By Josh Bashford
The British Touring Car Championship is celebrating its 60th anniversary this weekend at Snetterton. To mark the occasion Alan Gow and TOCA have decided to spice up the already scorching action by tweaking this weekend’s proceedings. Here’s the low down:
Spectators who attend Snetterton on Saturday will be treated to an extra qualifying session as there will be two this weekend. The first session (15:10) will be run as normal with cars running their championship ballast. This session will set the grid for race 1 at 11:30 on Sunday.
For the second session, a shorter 15 minutes session will be the last action of the day with all cars ballast free. This session will determine the grid for the 3rd and final race on Sunday, the 60th anniversary race.
Races 1 and 2 (11:30 and 13:50) will be run as a normal race weekend; normal ballast, grid positions and race length. Race 3 (17:15) however will be run completely ballast free with the grid positions determined by the second qualifying session on the Saturday. The race will also be longer, 60miles (nice touch TOCA) which is the equivalent of 20 laps. This race 3 being 8 laps longer expect drivers who look after their tyres to rise to the top of the charts. Oh, and it’s also double points so it’s important to make this one count!
We are really looking forward to this weekend after more adjustments to the car over the summer break. The drivers are determined get some good points this weekend and it’s in good knowledge that we were quick at Snetterton in 2017 with the VW CC. It’s all to play for once again!
Ben Wallace, driver of the #88 Team HARD Ginetta G55 GT4 with teammate Joshua Jackson, got the best they possibly could from Rounds Four and Five of the 2018 British GT Championship, held at Snetterton, Norfolk over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Consisting of two one-hour sprint races around the 4.82km Snetterton 300 circuit, Jackson and Wallace qualified the #88 entry in eleventh place in the GT4 Silver class for both races. A pair of ninth place finishes means that the young duo added an additional four points each to their tally in the GT4 Silver Drivers standings.
Southport-based Ben Wallace is now in twelfth place in the standings, just 3.5 points off of breaking in to the top ten.
Recent success for Ginetta G55 GT4 in the GT4 European Series encouraged the series organisers to apply performance-balancing to the car, meaning that it became very difficult for either of the Team HARD Ginettas to compete for podium honours in the glorious Norfolk sunshine.
Photo: BritishGT.com / Jakob Ebrey Photography
Despite the disappointment, Ben Wallace was determined to find the find the positives which he can take to the next round.
“I learned a lot about the car because, in extreme cases like this, you learn more about the car when it is difficult to drive than you do in easier circumstances,” said Wallace. “It helped me gain a lot more confidence in the car.”
“I had two off-track moments from which I recovered and it taught me more about the car than I would have normally learned,” continued Ben Wallace. “Again I showed I can make a fantastic start and made up a number of positions. I was driving the car on the absolute limit and beyond! I was pushing and pushing and the team was great in letting me know how far the next car was in front.”
The British GT Championship now moves to the Silverstone GP circuit on June 9-10, a venue that Ben Wallace has some experience of.
“I’ve raced on the National circuit in the Ginetta Juniors but this will be my first time on the Grand Prix circuit,” said Ben Wallace. “Assuming that the Balance of Performance issues are addressed, and I’m sure they will be, I am confident that we can show the true pace of the Team HARD Ginetta G55 GT4 over the three-hour race. I’ll be spending a lot of time preparing for the weekend in the simulator and I can’t wait to convert all our hard work into results on-track!”
Snetterton, one of my all time favourite circuits. A long technical track that, when driven right, is so rewarding. I couldn’t wait to get back out after the disappointments of Rockingham, but none the less I knew this weekend I would have to dig deeper than I have ever before as the BOP was so against us. For those wondering what BOP is well… its either a systematic way of keeping the grid full of different manufactures of race car, and used to even the cars out and provide close racing, or something for the drivers to moan about on a minute by minute basis. For us, it was the later of the two. Our car was seriously restricted, and on a power circuit like Snetterton, it really was a kick in the teeth. But still, we arrived with our heads held high and bags of confidence.
