Bobby bears the brunt at Silverstone

Bobby bears the brunt at Silverstone

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.

HARD. work continues for Bushell in 2019

HARD. work continues for Bushell in 2019

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.”

DREAM COMES TRUE FOR YOUNGEST BRITISH TOURING CAR RACER

DREAM COMES TRUE FOR YOUNGEST BRITISH TOURING CAR RACER

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 hammerton23@outlook.com for sponsorship opportunities.

Ethan Hammerton BTCC

Thompson’s charge dampened at Knockhill.

Thompson’s charge dampened at Knockhill.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Bobby Thompson endured a nightmarish maiden weekend at the spectacular but sodden Knockhill circuit in Fife at rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the UK’s highest profile domestic race series, leaving the 1.24-mile track just north of Edinburgh without adding to his points tally.

Fresh from a seasons-best seventh place finish at the Rockingham Motor Speedway, the 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver arrived at one of the UK’s most scenic and unique circuits in a buoyant mood, despite the fact that the undulating layout of the only non-English track on the calendar hasn’t traditionally suited the VW CC he pilots.

“My first trip to Knockhill was certainly a memorable one, even if it was for all the wrong reasons,” reflected Thompson, whose sole classified finish of the weekend aboard his #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC was a 20th place effort in the third and final race of the weekend. “The track itself is awesome, but it is just a pity that we only managed a handful of laps when it was dry. I was still pretty confident on race morning when we saw that all the races were going to be wet, but missing race one was just a killer and we never recovered from that.”

The eighth race weekend of the BTCC’s  record-breaking 60th anniversary season began well enough for the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion, who was comfortably inside the top ten during the opening half of the first of two free practice sessions when a slight error resulted in the BRDC Rising Star suffering his first off track excursion of the season.

“I just overcooked it slightly on my seventh flying lap going through turn one and spun,” recalled Thompson. “The car felt so good and I was just attacking a bit too much a bit too soon. The problem was that I hit a ditch, which ripped the front splitter off and caused a bit of damage which meant I missed the whole of second practice.”

Heading in to qualifying with half a dozen laps under his belt was hardly ideal but with the ITV4 on board cameras now installed worse was to come for when the signal was given to start the critical 30-minute timed session, Thompson left the pits completely unaware that an oil line was loose and that the distinctive #19 GKR Ltd machine was doing its best impression of the Exxon Valdez. Half way around his out-lap and with cars skating off the road behind him, smoke billowing in to the cockpit was Thompson’s first warning, which came too late for the engine, triggering a long, and expensive repair job on Saturday night as a new power unit from Swindon was installed.

“The team signalled for me to go out and do our usual one lap and then pit to cross over the tyres and as I came out of the second corner I said to my engineer that the rear end felt a bit loose but apart from that everything seemed fine until I got to Clark’s corner and smoke started appearing in the cockpit. I pulled off as soon as I could and then I realised that the rear end felt loose because I had oil over my tyres.”

With no time set in qualifying Thompson was face with starting the first of three 24 lap races from 31st and last on the grid but when Sunday dawned shrouded in grey cloud and seemingly incessant rain, the well-known wet weather expert still felt at least one, possibly two points scoring finishes were obtainable. However, those hopes were extinguished the moment he pulled onto his grid slot and the BTCC grid officials spotted a trail of oil coming out from the underside of the #19.

“It is tough to summarise a race that basically didn’t happen,” said Thompson, who recorded his second DNS of the year and now faced starting race two from 31st and last on the grid as well. “We got the car back to the garage and the engine builders from Swindon checked to make sure it still had all its oil, which it did. It was simply a case of some of yesterday’s oil that went into the sills under the car started leaking out as the car warmed up. This was more frustrating than yesterday as we knew that nothing was wrong with the car and that basically killed our weekend but I understand what the officials were saying and you can’t have a car that is leaking oil going out on track, especially in conditions like we had.”

With the rain intensifying and the #19 machine now sporting a freshly valeted underside, Thompson made a good start to race two, passing several cars until an early race safety car period triggered the end of his challenge when the driver directly behind him failed to slow down for the safety car boards, giving Thompson’s car a whack to the rear that forced Thompson into the pits for repair the damage.

“I’ve always said that I love racing in the rain but race two was the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced,” added Thompson, who returned to the track three laps down but was classified as a non-finisher in 24th place when a red flag brought about an early conclusion to proceedings. “Being at the back meant I couldn’t see a thing but I picked up a couple of places and was moving forwards. Obviously someone behind me misjudged their braking in the spray and gave me a whack which meant I had to pit and lost three laps.

“But I knew that others would have problems and so we went back out as we only did seven laps yesterday and none in race one and even with no time to adjust the set-up our lap times were in the top 15 and a 12th row starting slot is much better than a 16th row starting slot, especially in these conditions.”

