Last season’s Junior Saloon Car Championship runner up and current Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup star Steven Chandler joins Team HARD. Racing for the third round of the GT Cup championship at Snetterton. Steven will be at the wheel of the #79 Ginetta G55 SuperCup car partnering Kris Prosser, the car currently sits 5th in the overall championship standings.
Steven, 17, is thrilled to be racing in a proven front running car. “I’ve been watching these cars compete at the front of the field in both the GT Cup and Ginetta SuperCup this season and thought to myself ‘wow, I’d like to show everyone what I’m made of in one of those’. So, when Tony (Gilham) offered me this opportunity I just had to take it.
I’d like to thank WJ Horrod Ltd, Munihire, Stig’s Grab Services LTD and Vision Techniques for helping me take this opportunity and experience the next step of the motorsport ladder.
I’ve Ginetta G55 SuperCup car is going to be different to anything I’ve driven before but with the rear wheel drive experience I’ve gained from racing in the BMW Compact Cup I’m confident that I will be on the pace from the off.
To be honest I can’t quite believe that this opportunity has become available with Team HARD. Racing and I’m looking forward to challenging the top stop of the podium to add to my JSCC victories last season. Lastly, I’m determined to continue the teams impressive run of results!”
It’s been an impressive season for the team so far with both the #79 and #21 car taking multiple class wins over the eight races held so far this season, the Ginetta proving that it is one of the strongest packages in the series.
Team HARD. Racings Managing Director, Tony Gilham is delighted to have another young talent under his Motorsport umbrella. “I met Steven whilst at the recent BMW Compact Cup meeting at Snetterton. A genuinely lovely kid who clearly has so much potential to unlock.
Steven was quick on that day, but lady luck wasn’t on his side, we will be aiming to change that when we head to Snetterton at the end of the month (27/28 July).
Partnering Kris (Prosser) will prove a fantastic benchmark for Steven with Kris being one of the quickest drivers on our books. Not only quick but also a great team player, Kris will be helping Steven understand the car and with a bit of luck, together they will keep the #79 car at the top of the GTA championship!”
Team HARD. Racing currently sit 5th and 7th in the overall standings after a solid start to the season which has yielded multiple podiums and class wins in the GTH and GTA classes of the series. The GT Cup championship is available to watch on Youtube, Front Runner TV and Amazon Prime with the next round being held over the weekend of the 27th-28th July.
Photography Credit: AViT Media
Michael Crees produced a spirited performance at Croft Circuit this past weekend (June 15/16) as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship wrote the latest chapter in its 2019 story.
Coming off the back of a character-building weekend at Thruxton, the Team HARD driver arrived at the recently resurfaced North Yorkshire circuit keen to get back amongst the points-paying positions.
Qualifying proved to be one of the most dramatic in recent memory as the 30-minute session was marred by no less than five red flags. With wet weather incoming towards the end, getting a lap time down on the timesheets as soon as possible proved vital amidst the stoppages.
As the clock ticked to zero, the Burlington Bathrooms and Geberit UK-backed driver scored his best qualifying finish of the season so far, hustling his Volkswagen CC to 22nd on the grid.
Following qualifying, Crees took up his usual role alongside Paul O’Neill on the BTCC’s Facebook Live stream before then joining fellow drivers and fans on a charity track walk of the circuit to raise funds for Children with Cancer UK and Alzheimers Society.
Unfortunately, Crees was unable to take advantage of his career-best qualifying as he suffered his first retirement of the season. Having been in the thick of the action within the top 20 for a majority of the race, the Premier Contract Supplies-sponsored driver slid out of the race heading into the Complex, coming to a stop against the tyre barrier.
Starting from 25th for race two, the GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct driver suffered contact from a rival on the opening lap and ultimately was never able to recover as his front-wheel-drive machine suffered steering issues. Adapting to the problem, Crees brought the car across the line in 25th.
With heavy rain falling before the reverse grid encounter, the biggest question on the grid for the entire field was whether to opt for slick or wet tyres. Crees joined a minority of drivers to bolt on slick tyres in the hope that the track would dry out as the race progressed.
Despite the gamble, lap times unfortunately didn’t begin to fall the way of the slick-shod cars until the final third of the race, by which time Crees and those around him were too far back to make any real in-roads.
