The penultimate weekend of the record breaking 60th anniversary Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season may have been held at the home of British Motorsport but there were few home comforts for BRDC Rising Star Bobby Thompson who left Silverstone without adding to his points tally.
Prior to Sunday’s trio of 22-lap races around the fast, wide open blasts of the 1.64-mile Silverstone National circuit there was a considerable mood of optimism within Thompson’s #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC team, which sported a sleek new black livery for rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 30-race 2018 Championship.
Not only was the 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver, known throughout the paddock as ‘Bobster’ returning to the site of his first career car racing podium, his slippery shaped VW CC was well suited to the track layout as was the case last month at the Rockingham Motor Speedway where the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion scored a BTCC career best 7th place finish.
However set up issues throughout Saturday’s two practice sessions and the crucial 30-minute timed qualifying period and contact from other drivers in two of Sunday’s three races left Thompson feeling frustrated despite finding considerable extra pace on race day.
“I can’t pretend to be anything other than really disappointed with the weekend as a whole,” commented the current BRDC Rising Star, who battled from 27th on the grid to 19th in race one despite stalling at the start and then suffering contact from another driver after fighting his way into 17th position, just two places shy of the points.
“We couldn’t quite get the sweet spot on the car during practice on Saturday and although we found some extra pace in qualifying, so did everyone else and while six tenths off pole position may not seem like much in the BTCC it is massive and around here with such a quick lap and only six corners it is more significant than anywhere else.
“I made a bit of a mess of my start in race one but we had changed so much on the car overnight that I could take advantage of the really good slipstream that you get here and pass a lot of cars,” continued Thompson who took advantage of a couple of other drivers retiring but had overtaken eight drivers on the road within the first 12 laps of an extended 25 lap race before being unceremoniously dumped out of contention at Luffield, dropping him back to 20th and out of the reach of the group battling for the final few points paying positions.
“I know what happened and I don’t want to point any fingers as I have a lot of respect of the person who basically just smashed me out of the way but I had passed him cleanly two corners earlier and was holding the inside line into Luffield when I just got sent flying. The hit broke our rear bumper, Ackerman plate and hurt the rear balance and the car was never the same after that.”
Luckily Thompson was able to continue and even regained one of his lost positions to take the chequered flag 19th and with his teammate Mike Bushell suffering a grid penalty for the second race, Thompson was promoted to a ninth row grid slot for a second race that should have brought home a decent haul of points nut instead brought nothing but more unnecessary damage to the #19 GKR Ltd backed machine.
“I felt that we were capable of getting some decent points in race two especially as we were on the soft tyre, which was the faster of the two options we had. I was going to be on the hard tyre for the third race so I knew that if I had a good run here I could maybe even get into the mix for the reverse grid for the final race which would help massively considering my tyre choice.”
Thompson made a much better getaway when the lights turned green but never got the chance to settle into a rhythm and continue his progress towards the points as a mirror image crash to that which he suffered in race one caused enough damage to the rear of the car to force him into early retirement.
“I lost two places on the first lap just because I didn’t want to get caught up in any of the bumping and barging that was going on and then as we arrived at Luffield I was hugging the inside line and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of red on the grass inside me and the next thing I know I’ve got two wheels in the air and a broken rear right tow link. I made it back to the pits but there was too much damage to continue and that was basically my weekend over as far as scoring points was concerned.”
For the second time in two races the #19 were faced with a flat out dash to get Thompson’s car ready for the third and final race of the day, for which he would start 31st on the less desirable harder tyre. Despite carrying a few battle scars Thompson made the grid for what was little more than a damage limitation exercise.
“Despite all the damage I had suffered the car still handled pretty well and I was able to pass cars while everyone was still bunched together,” concluded Thompson, who finished 21st and set the fifth fastest lap of the 13 drivers on the hard tyre in race three. “But there was still some really aggressive driving going on and there were a couple of situations where I had to stand my ground, which probably didn’t make me too popular with one or two people but it is frustrating when you catch people who would rather weave around and cost you both a second per lap rather than race and work together to catch the pack in front.
“I feel like I have raced everyone cleanly and with respect all year but even though I am a rookie in the BTCC I won’t be pushed around. I have got a great group of sponsors who all put their money into my racing and without them I would be working as a plumber with my dad. They have stayed loyal to me and when other people’s mistakes stop me from showing my potential and giving them the success that they deserve it can be massively frustrating so I had to get my elbows out and race others how they race me.”
Thompson returns to his home track at Brands Hatch for the final weekend of the 2018 season in two weeks’ time where he will look to improve on his current position of 28th in the overall points standings, 17th in the Independents Championship and 10th in the Jack Sears Trophy.
A DREAM will come true for one of the UK’s most promising young motor racing talents when he makes his debut in a world famous championship later this month.
Ethan Hammerton, 17, will be the youngest current driver in the illustrious British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) when he competes in the championship’s last two rounds at the legendary Silverstone and Brands Hatch circuits.
Ethan will replace fellow Team Hard racer Michael Caine, 49, a former British GT Championship winner who has been racing in the BTCC since 2011.
Last year the Northallerton teenager beat off stiff competition from almost 100 other drivers to win the Team Hard GKR Scaffolding Scholarship and has since been racing in the prestigious VW Cup Championship, which is seen as a proven training ground for drivers with professional ambitions.
The move up to the BTCC has come far earlier than expected and is recognition of a rare talent.
“I have been watching British Touring Cars at Croft with my mum, dad and brother since I was a young boy and I can’t believe I am now going to be actually racing in the championship,” said Ethan.
