So we’ve had Media Day and the Official BTCC Test day. So how did Media Day go?
We were relatively happy with how the day went. We were affected by the red flags and stoppages which meant that we only ran new tyres on Bobby Thompson’s car. I think Bobby’s time was very impressive. He continues to impress with his very limited experience in these cars. He’s doing an excellent job. The other three cars never got a new tyres and our old tyre performance we were extremely pleased with. So I think that we’re in pretty good shape there.
And how has the Official BTCC Test been?
Here we’ve obviously been affected by the weather. It’s been wet and dry with limited dry running. Mike Bushell was seventh fastest just a couple of tenths away and his new tyre run was when on a par when it started to rain as well. So we believe there’s another couple or three tenths in there. He’s very happy with the car and says he can see areas that he can improve on himself. So generally we’re pretty happy at the end of the day with the continual rain. We changed Jake Hill’s car to a full wet setup and he is happy with what’s underneath him as well. So yes, we’re in not bad shape the week before Brands Hatch first race of the season
Do we have a long range weather forecast yet for Brands Hatch?
No, we don’t but it will probably be ‘changeable’. We’ll go with that!
So mechanically everything is going to plan?
Yes not not many bits dropping off now. I think we’re getting the hang of it now. (Laughing) We still need a big push next week to detail the cars to the situation they need to be. But the cars are proving to be reliable.
So the drivers are all happy, you’re reasonably happy. How much work is there to do. I I think you said before they were 80% there?
We’re about 90% there now. So they’ll be shiny and ready to go next weekend.
What are your predictions or aspirations for the weekend?
It’s very difficult to answer that question. I’d like to think that we could get two cars in the top 10 in qualifying and I’d like to think we could score good points in three races. I think with Mike Bushell he’s obviously still learning the second time into Touring Cars, he is improving every time he drives it and getting more comfortable and more experience in this type of car. Jake is obviously proven with three years in the championship. He’s proven to be fast and if you give him a fast car he will drive it fast. So who knows what Jake will actually achieve in qualifying. What you only really want is it not to be any damage. All four drivers to keep out of trouble!
So the burning question is, will there be team orders.
I think all of our drivers will work together I’m pretty sure that. They get on well and work well together.
Phil (Overall) Do you have anything to add?
We’re making good steady progress with the other two cars [Geoff oversees Jake (Hill) and Mike (Bushell). Phil oversees Michael (Caine) and Bobby (Thompson)]
We’ve be ironing out a few problems. Obviously, Bobby’s car was the last one to be finished. It’s running reliably and we’re very happy with Bobby’s performance with limited experience. Today he was competitive with the more tyre runs that we did so looking good. We are getting over one or two build issues that we had but that’s what testing is all about. So we are looking in good shape good shape reliability wise for the weekend.
And were both of the drivers happy with the testing in the wet? Bobby particularly likes driving in the wet.
Obviously we’ve got to get some more data for Bobby with some dry running so he gets used to driving this car in all conditions but we’ve unfortunately had a lot of wet testing, but it is Winter.
How many more testing days are there planned throughout the year?
There is one on the 12th of April at Thruxton. And then the Summer Test at Snetterton before the summer break finishes.
Is Michael Caine happy with his car?
Yes Michael is happy. Yes he’s happy with what he’s got. We’ve taken a snapshot at a certain time of the day looking at what everyone else is doing (because when you’ve got changeable conditions you can only look at that point in time, it’s no good comparing it to what was done before). So looking at what he was doing on the track at the same time around he’s looking competitive.
How did the first day of testing go?
The first day we had two cars that hadn’t turned a wheel before this season, that have been rebuilt. So in that respect they both have been rebuilt without any issues and performed as they should have. Aside of that we did some performance testing with Jake Hill and we were extremely happy with the lap times that he achieved. It was very positive in relation to the qualifying times from last year. Very competitive. All in all the first day was good. Conditions were a little mixed from wet to dry from the morning to the afternoon. But on the whole we were very pleased.
Everything seems to be going in the right direction. What comments and feedback did you get from the drivers?
Jake is the only one that has the comparison from last year to this year and he’s extremely positive about the changes that we have made. The areas of the car that were lacking have been addressed and for his first run on new tyres on the car his lap time compared very favourably to the qualifying times of last year. It would have put him very high up the grid, let’s put it that way!
As for the second day, it’s been wet and cold all day and changing with the amount of water, which has been quite tricky. So we’ve done some good work with the cars in the wet settings and made changes to make the car more suitable for the wet. We went through that programme with all three drivers here today (Bushell, Caine and Thompson) so that they have an understanding of what the car feels like in the wet and what changes we make and how it makes the car feel. The drivers all gave great feedback, which is what we need.
How have the Dunlop tyres shaped up particularly on the second day?
The second day has been cold and damp but never really completely wet. The wet Dunlop tyre is a quite a soft tyre so doesn’t have a lot of tolerance to a dry or drying track. But overall we have managed with the weather and the programme has worked out as well as expected really.
The fourth car is arriving on Friday 16th. Will it be ready for Media Day?
Yes the shell arrives back from the paint shop tomorrow so the guys have got a week or so to build this fourth car and of course the three cars already built are 90% right so we just need to attend to the last 10% before we get to Media Day with all four cars.
So we’re looking forward to Media Day and it’s looking good for the start of the season?
Yes it’s all very encouraging. We shouldn’t be too optimistic about racing but I think that we’re in a very good position and we’ll have to see what happens.
Photos: Andrea Hurcombe
Team HARD. Racing are ready to take a ‘sizeable step’ up the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid in 2018, after agreeing a deal with widely respected and experienced engineer Geoff Kingston.
With a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the BTCC as well as other motorsport disciplines from Formula 1 to sportscars, Team HARD. are confident that the arrival of the highly-rated Kingston will be the next step towards becoming a front-running team.
Tony Gilham said “Geoff is arguably the best engineer in the BTCC paddock and it is no secret that we have been trying to secure his services for the past three years. That said, only now do I believe that the timing is right for us to work together as we continue to work our way up the grid. We have a great friendship and that is the perfect platform on which to build a very good working relationship.”
Gilham went on to say, “We both have the same drive and determination as well as a winning mentality that has brought us together for 2018. We both believe that we will arrive at race one of the season with a package capable of rivalling any team on the grid. This is another clear statement of our intent and having had Geoff involved for just a few days so far, it is quite clear that he will take us to the next level and improve us in all areas. With the right drivers in our cars there is no reason why we are not able to challenge for race wins and we will be aiming to take the Independent Championship come the end of the season”
Those sentiments are echoed by Kingston, who aside from working for some of the biggest teams in the BTCC over the years, was instrumental in helping to drive Jaguar to the World Sportscar Championship crown and Le Mans 24 Hours glory in the late 1980s, before contributing to Benetton’s race-winning success with Michael Schumacher in Formula 1 in 1993.
“I was looking for a fresh challenge like this, and when it came up, it just seemed like the perfect fit at the right time,” he explained. “Having known Tony for a few years now and seen how they have developed as a team, I feel that together we can build on that and really create something special. The CC is a very strong car and with a few upgrades over the winter will be a force to be reckoned with once again.”
“The one thing Team HARD. have lacked until now is a little bit of engineering experience – which is what I can bring to the table. With very little differences between these cars, the skill is in finding the limit from what’s available; that can be pretty elusive – but with the NGTC regulations as they are, it means that everybody has the same opportunity, which means it all comes down to how you use it.”
With seats still available and ongoing discussions with drivers, it will be interesting to see who Team HARD. will be signing in the coming weeks.