grid over the weekend of September 15 and 16, and will then compete in the season finale at Brands Hatch over the last weekend of September.
Only Formula 1 and America’s NASCAR stock car series have longer histories than the BTCC – since its inception in 1958 it has attracted and captivated millions of motor racing fans around the world.
Ethan was at the Rockingham motor racing circuit with Team Hard boss Tony Gilham when he learned a seat in the BTCC might be a possibility: “We were at the Rockingham round of the BTCC supporting Bobby Thompson and the rest of Team Hard when discussions started with Tony and I am over the moon that everything is now in place and I can’t wait to get out in the car,” he explained.
“I know it’s going to be tough given the lack of time in the car compared to the other drivers and the 45kg mandated ballast for new entrants. I fully appreciate the trust put in me and will put everything I have into doing well for Team Hard. I know how privileged I am to have been given this opportunity and I am realistic about my expectations
“I really want to be in the BTCC next year and am hoping that this is just the start of my BTCC career. I’d like to thank Tony Gilham, Team Hard, GKR Scaffolding, HMC Group, Hadrian Healthcare and my other sponsors for making this happen.”
Ethan is seen as an emerging talent in the world of motorsport having narrowly missed out in two junior championships last season. He finished on the podium a staggering 21 times out of 26 starts, with race wins, lap records and fastest laps in both the Renault UK Clio Junior Championship and the JSCC finishing as vice champion.
Having gained the Team Hard GKR Scaffolding scholarship, the young racer secured his first VW Cup Championship podium at Rockingham in only his third senior race. This season he has also raced in the Fun Cup Spa 25 hour race at Belgium’s Spa circuit, where he won the Evo 2 class.
Trackside crowd figures for the popular BTCC are now around 40,000 and major manufacturers such as BMW, Honda, Vauxhall and Subaru are all part of the championship roadshow.
ITV has agreed a long-term contract extension up until the end of 2022, providing a perfect platform of millions of viewers for sponsors to raise their profiles and reputations.
If you would like to sponsor Ethan in 2018/2019 please contact him on Facebook, via his racing page @Ethan Hammerton Racing or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for sponsorship opportunities.