Saturday, Going into FP1 we had a set run plan, however some technical issue prevented us from keeping to that, leaving running to a minimum. FP2 struck us with some more bad luck, as the steering rack failed through a high compression corner, forcing us to retire the car from the session. Next session for us was qualifying, and both Anna and I were feeling a little unsure of the pace in the car due to the limited running we had earlier in the day. But we both strapped in and recorded our PB times, however both of us knew there was more time out there, and we just needed the seat time to find it. Now our heads were focused on the races.
Sunday. Race day! I woke up on Sunday with a spring in my step, as we had discussed our race plan the night before, and I was feeling rather refreshed about it all. After breakfast was a short 10 min warm up session, which we decided would be more useful for Anna to take part in, as she was to start the first race. Post session we decided to change the setup slightly to allow us to get more mechanical grip in the slower corners, and help us make the most of what we had performance wise. We then lined up for race 1, Anna in the pilot seat made a great start, but even from the pit wall, it was clear to see she had a problem, she wasn’t comfortable for some reason. No later than 10 seconds after I thought this, Anna came over the radio highlighting concern about the brake pedal. An issue involving brakes is never taken lightly and so she was forced to box so that the problem to be solved. This unfortunately lost us a lap in the race, and meant that my stint had become a glorified test session. However I never gave up and pushed every lap, to better understand the car and the setup, recording another PB lap time during the race. We finished without any more drama but were much further down the field than we hoped for.
Race 2 started, and with the time arriving at T minus 45 minutes there was a problem. During a set up change a part had failed and caused a huge delay to the car. The rear left suspension was in need of a rebuild, and things started to look rather bleak, but with the hustle of our engineer we managed to sort the issue as best we could and get the car out on the grid. Due to the nature of the issue it meant that the ABS in the car wasn’t working to its full potential, therefore limiting our efficiency on the brakes. never the less, I strapped in for the start of the race. I made a good clean start and and settled into my groove. Battling hard with our sister car to maintain position. However my efforts were thwarted as the faster GT3 cars came through and left me off line. Which meant I had to concede the position but I kept my head down and started to post faster and faster lap times. As the sister car drove into the pits for the driver change I opted to stay out to try and stretch the gap to them. With pure focus I managed to beat my previous PB lap time again, and got us a jump on our team mates. When I handed the car to Anna we were ahead of them. Anna put in a solid performance and brought the car home in a respectable position. The end result was not what we hoped for, but because of our BOP we really just didn’t have the pace in the car to push any further. I am still proud of what we achieved as we truly delivered the best we could with what we had. On the up, this means that our BOP will improve for Silverstone GP on the 9th and 10th of June. So now its all focus on the next round.
After his first day driving the 2018 Edition Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing VW CC at Snetterton today, BRDC Rising Star Jake Hill described the car as ‘better in every way’ compared to his 2017 machine.
‘It’s been a massive learning curve, but the car felt great straight away, we had a few teething troubles which is normal, but the balance and most importantly the performance of the car was incredible. Working with our engineers Geoff (Kingston) and Phil (Overall) has been amazing – they got me thinking about how to get the most out of the car and understanding how it works so quickly – already I can feel how much of a step forward we have made with the car, and how much Geoff and Phil will improve me, as well as the car.’
Hill completed several short runs, culminating with a late-afternoon run which was hampered by traffic but gave him and the team some all-important data on how the car was behaving.
“Considering it was basically a shake-down we got going very well – I’m extremely pleased with the work we’ve done. Delighted with Jake’s lap times today, and how the car is working – I can tell by the size of Jake’s grin just how happy he is with the car! said Kingston.
The team’s other drivers Michael Caine, Bobby Thompson and Mike Bushell also completed several runs and were working through various other programmes, all of which provided vital track time and useful data.
Team Principle Tony Gilham was delighted with what the team achieved ‘It’s the first time Jake and Michael’s cars have run, and only the second day for Mike (Bushell) and Bobby. We have had a massive development programme and I cannot tell you how impressed I am by the work that Jamie and the guys at the workshop have done, and of course the design and engineering work that Geoff has delivered. Jake is our real benchmark having raced the car last year, so his pace and his feedback has been telling – already he has developed a strong relationship with Geoff, and crucially he is already happy with the changes made’
Expanding to four cars and with Kingston’s engineering input, Gilham feels confident that based on this early showing the team is in a very strong position for 2018.