Even though the rain was beginning to abate ahead of the third and final race of the weekend, Thompson admitted to making a cautious start just to avoid incurring any potential damage and ended the first lap in 29th position. But with the ability to actually race for the first time all weekend Thompson quickly began picking off drivers one at a time despite the lack of overtaking opportunities, moving ahead of Mike Bushell, Matt Simpson, Ollie Jackson, Carl Boardley, Ollie Pidgley and Jason Plato in the opening ten laps before setting a series of laps quicker than race leader Tom Chilton, including a 56.260-second effort on lap 16 that would stand as the fourth fastest lap of the entire race and the second fastest of all by a Front Wheel Drive car.

“If only race three was race one then our weekend would have been a lot different,” concluded Thompson, who passed Brett Smith, Tom Oliphant, James Cole and Senna Proctor in the second half of the race and was closing on Glynn Geddie for 18th place when his rear tyres began to go off. “The car was really good and I could just attack with confidence in the grip levels although I think I used the rear tyres a bit too much as in the last couple of laps they started to go off and Jason was able to pass me back right at the end.”

Thompson eventually took the chequered flag in 20th place and remains in 27th position in the overall BTCC Championship points table, 18th in the BTCC Independents standings but slipped to 10th in the Jack Sears Trophy table with six races of the 2018 remaining starting in three weeks’ time at the ultra-fast Silverstone National circuit in Northamptonshire.

RAIN-HIT KNOCKHILL PROVIDES ENJOYABLE NEW CHALLENGE  FOR BTCC ROOKIE PIDGLEY

RAIN-HIT KNOCKHILL PROVIDES ENJOYABLE NEW CHALLENGE FOR BTCC ROOKIE PIDGLEY

  • Volkswagen racer Ollie Pidgley enjoys second BTCC outing of year
  • Rain-swept Knockhill provides intriguing challenge for series rookie
  • Pidgley improves on previous best with P21 result in very wet Rd23
  • Wiltshire ‘birthday boy’ relishing next rounds at Silverstone National

 

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Ollie Pidgley made another step forward in the UK’s premier motor racing category at a rain-swept Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend, 25th/26th August, where the Volkswagen CC racer encountered another series of fresh challenges.

 

Making good progress through the dry free practice sessions on Saturday, where he had to pretty much learn the Fife circuit from scratch having only competed there once previously in a Formula 4 single-seater back in 2015, the Downton driver headed into raceday in confident mood.

 

Heavy and persistent rain on Sunday, though, delivered a fresh test for Pidgley who celebrated his 21st birthday over the weekend. With a highlight finish of 21st place in round 23, the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing driver hoped for more in round 24 later in the day, especially starting the race just outside the top 20, but unfortunate contact on lap two ended those aims.

 

“I’m not sure what happened entirely”, explained Pidgley after race three, “[Matt] Simpson went sideways at the hairpin and so, in avoidance, I went to the outside but Bobby [Thompson] outbraked himself and made contact with my wheel, which was on full lock, so it broke the tow link.

 

“It’s quite frustrating it happened in that race as it was the highest I’ve started in touring cars, and other than [Jason] Plato in his rear-wheel drive getting past me, I managed to stay with the others on the first couple of laps and things were going well. It’s a shame, but there are lots of positives.”

 

Making significant gains during the two free practice sessions on Saturday, finding a full 1.1 seconds between the two runs, in qualifying Pidgley again made steps forward and ended up with the 30th fastest time – less than a couple of seconds way from pole position.

 

Due to the arrival of a significant amount of rain on Sunday, the challenge for Pidgley was ratcheted up a notch with no prior experience of those conditions at Knockhill in his BTCC car. At the start of race one, though, he made no mistakes and moved ahead of Carl Boardley’s sister Volkswagen CC into 29th place at the end of lap three when Boardley went wide and off at the hairpin.

 

Taking another position soon after when Daniel Lloyd careered off the circuit, Pidgley then moved into 27th place on lap 11 when Honda racers Matt Neal and Matt Simpson tangled. Although slipping back behind the recovering Lloyd early in the second half of the race, contact between podium contenders Stephen Jelley and Colin Turkington elevated Pidgley back into 27th before the finish.

 

As the drivers and teams prepared for race two, the weather had only worsened with treacherous conditions awaiting the start of round 23. Even with the extremely limited visibility in the pack at the rear of the field, though, Pidgley made some impressive gains in the red-flag shortened encounter.

 

Although dropped back to 30th place from 27th at the start, following an early Safety Car period between laps two and seven the Volkswagen CC racer began to make progress. As several rivals came to grief in the conditions, Pidgley acclimatised impressively and he steadily moved through into 24th position before the Safety Car made its second appearance on lap 13.

