Thompson: It’s an honour to be part of Snetterton weekend.

Thompson: It’s an honour to be part of Snetterton weekend.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Bobby Thompson knows that the first half of his debut season in the UK’s premier domestic championship hasn’t been as successful as he would have liked but the 21 year-old Hornchurch based driver says he is still honoured to be part of the BTCC ahead of one of the most significant race meetings in the 60 year-history of the series this weekend at Snetterton.

“It is such an honour to be a part of this meeting,” says Thompson. “They are going to be talking about it for years to come and I hope I will still be in the BTCC to listen to all those stories in another ten or so years’ time. A lot of people are saying that this is going to be the biggest BTCC meeting since 1996 when they supported the British Grand Prix or the meeting where Matt Neal won £250,000 as the first independent to win a race outright. I wasn’t born when they supported the Formula One and I was too young to remember Matt’s win but all I know is that this is going to be the biggest race meeting of my life.”

Although the reigning VW Cup Series Champion, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on the eve of the three races at the Norfolk venue, has yet to open his championship account with his #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC squad, Thompson says that a positive tyre test at Snetterton during the mid-season break coupled with his charging drive in the final race at Croft, leaves him in a buoyant mood as he heads to the site of his first race win, something he achieved as a series rookie in the VW Cup Series in 2015.

“I can’t deny that my first half a season in the BTCC has been anything but a steep learning curve and after winning the VW Cup Series title last year it is tough knowing that you are going out there every time not fighting for a win but just fighting for a point or even a place in the top 20,” says Thompson. “But the third race at Croft was the first race all year where I could just catch, pass and pull away from anyone around me. I don’t think I have ever driven harder in my life but it felt great and it was good to give my team a real reason to pack up with smiles on their faces.”

The highlight of the BTCC’s spectacular 60th anniversary Snetterton weekend will be Sunday’s double-points 60-mile third race and after Thompson’s stirring drive on worn tyres in boiling conditions at Croft, the fact that Snetterton is expected to be one of the hottest meetings temperature wise in recent memory, has given Thompson an added boost.

“I really feel that we turned a corner at Croft, quite literally as the handling of the car has been a problem all year,” smiled Thompson. “I just changed my approach to driving on worn tyres and it worked. Obviously I know Snetterton really well and while the long race is a step into the unknown for most of us I genuinely think that my #19 GKR Ltd car will be a real contender at the business end of the day.”

Looking back at his maiden VW Cup Series win at Snetterton, Bobby admits that a repeat performance would be one of the biggest upsets in BTCC history, but as a pre-weekend goal it is something he is aiming for.

“I remember arriving at Snetterton on the back of my first podium at Spa but also with a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I should have had two podiums but in the second race the car was something like 100 grams underweight,” added the current BRDC Rising Star who attributed his DQ to a last minute trip to the toilet, something his team still remind him of. “I put it on pole and when the lights went out I got a good start for once and didn’t have to defend much on the opening lap. From then on I just took it lap by lap and everyone kept getting smaller and smaller in my mirrors until they weren’t there anymore.”

Smashing the lap record and winning by nearly seven seconds, Bobby says it took a while to sink in not just that he won but how he won.

“Obviously I was delighted with the win especially as a rookie in the series as it was my first win since my karting days but I was most proud of the lap record I set. I think I was something like seven tenths of a second quicker than anyone else and all season nobody had been able to win by more than a second or two. I think that made everyone in the paddock at the time realise the potential I had.”

Adding even more sunshine to this weekend’s proceedings will be Bobby’s sponsors Rio Soft Drink who will have a major presence in the paddock at Snetterton with an abundance of free drinks to give away, a timely boost on a weekend where temperatures are set to soar.

“Rio have just embraced the BTCC and everything it has to offer,” says Thompson. “They are the brightest company by far in terms of their logos and it is amazing to have such a household name as a partner. The deck chairs they brought to Thruxton will be back and that is a perfect way for fans to have a bit of fun and get an extra bit of ‘sunny’ into their weekend.”