Staying latched onto the back of the Vauxhall Astra of Rob Collard, Crees made his move on the penultimate lap and brought what proved to be a character-building weekend to a close in 26th.
Leaving Croft, the Burlington Bathrooms, Geberit UK, Hansgrohe, DPC Group, DDS Demolition, Merlyn Showering, SMG Croydon, MVC Events, MJ Plumbing and Imperial Render supported driver sits 23rd in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship and sixth in the Jack Sears Trophy heading into the next rounds at Oulton in Cheshire on June 29/30.
Michael Crees: “TIt’s been another tough weekend, but it’s all part of the experience. We struggled to really get in the groove and the conditions were challenging to say the least. I think we could have come away with some points but the luck just wasn’t on our side.
“It has been great to meet so many fans this weekend though, the support is unbelievable. On Saturday I joined plenty of spectators to brave the rain and walked the track to raise money for charity – that sums up the BTCC fans in my opinion, they’re just the best!
“Up next we will head to Oulton Park and we’ve got, as always, the aim of making more progress and see if we can get back in the points.”
The image included is from Jakob Ebrey Photography
Second year Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship star Bobby Thompson earned his fourth point scoring finish of the season at the newly resurfaced Croft Circuit in Stockton on Tees last Sunday with a hard fought 14th place finish in Round 12 of the 30-race 2019 season.
The 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver was heading towards another frustrating weekend in Britain’s premier domestic race series when, for the first time since the season opening weekend at Brands Hatch, the weather Gods smiled on him before the start of the third and final 15-lap race of the day.
“It feels good to come away from here with some more points in the bag,” said the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion. “But this weekend definitely highlighted the fact that while we have an excellent car in the wet, we have some issues in the dry that need to be resolved before we get to Oulton Park.
Thompson lapped on the fringes of the top 20 throughout Saturday morning’s two free practice sessions in his #19 GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct VW CC run by Team HARD and while the resurfacing work carried out by the circuit over the winter had transformed the challenging 2.13-mile circuit into a much quicker proposition that years previously, Thompson discovered that whereas he could previously exploit the gnarled, occasionally grip-less and tyre-chewing tarmac, its consistent and highly grippy replacement offered no such advantage.
Further adding to Thompson’s woes was one of the BTCC’s most disjointed qualifying sessions of all time on Saturday afternoon, which saw the red flags flying a record breaking five times, including once an incident in the ultra-fast Jim Clark Esses that left one of the menacing Recitel barriers lying directly in the path of Thompson’s #19 machine.
Although the resulting contact left the front end of Thompson’s car looking decidedly second hand, as the issue was not caused by Thompson he didn’t lose his fastest lap, which was just as well because with the continual stoppages, he was only able to set one flying lap during the session which resulted in a disappointing 24th place on the grid for the first race on Sunday.
“All week the forecasters had been predicting rain for race day and when it poured down all day on Friday as we were setting up, I was feeling pretty confident for race day,” added the current BRDC Rising Star. “But on Sunday morning everything was dry and while that is great for the BTCC fans, it wasn’t the weather we were looking for.”
Thompson’s troubles began early in race one when, after a cautious start he found that his brake pedal wasn’t as responsive as he needed it to be resulting in a trouser staining moment at the end of the main straight on the opening lap.
“I didn’t make the best of starts and lost a few places but then when I went to brake for Tower Bend on lap one the brake pedal went long and I almost piled into the back of about half a dozen cars. Luckily I was able to run out a little wide and avoid everyone but I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Settling in to the race behind joint championship leader Rory Butcher, Thompson began driving around his issue and moved in to 25th position when the safety car was deployed to clear Rob Collard’s stranded Vauxhall. However as the safety car boards went out Thompson’s brake pedal went to the floor completely and he had no choice but to pull in and retire.
“I could feel the pedal getting longer and longer and I was having to lift off the throttle earlier and earlier just to make sure I didn’t collect anyone in front of me. But then all of a sudden there were no brakes at all and I almost ran into the back of Creesy [teammate Michael Crees] and I didn’t fancy explaining that one to [Team HARD boss] Tony G so I had to call it a day.”