“We have improved every season since we rejoined BTCC in 2015. Year-on-year the team and it’s partners have moved forward, and this year it’s the biggest step and biggest statement yet. We now have the drivers, engineers, technicians and partners to show what we really can do. It’s only testing I know, but I am SO excited about what today has shown us! smiled Gilham.
The team will test again tomorrow with all drivers except a flu-ridden Hill, and will then focus on preparing for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Media Day at Donington Park on 27th March.
“We still have lots to do, but so far all the signs are very good. And the cars look fantastic too!
TAG Racing’s BRDC ‘Rising Star’ Jake Hill returned to Dunlop MSA BTCC action in emphatic style after the six-week summer break, taking a season’s best P6 in race one, and scoring his best-ever haul of points across three races.
After technical issues in practice limited Hill’s #24 VW Passat CC to only a handful of laps, a huge effort saw him qualify an excellent P11, just 0.010 seconds ahead of team-mate Michael Epps, and fifth of the ‘Independent’ drivers.
Race one saw an excellent start and a strong opening lap, diving past Rob Collard’s BMW at the hairpin, then holding a solid pace and as leader Turkington spun, Morgan hit trouble and then Austin hit Ingram, Hill ended lap six in a superb P6
Maintaining a strong pace Hill was being caught by former champion Turkington, but held his nerve and took his season’s-best finish of Sixth, to the delight of his TAG Racing guests, and those of Rolec and Brisky Racing.
“Mega start, great move on Rob at the hairpin, car had good pace and we had a bit of fortune with others hitting trouble ahead. We’ve had our fair-share of bad luck so to have it work our way seemed only fair! Can’t thank the TAG Racing lads Kingsley, Ian, Alex and Brad plus my engineer Dan and as always Tony Gilham for giving me a great car!”
Race two saw an outstanding start and first corner, sweeping past the BMW’s of Collard and Turkington and getting alongside Neal and Goff and briefly into 4th place! However as Jordan and Plato tangled ahead, Hill was forced into Neal and was to pick up damaged rear suspension, causing the car to ‘crab’ from that point onwards.
Dropping to 8th place after the first-lap contact, Hill had to manage his race with a combination of the ‘Soft’ option tyre and 33kgs of success ballast after finishing 6th, and the damage causing his front tyres to work more than usual.
“The damage at the rear meant we almost had TOO much rear grip, so the front tyres were getting fried. I managed it a best I could, but it was frustrating ‘cos I think we would have gone forwards without the damage” said Hill.
Late in the race the works James Cole was able to capitalise on the superior power and traction of his works Subaru and just edge past, Hill having put up an impressive defence in his damaged car for several laps, and after being held up at turn one by Matt Neal, a charging Tom Ingram pulled off a well-judged move to sneak past at turn two.
This meant Hill brought the TAG Racing machine home a well-earned P11, impressive in the circumstances, and take further points for his overall and his Independent driver’s championship challenge.
The final race saw Hill having the 33kgs ballast removed, and back on the ‘Prime’ tyre, and again an excellent start saw him maintain position, and then move into the top-ten when Sutton retired, then an opportunist move at the final corner moved him ahead of Pole-man Jack Goff, moving up to 8th a lap later when Neal was punted off ahead.
A great battle with Ingram saw the Speedworks Toyota edge past, but when leader Jordan hit trouble Hill was able to fend off a charging Goff to the end and take a fantastic P7, and with it take a career-best BTCC points haul.
“Another battle, another great race, and what an awesome weekend! TAG Racing have done an amazing job, we’ve had loads of guests from TAG, ROLEC, Brisky Racing and friends and family too, and to top it all my good friend and team-mate Will Burns won his first Jack Sears Trophy for BTCC Rookies this weekend! Fantastic!”
“As ever I want to say a massive thanks to everyone for their support – TAG Racing, Rolec Racing, Brisky Racing plus Sportif Motor Group, Ecoflam, Danfoss, AW Supply Services, Bill Rawles Classic Cars, Zynth and everyone else who makes this possible. I think we will be strong now for the rest of the year so hopefully I can keep making progress – I’m 6th in the Independent Drivers championship and think we can move up further”
Next race – Knockhill – qualifying live on itv.com/btcc on Saturday 10th August with all races live on ITV4 HD on Sunday 11th August.