 

Following the re-start on lap 19, the BTCC rookie was nudged back to 25th by Simpson but Pidgley did move back up into 24th on lap 20 before the red flags were shown, and a race result declared, after a collision with the barriers for Sam Smelt. When the top two finishers were then excluded due to technical infringements, Pidgley moved up into a best yet 21st spot.

 

Even though rain ceased later in the afternoon, the third and final contest still took place on a wet track and from 21st on the grid – surrounded by a number of very experienced touring car drivers who had encountered misfortune in the previous encounter – Pidgley put together a sensible start.

 

Ending the opening lap in 25th position but well in touch with the pack ahead, at the end of the second tour he was forced to pit with the broken tow link after contact at the hairpin. Thanks to great work from the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing pit crew, Pidgley was able to rejoin the race and ended 26th of the cars still running, albeit eight laps down, to gain vital extra experience.

 

“I’ve only ever been to Knockhill once before, and that was in F4, so everything was pretty new to be honest”, said the Old English Properties and MSP Capital supported racer, “On Saturday we kept making progress, getting used to the car and the track and only using old tyres. All of the targets we set ourselves we kept hitting, so it was a really productive day.

 

“The rain on Sunday, though, made everything more of a challenge – I’ve never seen anything like those conditions to be fair, the wipers on a touring car aren’t the best and the water doesn’t run off the plastic windscreens like it does on a regular road car. It’s the same for everyone, obviously, but visibility was pretty tough.”

 

Next up for Pidgley and Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing will be penultimate race meeting of the 2018 BTCC season over the weekend 15th/16th September, at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire.

 

“Silverstone is one of the tracks I’ve done most at before, in Clios and MINI Challenge, so I’m really looking forward to being there in a touring car”, commented Pidgley, “I’m confident it’ll be a good weekend and if it’s dry I think we have a great chance to make some more steps forward, plus it should be a good track for our Volkswagen.”

Tough start to Thompson’s maiden Highland fling!

Tough start to Thompson’s maiden Highland fling!

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Bobby Thompson will start tomorrow’s trio of British Touring Car Championship races at the spectacular Knockhill circuit in Fife from 31stand last position after an oil leak aboard the #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC brought his timed qualifying session to a premature end after less than half a lap.

Thompson’s oily and somewhat spectacular demise at the very start of Saturday’s usually frantic 30-minute qualifying period was the final act of a day that began promisingly but turned sour when the 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver, by his own admission, ‘overcooked things’ at Duffus Dip while sitting tenth fastest during the opening free practice session of the weekend.

“It is hard to know where to start after a day like this,” shrugged a philosophical Thompson as he watched the remainder of qualifying from the pit wall that overlooks the rolling 1.27-mile Scottish venue. “Obviously this is my first time here and I just overcooked it slightly on my seventh flying lap going through turn one and spun. The car felt so good and I was just attacking a bit too much a bit too soon. The problem was that I hit a ditch, which ripped the front splitter off and caused a bit of damage which meant I missed the whole of second practice.”

Following his superb showing at Rockingham two weeks ago and another strong performance from his Team HARD teammate Mike Bushell in practice, there was an optimistic mood in the #19 camp heading in to qualifying, although within 30-seconds of the green flag going out to signal the start of qualifying, hope had turned to despair.

“The team signalled for me to go out and do our usual one lap and then pit to cross over the tyres and as I came out of the second corner I said to my engineer that the rear end felt a bit loose but apart from that everything seemed fine until I got to Clark’s corner and smoke started appearing in the cockpit. I pulled off as soon as I could and then I realised that the rear end felt loose because I had oil over my tyres.”

With a liberal soaking of oil covering half the lap the session was red flagged and the reigning VW Cup Series Champion was left contemplating a race day that was challenging enough to begin with on a track that traditionally doesn’t suit the VW CC but is now as mountainous as the spectacular countryside that surrounds Knockhill.

“Looking at the positives, firstly the car felt good this morning, secondly Mike [Bushell] has shown we have a decent package, thirdly I’m now in great shape to move into the top three in the Dunlop Forever Forward standings and lastly, the ITV4 viewers should get to see plenty of overtaking as I’m carrying their on-board cameras for the races. And it is supposed to rain as well and I love driving in the rain!”

If you aren’t making the journey to Knockhill for race day, here are the start times for all three BTCC races, which as always, will be live and uninterrupted on ITV4.

Sunday August 26th

11:50am – BTCC Race 1 (Live on ITV4)
13:05 – 13:35pm – Pit lane Walkabout/Drivers Autograph Session
14:25pm – BTCC Race 2 (Live on ITV4)
17:20pm – BTCC Race 3 (Live on ITV4)