That DNF resulted in a 29th place starting slot for race two, which was held under sunny and increasingly warm skies. The conditions also highlighted another issue that Thompson had been battling with over the weekend, a horsepower deficit.
“The cooling duct package on my car is slightly different to what the other Team HARD drivers have got and the difference is about 15bhp. Of course we had to change the front end of the car after Saturday so I knew I would be down on power on race day and race two just magnified that.”
From his lowly grid slot Thompson was able to manoeuvre his way past half a dozen cars in the early stages but then came upon his teammate Carl Boardley and spent the rest of the 15-lap race trying in vain to unlock Boardley’s defence.
“Carl was driving really well and although I could hassle him through the corners, as soon as we got onto the straights he would ease away so without risking a collision there was nothing I could do,” conclude Thompson, who took the chequered flag in 23rd position. “As the season has gone on my lads have identified several issues that we have with the car when conditions are dry and for sure, the bodywork arrangement on the front of the car is something that we will change before the next round.”
Between races two and three the clouds overhead suddenly reappeared and darkened, dumping their contents all over the track during the preceding Porsche Carrera Cup race and leaving the track fairly sodden for the start of the third and final BTCC race of the day.
“When the rain came I won’t lie, I did a little rain dance in the awning as I knew this was my chance to compete on a level playing field with everyone else,” said Thompson who elected to run on the Dunlop wet tyres even though half a dozen drivers felt that the new, porous tarmac would dry up quickly enough to make slicks the better option.
“There were still plenty of puddles on the citing lap and so there was no way I was going to go for slicks,” continued Thompson, whose passage into turn one was made easier by the fact that Dan Rowbottom’s Mercedes, due to start directly in front of him in 21st, had to start from the rear of the grid.
When the lights went out Thompson made an excellent getaway and vaulted into 16th place as the field slithered its way around the opening lap. Although a safety car on lap two gave the slick shod runners a glimmer of hope on a track that was beginning to show signs of a dry line, when racing resumed Thompson was right back onto the rear bumper of Senna Proctor’s Subaru in a scrap for the final championship point.
A pit stop for Stephen Jelley and a penalty for Aiden Moffat moved the #19 into 14th place and although Thompson remained agonisingly close to Proctor and the Honda of Sam Tordoff, he just couldn’t find a way past.
“I made a couple of attempts at getting past Proctor but it took a lot out of the front tyres and then when I had Tordoff in front of me he was driving a good defensive race and without giving him a nudge to get him out of the way there was chance to make a move stick. The team were keeping me updated about where the guys on slicks were and I had Carl [Boardley] not far behind me and I just didn’t want to risk losing out on a few championship points, especially after the way the first two races had gone.”
Thompson crossed the finish line just inches behind Tordoff to claim two championship points, his first since race three at Brands Hatch and while the points are welcome, Thompson was quick to recognise that there is work to do to make his package a consistent point scoring threat when the rain stays away.
“I obviously pleased to have made it back into the top 15 after a tough couple of rounds and I am really pleased how the car handles in the wet,” says the driver who remains third in the Jack Sears Trophy standings. “But we have to put a lot of work in as a team to make things a bit better in the dry and we will be doing that as soon as the cars get back to the shop before the next round at Oulton.2
Thompson will be back in action in rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2019 season at Oulton Park in Cheshire on June 28-29.
Yorkshireman Max Coates took an emphatic double victory at his home circuit, Croft, at the weekend in the Renault UK Clio Cup. Watched on by more than one hundred sponsor guests he was the man to beat.
Hailing from Scorton, just five miles from North Yorkshire’s premier motorsport venue Coates needed a strong weekend to put his championship challenge back on track. After a challenging test day on Friday he broke the circuit lap record on Saturday morning during qualifying, putting his Primex Plastics backed car in pole position for both of the weekend’s races.
Race one was held in wet conditions which changed minutes before the race. His Team-HARD mechanics did a quick change to wet tires and set-up which worked well. He made a good start and put a small gap over his nearest rival gradually pulling away in the early laps. His opponent then spun leaving Max in his RPC bpi PLASgran sponsored car over twenty seconds in front at the chequered flag.
