Kwik Fit MSA British Touring Car Championship star Bobby Thompson produced a career best performance to date on the opening weekend of the 2019 season at a damp and foggy Brands Hatch Indy circuit, serving notice that he will be a major force to contend with in his second season in Britain’s premier domestic race series.
A career best sixth place effort in the opening race, coupled with his first official fastest lap in BTCC competition and a maiden Jack Sears Trophy win highlighted a day that ended with the 22 year-old Hornchurch based star sitting 12th in the overall points table.
With the fabled 1.21-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit shrouded in fog on race morning, the driver known throughout the paddock as ‘Bobster’ capitalised on intermittent rain and interminably greasy track conditions to convert Saturday’s promising 19th place effort in qualifying into a race day showing that backed up his pre-season claim that he would be a contender for points in every one of the 30 race slate this year.
“I’m obviously delighted with how the weekend went,” commented Thompson as the 30,000 spectators that lined Brands’ natural amphitheatre throughout the action packed day. “But this is where I feel I should be and where our overall package should be so I am keeping my feet firmly planted as we all know we have to put in the same effort at every round.
“But I’m definitely going to enjoy today’s performances tonight before it is back to work on the car tomorrow and it is just a relief to give my sponsors something to cheer about at the start of what will be a massively competitive season.”
Sunday morning’s mist and drizzle left Thompson and his #19 GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct outfit run by Team HARD with a major dilemma about whether to go with slick or wet tyres for the opening 24-lap encounter. The call was for slicks but with the 30-car field split evenly it was clear that the opening race was going to either go very well, or very badly. It soon became clear that Thompson had chosen the correct option.
Understandably cautious when the lights turned green, Thompson slithered through a tense opening lap in 24th place as the wet shod runners pulled away but by the fifth lap the track conditions had already turned in his favour and on lap six the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion set the fastest lap of the race as he began picking off rivals one by one.
“I felt confident in our tyre choice and I knew that as long as I avoided any trouble in the first few laps we could get a really good result. It was such a satisfying feeling just driving up to people and passing them and then moving on to the next car.”
By the tenth lap Thompson was in the points and by lap 17 the #19 machine had cracked the top ten. Chasing the Mercedes of Adam Morgan up towards the leaders, Thompson set what would stand as the fastest lap of the entire race on lap 15 and when he passed the Honda of Rory Butcher he also took over top spot in the Jack Sears Trophy running order.
Even with the rains returning in the closing laps, Thompson was so far ahead of the nearest wet shod runner that there was nothing to worry about although the worsening conditions prevented him from launching a final assault on Morgan for what would have been fifth place but there were still scenes of jubilation in the Team HARD garage when he crossed the line in sixth place for the best finish of his BTCC career to date.
“We had a bit of luck with the tyres but regardless of that the car felt good and it just gives everyone a major boost for the rest of the day,” added Thompson, whose efforts meant a career best start on the third row for the second race of the day, which would also play out on a damp track.
Unlike race one, everyone save for Tom Oliphant opted for slicks for the second 24-lapper and from the outside of row three Thompson made a decent start to complete the opening lap in eighth. A solid pass on Aiden Moffat at Graham Hill Bend a lap later put the #19 machine into P7 but as the race settled down several of the more fancied runners who had started the race out of position following the wrong tyre choice in race one began to make their move and after some intense battling Thompson slipped back to 15th.
The second half of the race was spent squabbling with the works Honda’s of Dan Cammish and Matt Neal and the defending series champion Colin Turkington and although a second straight top ten finish wasn’t possible, a late re-pass on Turkington saw Thompson claim 13th place at the flag for several more valuable championship points and, perhaps more significantly, second place in the Jack Sears Trophy.
“Race two was obviously a lot harder than race one but we showed that even when everything is equal in terms of tyres and track conditions we still have legitimate top 15 pace,” added Thompson, one of the current crop of BRDC Rising Stars who also works as a fully qualified ARDS Race Instructor. “Even though we fell back a little bit we showed that we could race and battle with the factory cars and there were two incidents where I just put myself in the wrong position and in the BTCC when that happens you can lose three or four places at a time. But the car had the pace to stay with the Honda’s and BMW’s and passing Turks late on was a really sweet.”
The weather finally calmed down for the third and final race of the day leaving things as a straight scrap for the first time and once again Thompson remained in the thick of the tussle for points even though the #19 GKR Scaffolding machine was beginning to develop a tendency to understeer, especially coming out of Druids Hairpin.
