Team HARD scored their best placed finish in the BTCC with a 2nd placed finish by Jake Hill in the 2nd round of the Championship at Brands Hatch last weekend.
Going into the races the Team HARD drivers had managed to qualify their VW CC’s in 22nd (Mike Bushell) 25th (Jake Hill) 27th (Bobby Thompson) and 30th (Michael Caine) after a very close qualifying session where the top 30 drivers were covered by just 0.921 seconds.
In the opening race Mike Bushell retired early after unfortunate contact with teammate Jake Hill. Bobby Thompson and Michael Caine had solid first races to start their campaign. Both managed to make up a number of positions and finished 19th and 21st respectively.
The second race of the day was where all the action happened. The rain had just eased off and there was a decision to make whether to go on wets or risk slick tyres. Mike Bushell and Jake Hill took the gamble to go with slicks. Up until the 10th lap the track was still favouring the wet shod cars but a dry line started to appear and the slicks shod cars were able to scythe their way through the field. Hill and Bushell were on a charge. Hill’s cause was helped with a coming together between Moffat and Proctor that demoted Moffat down the order. As the laps came down Hill kept pushing for the win. In the end he had to settle for 2nd place which was greeted with immense emotion in the Team HARD garages. With Mike Bushell bringing his VW CC in 8th position it was a double celebration for the team. Michael Caine scored another solid 24th position while a mechanical fault brought Bobby Thompson’s race to a premature end 5 laps from the finish.
After the frantic finish of the second race, the team were brought down with a bump in race 3 with Moffat making contact with Jake Hill on the warm up lap causing damage to the rear toe link of Jake’s car that meant he was destined to finish 3 laps down after the team had made some repairs.
After the heroics of Jake in the 2nd race it was time for Mike Bushell to step forward. ‘Bomber’ Bushell didn’t disappoint with a robust drive that saw him take a well earned 5th place and the lead in the Dunlop ‘Forever Forward’ award, which rewards drivers for the number of places that they have made up during the race weekend. Continuing his solid results, Michael Caine scored a 24th placed finish while Bobby Thompson finished 26th. Jake Hill was classified 29th, 3 laps down.
Mike Bushell 10th – 19 pts
Jake Hill 12th – 17 pts
Bobby Thompson 26th – 0 pts
Michael Caine 29th – 0 pts
Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing 3rd – 36 pts
Team HARD with Trade Price Cars 19th – 0 pts
Mike Bushell 8th – 22 pts
Jake Hill 10th – 20 pts
Bobby Thompson 19th – 0 pts
Michael Caine 20th – 0 pts
Independent Teams Championship
Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing 3rd – 37 pts
Team HARD with Trade Price Cars 14th – 11 pts
Jack Sears Trophy
Mike Bushell 5th – 33pts
Jake Hill 8th – 28 pts
Michael Caine 9th – 21 pts
Bobby Thompson 13th – 14 pts
“Qualifying was frustrating, and race one saw contact with my team mate Mike (Bushell) which was tough. But on the grid for race two my team manager Jamie and I said over the radio ‘On three say which tyres…3-2-1- ‘SLICKS’….!!!! So we went for it.”
“Oh my word that was CRAZY! We decided last-minute to go to slicks, it was always going to be sketchy, but very early on I knew we’d made the right choice. The car was mega, I had a look at passing both Proctor and Moffat but they were so defensive so it wasn’t worth the risk. I am beyond happy! I am so, so grateful to so many people who have helped me get to this point – obviously the legendary Tony Gilham and the boys at Team HARD, especially Geoff (Kingston) and Jamie, Josh, Carl, Nathan and Gary who have been on my car….my amazing supporters. I have to say I would not be racing in anything – let alone BTCC – without their help.
I’m worried I will forget someone – but my 2018 partners Rolec Racing, Trade Price Cars, the awesome Richard Wheeler from Brisky Racing, Ecoflam, Danfoss, Bill Rawles Classic Cars, AWS Appliance Spares, Scoria Tech, Zynth, Jakob Ebrey Photos, Spine Optics, P1 Nutrition, Tech Max Pro Gear, Torq, Luke at the BRDC,….but the one person who has been with me since the beginning, from Ginetta Juniors in 2010 to now and has never, ever let me down is my ‘Papa Smurf’…John Miskin from Sportif Motor Group…..I am so unbelievably grateful for everyone’s love and support ……Tony Gilham and the whole Team HARD crew have believed in me since 2016, I love this team, I love Tony, Gary, Jamie, Sam and everyone…David Boor and Andrea and the Fantham family and the whole crew are amazing! I am so HAPPY!!!!!!”