On a dry circuit Coates again started from pole position in-front of a capacity crowd on Sunday, challenged at turn one he managed to hold on to the lead. As the race developed his nearest rival lunged past on the entry to the fast ‘Sunny In’ corner, however his fellow competitor had just received a ten second jump start penalty which promoted the RMB Automotive and Bennett Renault backed driver back into the lead. He then knew sitting in second place would be enough to take the win with a huge crowd of local motor racing fans watching on Coates crossed the line to take the second win of the weekend and extend his lead in the championship*.
It was also a significant weekend for the racing driver as his sponsors RMB Automotive launched a limited-edition Max Coates 71 Renault Clio road car. He also had another ten sponsors joining him at the weekend through his sponsor a tyre scheme.
Coates said, “What a weekend, two poles, two wins, the fastest ever lap in a Renault Clio, 160 guests, 10 new sponsors and a new road car in my name. I’ve loved every second of it and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve had from my team, sponsors, family, friends and supporters. Saturday’s result was particularly pleasing to have such a big lead at the flag but the cheer on the podium on Sunday was probably the highlight for me. Thank you to everyone who made it a weekend to remember.”
Max’s sponsor a tyre partners were JT Atkinson Builders Merchants, Green Bricks Building Solutions, Alpamare Water Park, Northern Handling Systems, Park Gate & Company, Dinsdale Contracts, Workshop Supplies, Upex Electrical, Rapid Colour and Aycliffe Engineering.
The championship now heads to Oulton Park in Cheshire, where Max won last year. He will be hopeful of more race wins in his quest to become the 2019 champion. In between Coates will also compete in this weekend’s races of the Britcar Endurance Championship at Oulton Park and the TCR UK / Touring Car Trophy races at Donington Park for the DAT Racing team.
*when the championships dropped score rule is applied.
Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey
Second year Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship star Bobby Thompson believes that this weekend’s visit to the 2.13-mile Croft circuit near Darlington for Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of Britain’s premier domestic race series gives him a chance to press the restart button on his 2019 season after two disappointing weekends at Donington Park and Thruxton.
After starting the season with three point scoring finishes including a career best sixth place effort at Brands Hatch, Thompson and his #19 GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct squad have endured two point-less race weekends since leaving the Kent venue. Determined to reverse that trend with immediate effect, he 22 year-old Hornchurch based ace points to his strong showing in the final race at the North Yorkshire venue during his rookie year in 2018 as the key to kick starting a sophomore campaign that began so well.
“I’m a proud Essex boy through and through but I can honestly say I’ve never looked forward to going ‘Up North’ as much as I am this weekend, especially after what the whole team suffered through at Thruxton,” says Thompson, who remains third in the Jack Sears Trophy Standings, albeit an increasingly distant one. “We have Croft this weekend, then Oulton Park and Snetterton before we have to go back to Thruxton. That’s nine races and nine good opportunities to score decent points and we can’t let a single opportunity slip through our fingers.
“We started the year on such a high at Brands and we have to get back to that level to be able to really kick on with our year. Rory [Butcher] and Tom [Oliphant] have pulled away in the JST standings after the last few rounds but my goal is to peg them back as much as I can at the tracks where I know our car works well.”
Although Thompson’s maiden visit to Croft did not result in a points finish, the statistics don’t give a true indication of the pace that the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion showed during one of the hottest weekends in recent BTCC memory.
“The only time I had ever driven at Croft before last year’s race weekend was when I first sat in a BTCC car back in November 2017 and so it was basically a totally new experience for me. We had a steering rack failure on my first lap of practice which wasn’t fixed until the start of qualifying so my first proper lap of the track came in a BTCC qualifying session.”
Thompson gained a number of places during the first race and was making good progress in the second race when he was unfortunate to collect an errant bail of tyres that were stranded in the centre of the Jim Clark Esses which required a race ending pit stop. Having to start 32nd and last for the final race, Thompson overtook more cars than anyone else in the race to come home in the top 20.
“I really like the track itself, it is a throwback, quite narrow and not a lot of room for error. The sector out the back is one of the most challenging but fun bits of track we run on all year and as I discovered last year, the tyres bails in the Esses can easily be dislodged. But most of all I found I could really attack the track and the car responded brilliantly. Last year Croft was the fifth round and my race three drive there was followed by the best part of the season for me at Snetterton and Rockingham where I scored all my points. So let’s have a bit more of that this time around.”