Here are all the times that fans of team BT19 need to keep in their diaries for the weekend.

Saturday July 28th

09:30 – 10:10am – Free Practice 1
12:10 – 12:50pm – Free Practice 2
15:10 – 15:40pm – Qualifying 1 (Live on http://www.itv.com/btcc/qualifying-live)
17:40 – 17:55pm – Qualifying 2 (Live on http://www.itv.com/btcc/qualifying-live)

Sunday July 29th

11:30am – BTCC Race 1 (Live on ITV4)
12:50 – 13:15pm – Pit lane Walkabout/Drivers Autograph Session
13:50pm – BTCC Race 2 (Live on ITV4)
17:15pm – BTCC Race 3 (Live on ITV4)

Hill’s Tough Times at Croft BTCC

Hill’s Tough Times at Croft BTCC

 

Trade Price Cars Brisky Racing’s Jake Hill described his weekend at a blisteringly hot Croft in North Yorkshire as ‘one of the toughest I’ve ever had in BTCC’ after a weekend which saw his first retirement of the season in race one, and performance issues in races two and three.

 

A promising run to P8 in practice lead to hope for qualifying, but both Hill and team-mate Mike Bushell were unable to match the times set in practice, with Hill qualifying a frustrated 25th.

 

“BTCC is always really close, so had I been able to repeat my time from practice, I would have been P11….but both Mike and I had the same issue, just not able to repeat the times from practice. Hopefully we will have a stronger car for the races”

 

Starting on the option ‘Hard’ tyre Hill made a good start and benefitted from incidents ahead involving Austin and Cook, so ended lap one in P22….however behind the Safety Car a stone was flicked through the radiator, forcing retirement.

 

“One of those unlucky things I guess – just pleased I realised quickly and came in slowly to save the engine”

Jake Hill Croft

Race two and starting P30, a drama on the grid saw the car spring a water leak, the crew frantically working to repair things and get Hill away from his grid position as planned.

 

Another strong start and some issues for cars around, plus a couple of strong passes saw him up to P21 – all good for his Dunlop #ForeverForward award for most places gained – but as the last few laps began, Hill’s ‘Prime’ tyres began dramatically losing performance, with his lap times almost 10 seconds slower than his best, meaning a finish of P26.

 

“The car was good for the first few laps, but very quickly I could feel the tyre performance dropping, and by the last few laps it was like driving on ice. We just couldn’t get the tyres to last, so I was just making sure I brought the car back safely”

 

Hill’s crew worked hard in sweltering conditions to change the car for the final race, and the early indications were promising, moving past Smelt and Smith on the opening lap, then passing team-mate Bushell and a lap later Jackson, plus benefitting from Austin’s problems. Now P21 and pushing Cole, the issues from race two reappeared, and again tyre performance dropped massively, Hill dropping back and eventually finishing P25.

 

“The team have worked incredibly hard. Geoff, Phil and Yahor my engineer, Jamie, Josh, Carl, Nathan, Gary and the rest of the lads have put in so much effort. We just haven’t been able to get things working the way we want, which is incredibly tough for everyone, all of the drivers and all of the team are trying their hardest, that’s for sure”

 

“Now there is a five-week summer break and the team are testing at Snetterton, so let’s hope they can unlock the pace there, as there are some tracks in the second half of the season which should suit the car”

 

“As always I am hugely grateful to Tony (Gilham), Gary and everyone at the team for their support, and for my amazing partners Rolec Racing, Brisky Racing, Sportif Cars, Trade Price Cars, Oodle, Click Dealer, Ecoflam, Danfoss, ABGO, AWS Appliance Spares, Bill Rawles Classic Cars, ScoriaTech, Zynth, ModelWorld, P1 Nutrition, Spine Optics, Octane, BRDC Rising Stars, TechMax and everyone else who makes this fantastic journey possible!