“I wanted to arrive this year as a different Mike Bushell and I think I’ve proved that in winning the first Forever Forward award and almost scoring a maiden podium on my BTCC return. I’ll be continuing my ‘no fear’ approach from this weekend onwards”
“The car is perfect, I’m comfortable in it. I’m already quick, but as I learnt from winning two Clio Cup titles… I need to smooth out my rough edges and learn what precision means in the BTCC”
“For me it was a great weekend ! I am still learning the car and starting to understand what I need from it ! I can’t thank everybody at Team HARD enough for the way they looked after my family and sponsors ! I think it’s going to be a great year.”
“I won both VW Cup races and set a new VW Cup lap record at Brands last season, said Bobby. “I knew I wouldn’t be in a position to repeat those results on my first BTCC weekend and although not everything went exactly as planned, the day as a whole was truly unforgettable.”
“Physically I am fine as I train in the gym two hours a night but nobody can really make you understand how demanding the BTCC is until you experience it. Apart from the three races you have the autograph session, the drivers parade and the team’s own Question and Answer session in their hospitality unit for all our sponsors and because Tony (Gilham, Team HARD principal) makes sure that as many fans and supporters can see inside the garage there are always lots of well-wishers and fans who want to chat and wish you luck.”
“For MY first weekend it has been incredible. I have had so much support from the fans and I know that I will be a lot stronger at Donington Park for the next three races just because I have had the whole BTCC ‘race weekend’ experience under my belt. But I also know that the team have a really good package that is capable of being on the podium as we proved today with Jake (Hill) and I’ll be pushing harder than ever for stronger results next time.”
“It’s been a lot of hours, a lot of time, a lot of hard work,” explained Gilham. “So today has been emotional – they are essentially four brand new cars – there’s very little remaining from last year’s car. We rolled the dice a little bit with the chassis changes but we trust in our engineering team and it’s paid dividends out the box.
It was a decent start to the year at one of our weakest circuits. So it’s been a good weekend. We had a little bit of a lucky break, but it was also an educated risk to go for the slick tyre in race two so it’s nice to take that risk and for it to pay off.”
Interview with Tony Gilham post Media Day, Official BTCC Test Day and prior to a busy race weekend over Easter.
This week we’ve had Media Day. How did that go?
We sure have. Media Day was very, very productive. We had a plan that we were working around. We didn’t do everything that we wanted to do on the plan. We didn’t, get the new tyre runs in that we wanted to do but we got all the answers that we wanted at Donington so that when we go to Brands we will know exactly where we’re going to be and what our targets are that we think we can achieve. We’re very happy with the car and all the drivers are very happy. The engineers and all the guys been working so hard in the build up to Media Day it was just nice to get there. All four cars complete, ready, running reliably and importantly for us, potentially very quick.
So we’re quietly confident with what we’ve built over the winter and everything that’s gone into it but it was for us a very proud day because obviously we’ve essentially built four new cars over the winter. We took on a lot. It was a big workload, it is a big ambitious project with the amount of changes that we’ve made. And that includes obviously the whole infrastructure in terms of the team, the setup, cars, the whole lot.
So we arrive in 2018 exactly where we want to be in good shape. And now we’ve just completed the Brands Hatch test we’re now in very good shape for round one which is now just a week away.
So we’ve had the official BTCC test today. How has that gone?
Again a very productive day. A little bit mixed conditions but like UK Motorsport that is something that’s going to happen more often than not. So we have run through everything again we wanted to run through today. We’ve got some very valuable data, some great feedback from the drivers and again we know what we’re working towards today. What we came here to do we’ve achieved. We can take away lots of positives and feel that we’re going to be in good shape come next weekend, which is exactly what we planned to do and hoped to do. We’ve got four cars all in one piece. All tidy, all looking (in my opinion)very good, very attractive and four happy drivers. And most importantly a very happy workforce.
Did you see who’s livery was voted the favourite in our Team on social media?
