BTCC Ace Michael Crees Battles HARD For Double Knockhill Finish

BTCC Ace Michael Crees Battles HARD For Double Knockhill Finish

Michael Crees produced a battling performance in the latest instalment of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship this past weekend (14/15 September), claiming a pair of finishes in his first ever race meeting at Knockhill.

Buoyed by the improvements made at Thruxton last time out, the Team HARD driver headed north of the border to Scotland optimistic of a strong showing – especially having got the chance to test at the Fife venue in pre-season.

Following Saturday two free practice sessions, Crees went on to set a best time of 51.641s for 26th place in what proved to be an ultra-competitive qualifying session, ending up little over a second off of pole position – underlining the ongoing improvements being made.

Starting hot on the heels of his Volkswagen CC stablemates, the Premier Contract Supplies, Burlington Bathrooms, Geberit UK, Hansgrohe, DPC Group and DDS Demolition sponsored driver saw his race unfortunately over before it really began.

Gaining three spots on the opening lap, Crees had looked on course to break into the top 20 before becoming involved in an incident with Nicolas Hamilton on the second tour, resulting in him sustaining race-ending damage.

Forced to start race two from the back of the grid, the 36-year-old found himself in an almighty scrap throughout the 24 laps as he went wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Ashley Sutton, Mark Blundell and Dan Rowbottom. Running as high as 22nd at one stage, Crees would unfortunately drop down the order to cross the line in 27th.

The third and final race of the weekend proved to be a frenetic affair with Crees once again in the thick of the action. Despite his car starting to fill with smokes in the latter stages, the two-time Ginetta champion held on to bring his weekend to a close in 24th.

Michael Crees: “It has been a frustrating weekend because I think we deserved a lot more than what we got. Saturday proved to be really good for us and we found some real pace in the car; unfortunately we couldn’t translate it on race day.

“Being in the middle of the action puts you in the firing line and we endured our fair share of contact, which cost us from possibly challenging inside the top 20. We came here knowing that this was one of our stronger circuits, so it is tough to come away with nothing.

“That being said, we learnt lots more and that will only help us as we head to Silverstone in a couple of weeks’ time. The aim there, as always, will be to see if we can get back in the points.”

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship now heads to Silverstone on September 28/29 for the penultimate event of the 2019 campaign; with Rounds 25, 26 & 27 likely to offer up more opportunities for the Merlyn Showering, SMG Croydon, MVC Events, MJ Plumbing and Imperial Render backed driver to score further points.

Michael Crees Buoyed By Improvements After Strong Thruxton Showing

Michael Crees Buoyed By Improvements After Strong Thruxton Showing

Michael Crees enjoyed another strong Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship showing this past weekend (17/18 August), making further strides forward as the tackled the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton.

Returning to ultra-fast circuit for the second time this season, the Team HARD driver descended on the Hampshire venue confident of building on the lessons that were learnt in May.

After fine-tuning the set-up of his Volkswagen CC in Saturday’s two free practice sessions, the 35-year-old enjoyed a competitive qualifying showing as he made further improvements. Setting a best time of 1:17.837, he ended what was a frenetic 30-minute session in 27th.

Crees’ drive in the opening encounter saw him in the thick of the action towards the rear of the field as he scrapped to break into the top 20 in his Burlington Bathrooms and Premier Contract Supplies supported machine.

Moving up the order into 23rd in the early stages, the reigning Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Am Class champion showcased his driving prowess, both attacking and defending, to hold the position at the chequered flag.

Race two saw the Kent based racer enjoy another trouble-free run in front of a bumper trackside crowd as he once again underlined his credentials with a competitive drive to 25th place.

The third and final encounter of the weekend proved to be a race of two halves as the dry conditions of early on made way for torrential rain to batter the circuit in the latter stages.

Using all of the experience that he has gained as the season has progressed, Crees kept himself in the midst of the battle outside the top 20 and brought the car home to record a second 25th place finish.