“We were on the harder tyre for race three so we knew it would be tough to hold off a couple of guys behind us on the softer rubber but even though the car wasn’t handling as well as it was earlier in the day we were still competitive,” continued Thompson, who spent much of the race battling in close quarters with Jason Plato.
“I knew I had Jason right behind me and he made a couple of moves which I managed to defend but I didn’t want to defend too much as I felt we could both catch the pack in front. I think he felt the same because we spent a lot of laps nose to tail but without him trying to pass.”
Lying in 13th place with five laps to go Thompson, Plato and Dan Cammish finally caught the pack that were squabbling over ninth place but just as Thompson thought a second top ten in the space of three races was possible, Plato made his move.
“I must have left just enough room going into Stirling’s for Jason to get his nose alongside and although we raced wheel to wheel all the way down the main straight, I was on the outside line going into Paddock Hill Bend and I had to lift and that let Cammish through as well. It is a shame as I thought I had the pace to pick off one or two of those in front but it was a good battle none the less and we came away still in the points.”
Thompson crossed the line in 15th place for the final championship point, and in doing so equalled the total number of point scoring finishes he achieved during his entire rookie season. Adding his first official fastest lap into the mix plus his first Jack Sears Trophy victory and there were plenty of reasons to smile at the end of the day.
“I’m obviously very pleased with my overall performance and the performance of my crew. We are 12th in the championship and second in the Jack Sears Trophy and we’ve shown we have the pace to compete for the overall win in that and to fight for points in every race.
“There is still lots of work to do and my engineers are convinced there is plenty more pace still to be found so I’m going to be heading to the next meeting at Donington Park in a very good position indeed.”
Race 2 was another tricky affair in mixed conditions. The boys did a great job to keep it on the black stuff and it would of been a reverse grid pole for Jack Goff who was running 11th but for a torpedo move by Neal on the final lap.
Bobby Thompson – P13
Jack Goff – P16
Michael Crees – P23
Carl Boardley Motorsport – P25
The final race of the day starts at 17:05. He are in the hunt for some more points so let’s do this!
#GoHardorGoHome #TeamHARD #SeasonOpener
The BTCC is back in style!
A wet dry race saw half the field go with slicks and the others wets. Dry tyres were the way to go and it’s really shaken up the results
Bobby Thompson – P6 and FASTEST LAP (Dry Tyres)
Jack Goff – P11 (Wet Tyres)
Michael Crees Racing – P12 (Dry Tyres)
Carl Boardley Motorsport – P26 (Dry Tyres)
Mega start to the season
Race 2 is at 14:15 it can’t be missed!
#GoHardorGoHome #TeamHARD #SeasonOpener
After recently moving to their new premises and the official opening of their very impressive new shop, Autobrite Direct have agreed a deal to become title partners with Team HARD. Racing for the 2019 race season and will become part of the official BTCC entry name as well as an increased presence on the new and improved Volkswagen CC’s.
Autobrite joined the team in 2018 and the team have worked very closely since then to build a great relationship as well as developing some very colourful HARDstuff products to sit alongside the Autobrite range. With a very exciting year ahead for everyone involved, the team will be unveiling the new livery tomorrow at the BTCC media day at Brands Hatch.
The Autobrite Direct logo will be seen on all 4 of the cars in the Team HARD. racing stable but will have an even bigger presence on the cars of BRDC Rising Star Bobby Thompson and Ginetta SuperCup AM champion Michael Crees. Running as two pairs, the Autobrite Direct name features heavily on that side of the garage for the year ahead.
Tony Gilham said of the news, “It was a real eye opener for me when I went to see the stunning new premises and shop that was opened over the weekend and I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the way the day went. The products speak for themselves and after talking to many people on the day (Sunday) it is very clear that Autobrite are fast becoming a heavyweight on their industry and a major force in the market.
Walking round the shop I was amazed by the product range and whole professionalism of the business and to agree this deal for 2019 is another proud moment for the team as we look to build on what has already been a great partnership. A huge year ahead for us both and as always and to do it with likeminded people is a very exciting prospect.”
Mark Moss added, “it’s been very busy for us in recent months and this is a major announcement so close to the opening of our new facility just 48 hours ago. After speaking with Tony and the team as well as all the guys at Autobrite, we decided that this was too good an opportunity to miss and we are all very much looking forward to it. To see our name and logo on the BTCC grid is a very proud moment and to do it with a team that we have been working so closely with in recent months makes it even better as we both continue to expand our operations.”