Mike Bushell – Photo by Hill Speed Images Motorsport Photography
I did see that, it may have been the blue and black car which will please Mr. Wheeler! (Brisky Racing) It is a gorgeous looking car. I mean, I love all of them for their own reasons. Yes, they’ve got their individual colours, they’ve got their individual sponsors. There’s a little bit of uniformity going across the Team. So they are essentially showing that they’re all our cars but trying to keep everybody happy is not always the easiest thing to do when it comes to multiple partners and sponsors that are on the car but we’ve tried to keep it a little bit more corporate this year. So we feel we’ve produced what is an attractive looking car. In my opinion the best looking cars on the grid. I would say that, I may be biased but I think they look stunning. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s some other very good looking cars out there but at the end of the day this is all part of the show that we’re all putting on and it’s it’s great to see people making the effort.
There’s a bit of disappointment from a few of the fans with the lack of pink.
Yes that’s been said quite a lot because the green and pink obviously runs through the Team-HARD. veins. But at the end of the day that will never go away. The pink bobble hats, all the stuff. The pink ribbons will be put on the car for next weekend, which is where the pink came from, our Breast Cancer support. I would love to see just four green and pink cars go around the track from a very sort of selfish point of view and just because that’s where it all began. But at the same time we rely on drivers and sponsors and partners and so many people that contribute to the whole ship and operation. It’s a big old operation now so we have to work with people to make sure that we produce cars that are in the corporate colours of the companies that we are working with.
So yes, in an ideal world, there will be more green and pink going on but there’s reasons why there isn’t. And it’s growing up, we’re maturing, we’re evolving and there’s lots of other things away from just the Touring Cars where you’ll see the green and pink feature quite heavily. So there’s a whole new performance range coming. There’s a whole new cleaning product range coming. And there’s a whole different area of clothing. So we’ve got #HARDwear, #HARDstyle, #HARDperformance, there’s there’s a lot of Team-HARD. themed things that will be going on aside from just Touring Cars. We compete in lots of different series now and it’s something that will never, never go away, it will stay with us and there’s lots of exciting things happening behind the scenes that will be launched imminently.
So that leads us onto the busy weekend coming up with VW Racing Cup at Silverstone and the British GT Championship at Oulton Park. Are things looking equally as positive and promising in those areas?
Yes they are. We’ve got VW this weekend, for the first time alongside TCR which will be interesting to see how that goes. We’ve got very quick drivers in the team. Obviously, we’ve got our Scholarship winner with young Ethan Hammerton making his debut with us. He’s only 17. Toby Davis is back. Mark Wakefield, Jamie Bond. So it’s a very, very strong line up. So we’ve got a very strong team going into the VW cup to defend the title that obviously Bobby Thompson won last year.
British GT is the same weekend. We make a very warm welcome back this weekend to Will Phillips. Unfortunately, Nick Worm is not available this weekend due to personal reasons but he will be filling in alongside Ben Wallace. So that’s an interesting line up in a silver, silver pairing. Obviously, Anna Walewska and Callum Hawkins-Row make up the other (Pro/Am) pairing. So decent line-ups.
The balance of performance has not been very favourable for us in the Ginettas. So we will struggle in GT. There’s only 4 Ginettas on the grid this year and it does seem to be evolving in the higher mark of car being more favorable in terms of McLaren’s and BMW, which I understand. However, the Ginetta is still a very capable car. It’s just interesting to see where we go or how we fare now the new BOP (Balance of Performance) is out with the new throttle bodies and everything so it’s interesting. I’d like to say we’re in very good shape in terms of competitiveness, but whilst we’re very prepared as a team and our drivers are great, I’m not sure that we’ve got the right BOP that will allow us to compete at the front.
So there’s some decisions to be made going forwards for 2019?
Yes, there is. I mean, we look at all sorts of options and we’ve got a decent relationship with Ginetta. We’ve got the Ginetta Supercup running alongside Touring Cars. We’ve got 8 Ginettas in total, including Britcar. So we’ve we’ve got a big commitment and sensible relationship with Ginetta, but I’m not sure how long that can stand in British GT. So the GT4 category is very,very strong and I don’t know what the best thing to do is at this stage. I feel we’ve got a competitive package but it comes down to the BOP which is issued on a round by round basis. But from I guess any mark they will always want more because as a racing driver all you want to do is win and if you feel that it’s not possible to win with the performance that you’ve been you’ve been given then is frustrating. But that’s what it is, we’re part of the championship and we have to abide by the rules and the regulations that are set. So we give it our all and hopefully it’s good enough on the day because anything can happen in motorsport as we all know. So we’ll see, we’ll play it by ear.
Good luck to all of our guys and I’ll be up and down this weekend, trying to visit everybody. So from here I’m going to try and get to Oulton and to Silverstone this weekend at some point. It’s a long weekend over Easter but I also want to support everybody.