Will Burns saw impressive pace and racecraft rewarded with a first visit to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship podium at Snetterton this past weekend (29/30 July) after taking a maiden victory in the Jack Sears Trophy for rookie drivers.
The Weston-Super-Mare racer enjoyed his most competitive outing in the BTCC so far in Norfolk as he battled to a hat-trick of top twenty finishes in his Auto Aid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC, narrowly missing out on a first ever overall points finish.
After picking up seasons best qualifying and race finishes at Croft before the summer break, Burns returned to action in buoyant mood that he could improve upon those results around a circuit he’d previously finished on the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup podium at in 2014 and 2016.
Luck wouldn’t be in his favour on Saturday however, as after two productive free practice sessions, his hopes of challenging for the top twenty in qualifying were ended by a gearbox failure just as he was about to start his flying laps on new tyres.
Not only did it end his session immediately before he’d set a representative time, leaving him 28th on the grid, but the problem also led to a late night for the Team HARD mechanics as they changed his gearbox, with a fantastic effort ensuring the car was ready to go for the opening race.
Burns would reward their efforts with one of his most impressive drives of the season so far. Calmly moving his way up the order during a frenetic race, he climbed into the top twenty by the end of lap six, before eventually working his way into a superb sixteenth place at the finish.
A strong performance in race two would yield the same result, with Burns recovering well after losing ground early on to pass former double BTCC champion Jason Plato for sixteenth, before then almost closing down a three second gap to Rob Austin in the final points position.
The Cases Ltd, Eurocams and Weston College supported driver had finished both those races as the leading Jack Sears Trophy entrant, meaning he headed into the final encounter knowing a top four class finish would be enough to earn him a first piece of BTCC silverware.
As it was, Burns briefly had loftier ambitions as he emerged from a brilliant opening lap in eleventh position overall, however on the next tour a piece of robust driving from Tom Chilton sent him off circuit and down to 22nd place – though crucially still fourth in class.
From there, a composed and mature drive saw Burns keep his nose clean and soak up some late pressure from class rival Josh Price to bring the car home in eighteenth position, a result that was enough to see him take the JST victory.
That meant Burns, who turned 27 years of age during the summer break, would take to the podium alongside BTCC champions Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden, much to the delight of his gathered team, friends, family and sponsors.
Will Burns: “I couldn’t be happier with how the weekend panned out. The team worked overnight to repair the gearbox after qualifying and despite starting so far back, I was still feeling confident of some strong results heading into the three races.
“I was starting to feel like some of the other drivers were just looking at me as a backmarker getting in the way, but now I’ve shown that I can battle with many of the regular podium finishers and showed some good racecraft
“I really feel like I deserve to be in that midfield action now and I’ve proven that by taking three top twenty finishes, narrowly missing out on my first points finish twice, and picking up my first Jack Sears Trophy victory.
“It’s a dream come true to step onto the BTCC podium alongside the likes of Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington. It’s a dream that was starting to feel like it would never come, but we kept pushing, luck came our way and now hopefully we can win it again.”
Burns’ 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season continues next weekend (12/13 August) with Rounds 19, 20 and 21 around the undulating Knockhill circuit in Scotland.