Michael Crees: “I’m really happy with how the weekend went, we’ve made some real improvements. On paper the results may not seem that great but we have done a lot of work behind the scenes and got another three finishes, and more experience, under our belts.

“I’ve been the quickest I have been all season and I’ve really felt my race craft has come on too. I’ve been in the fight, attacking and defending, and it feels like things are really building now.

“We go up to Knockhill next, which is a circuit I love. We tested there in pre-season so that is a confidence boost. I’d love to get another point before the season is out but breaking into that top 20 on a consistent basis is the first aim – hopefully we can do it next time out.” 

Next up for the Geberit UK, Hansgrohe, DPC Group, DDS Demolition, Merlyn Showering, SMG Croydon, MVC Events, MJ Plumbing and Imperial Render backed driver is a trip north of the border to Knockhill in Scotland for Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season.

Article by: Next Level Motorsport

Michael Crees Shows Promise As BTCC Battle Resumes At Snetterton

Michael Crees Shows Promise As BTCC Battle Resumes At Snetterton

Michael Crees showed yet more promise this past weekend (03/04 August) as he kicked off the second half of his maiden Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign at Snetterton.

Roaring back into action at the Norfolk venue following the annual mid-season summer break, the Team HARD driver claimed a pair of strong race finishes during what proved to be an action-packed sixth event of the season.

Having enjoyed a successful two-day test at the track in July, the Volkswagen CC racer headed into qualifying on Saturday confident of making progress after improvements to both his driving style and the car were proving beneficial.

Come the end of the 30-minute shootout for pole position, the Burlington Bathrooms and Premier Contract Supplies supported driver set a best time of 1m 57.214s to secure 25th on the grid for the opening encounter of the weekend.

Starting on the 13th row of the grid for the first race on Sunday, Crees saw his hopes of making progress over at the end of the opening lap after being forced to pit so that the team could rectify a coolant temperature issue.

Rejoining the fray half a lap down, Crees produced a consistent drive with the hard tyre compound bolted on his front-wheel-drive machine to finish 27th.

In what proved to be a frenetic second race around the 2.97-mile circuit, the Kent-based driver found himself in the thick of the action as he battled to make progress on the medium tyre compound.

Wrestling with the balance of his car, Crees ran as high as 20th at one stage before ultimately finishing 22nd in his Geberit UK, Hansgrohe, DPC Group, DDS Demolition, Merlyn Showering, SMG Croydon, MVC Events, MJ Plumbing and Imperial Render supported machine.

Bringing the weekend to a close with the third and final encounter from East Anglia, Crees’ aspirations of a strong result while on the soft tyre were ended almost immediately as he was involved in an incident at the exit of Wilson on the opening lap.

One of several cars caught up in the melee, the 35-year-old was forced to pull off the track with damage bringing a premature end to his race day.

Michael Crees: “It has been a challenging weekend in terms of results but I can look back on Snetterton as somewhat of a turning point. We made plenty of progress over the meeting, which should only put us in good shape moving forward.

“I’ve worked on my driving style and we’ve really dug into the set-up of the car and the feeling I had seemed to be positive. I enjoyed some great battles out there, it was an action-packed weekend, and I’d have liked to have seen what we could of done on the soft tyre, especially as most were on the hards, but it wasn’t to be.

“We’re heading back to Thruxton in a couple of weeks for the next event and I’m optimistic that we can make further progress there. We’ve got the experience of competing there in May under our belts so that should only be a positive for us.”

Crees’ maiden Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign is set to continue in under two weeks’ time as the series makes a second visit of the year to Thruxton Circuit on August 17/18.

Michael Crees Serves Up Battling BTCC Display At Croft

Michael Crees Serves Up Battling BTCC Display At Croft

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

Thompson makes his point at Croft

Thompson makes his point at Croft

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.

Thompson: We have to kick on at Croft.

Thompson: We have to kick on at Croft.

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.”