It’s been a dramatic 48 hours for the team with the announcements of Mike Bushell moving to the Renault UK Clio Cup, Jack Goff’s move to the team in the BTCC and RCIB insurance coming back to partner the team. The announcement of Autobrite Direct brings further positive news for the team which continues to move in the right direction. It’s time to go racing!
Following the news that was released yesterday afternoon, Team HARD. Racing are very excited to announce that not only is Jack returning to the team in which he began his racing career but Right Choice Insurance will also return to the fold where it all began for them too.
We first saw the now iconic RCIB Insurance logo appear on Tony Gilham’s Vectra back in 2011 as they made their entry in to the BTCC. This was just the start of a journey that now expands to RCIB’s 9th year in the BTCC and reunites close friends Mike Joseph and Tony Gilham in a working relationship once again. Following the recent news of Bike Devil joining the team, this further bolsters their partnership as they embark on what will be by far our biggest year with the continued growth of the expansion and development of the team.
Jack is no stranger to RCIB having been flying their flag for a number of years including on a VW CC in 2014.
The last time the three of us were working together was in a very memorable race at the end of 2013 when Jack managed an independent win and second overall in the final race of the year. Hunting down Gordon Shedden at the wheel of the Team HARD. RCIB Insurance Insignia made for great viewing and a massive highlight for the team that year.
Jack said “Not only is it great to be back with the team that gave me my opportunity in the BTCC but to have the backing of Mike Joseph of RCIB with their continued support means so much to me as just over a day ago we were looking at a year away from racing for the first time in over 20 years. This season was looking like I’d be a fan of the BTCC, watching at home for the first time since my debut in. It’s a late deal but I have every confidence in my ability and having seen the way the team has come on over the last few years it will be interesting to see how we fair come the season opener in just two weeks time.
It feels like coming home in many ways and very much a family atmosphere which is great, so to do it with the guys that all started together feels even better.”
Mike Joseph added, ““Having been there at the beginning when Team Hard first brought Jack onto the BTCC grid, it gives me great pleasure to be working with them both again and keeping Jack on the grid for 2019. Jack is a truly great talent and in the VW CC I can see him having a great season alongside Carl Boardley. Jack is a great ambassador for our brand, and it will be very interesting to see what we can achieve together.”
Team HARD. Racing are delighted to announce that multiple race winner and fan favourite Jack Goff returns to the British Touring Car Championship for 2019. After recent events concerning Mike Bushell’s move to the Renault UK Clio Cup for 2019 the door opened for Jack’s return to the BTCC paddock for this season.
Jack, winner of two races in 2018 returns to Team HARD. Racing of which he made his debut in the series in 2013. It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Jack and was convinced that he would have to sit out 2019.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be back with Team HARD who I made my debut with in the BTCC back in 2013. Tony gave me my first break in touring cars and it’s an amazing feeling to be back with the team, who have come on an awful lot.
It’s been an incredible 24 hours and I have to say a massive thank you to Tony, the team and my current partners. I honestly thought that I would have to sit out this year after a tough winter and I feel for Mike who is a great guy and driver, but I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Volkswagen CC.
I drove the car in 2014 and have seen it’s up turn in form during the second half of 2018 with Mike and Bobby behind the wheel. I’ve spoken to my new team-mates who have told me what the team have done with the car over the winter and I have full confidence that we will be on the pace from the get go despite my obvious lack of testing.
I am absolutely buzzing for media day and for the first round of the season at Brands Hatch. I am more determined than ever!”
The team have been working hard to develop the Volkswagen CC which saw an improvement in pace during the second half of the season, consistently challenging the front runners. Managing Director, Tony Gilham is glad to have Jack in the Team HARD. Racing camp after five years away from the team.
“It is great for us to have been able to bring Jack back to Team HARD Racing. for 2019 following a lot of developments in the last 24 hours. Of course it is very sad that Mike (Bushell) has had to step aside but we have an ideal replacement in Goff and Bushell remains with the team for the Clio Cup.
Jack brings a massive amount of experience with him and will allow us to really see how far we have come since 2013 when Jack last raced for us at Brands GP in a stunning race long battle with Gordon Shedden.
We are in great shape for the season ahead and despite it being a very hard decision, we now have to focus on doing the best job possible. Mike has been an important factor in our upturn in performance and will remain a key team member for the future.
For us to get this all in place before it all begins at media day this Wednesday was vital for our season plans.”
Jack is no stranger to Team HARD. Racing whose introduction to the BTCC came via the team in 2013, driving the teams Vauxhall Insignia to an overall podium plus independent win during the same season. You can meet and catch Jack in action at Wednesday’s BTCC media day at Brand Hatch.