“I switched from racing karts to racing cars in the Junior Saloon Car Championship when I was 15, in 2015, and it was my goal then to race in the BTCC and I’ve achieved that ambition – it’s a dream come true,” he added
Ethan will line-up on the BTCC’s Silverstone grid over the weekend of September 15 and 16, and will then compete in the season finale at Brands Hatch over the last weekend of September.
Only Formula 1 and America’s NASCAR stock car series have longer histories than the BTCC – since its inception in 1958 it has attracted and captivated millions of motor racing fans around the world.
Ethan was at the Rockingham motor racing circuit with Team Hard boss Tony Gilham when he learned a seat in the BTCC might be a possibility: “We were at the Rockingham round of the BTCC supporting Bobby Thompson and the rest of Team Hard when discussions started with Tony and I am over the moon that everything is now in place and I can’t wait to get out in the car,” he explained.
“I know it’s going to be tough given the lack of time in the car compared to the other drivers and the 45kg mandated ballast for new entrants. I fully appreciate the trust put in me and will put everything I have into doing well for Team Hard. I know how privileged I am to have been given this opportunity and I am realistic about my expectations
“I really want to be in the BTCC next year and am hoping that this is just the start of my BTCC career. I’d like to thank Tony Gilham, Team Hard, GKR Scaffolding, HMC Group, Hadrian Healthcare and my other sponsors for making this happen.”
Ethan is seen as an emerging talent in the world of motorsport having narrowly missed out in two junior championships last season. He finished on the podium a staggering 21 times out of 26 starts, with race wins, lap records and fastest laps in both the Renault UK Clio Junior Championship and the JSCC finishing as vice champion.
Having gained the Team Hard GKR Scaffolding scholarship, the young racer secured his first VW Cup Championship podium at Rockingham in only his third senior race. This season he has also raced in the Fun Cup Spa 25 hour race at Belgium’s Spa circuit, where he won the Evo 2 class.
Trackside crowd figures for the popular BTCC are now around 40,000 and major manufacturers such as BMW, Honda, Vauxhall and Subaru are all part of the championship roadshow.
ITV has agreed a long-term contract extension up until the end of 2022, providing a perfect platform of millions of viewers for sponsors to raise their profiles and reputations.
If you would like to sponsor Ethan in 2018/2019 please contact him on Facebook, via his racing page @Ethan Hammerton Racing or email him at email@example.com for sponsorship opportunities.
- Volkswagen racer Ollie Pidgley enjoys second BTCC outing of year
- Rain-swept Knockhill provides intriguing challenge for series rookie
- Pidgley improves on previous best with P21 result in very wet Rd23
- Wiltshire ‘birthday boy’ relishing next rounds at Silverstone National
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Ollie Pidgley made another step forward in the UK’s premier motor racing category at a rain-swept Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend, 25th/26th August, where the Volkswagen CC racer encountered another series of fresh challenges.
Making good progress through the dry free practice sessions on Saturday, where he had to pretty much learn the Fife circuit from scratch having only competed there once previously in a Formula 4 single-seater back in 2015, the Downton driver headed into raceday in confident mood.
Heavy and persistent rain on Sunday, though, delivered a fresh test for Pidgley who celebrated his 21st birthday over the weekend. With a highlight finish of 21st place in round 23, the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing driver hoped for more in round 24 later in the day, especially starting the race just outside the top 20, but unfortunate contact on lap two ended those aims.
“I’m not sure what happened entirely”, explained Pidgley after race three, “[Matt] Simpson went sideways at the hairpin and so, in avoidance, I went to the outside but Bobby [Thompson] outbraked himself and made contact with my wheel, which was on full lock, so it broke the tow link.
“It’s quite frustrating it happened in that race as it was the highest I’ve started in touring cars, and other than [Jason] Plato in his rear-wheel drive getting past me, I managed to stay with the others on the first couple of laps and things were going well. It’s a shame, but there are lots of positives.”
Making significant gains during the two free practice sessions on Saturday, finding a full 1.1 seconds between the two runs, in qualifying Pidgley again made steps forward and ended up with the 30th fastest time – less than a couple of seconds way from pole position.
Due to the arrival of a significant amount of rain on Sunday, the challenge for Pidgley was ratcheted up a notch with no prior experience of those conditions at Knockhill in his BTCC car. At the start of race one, though, he made no mistakes and moved ahead of Carl Boardley’s sister Volkswagen CC into 29th place at the end of lap three when Boardley went wide and off at the hairpin.
Taking another position soon after when Daniel Lloyd careered off the circuit, Pidgley then moved into 27th place on lap 11 when Honda racers Matt Neal and Matt Simpson tangled. Although slipping back behind the recovering Lloyd early in the second half of the race, contact between podium contenders Stephen Jelley and Colin Turkington elevated Pidgley back into 27th before the finish.
As the drivers and teams prepared for race two, the weather had only worsened with treacherous conditions awaiting the start of round 23. Even with the extremely limited visibility in the pack at the rear of the field, though, Pidgley made some impressive gains in the red-flag shortened encounter.
Although dropped back to 30th place from 27th at the start, following an early Safety Car period between laps two and seven the Volkswagen CC racer began to make progress. As several rivals came to grief in the conditions, Pidgley acclimatised impressively and he steadily moved through into 24th position before the Safety Car made its second appearance on lap 13.
Following the re-start on lap 19, the BTCC rookie was nudged back to 25th by Simpson but Pidgley did move back up into 24th on lap 20 before the red flags were shown, and a race result declared, after a collision with the barriers for Sam Smelt. When the top two finishers were then excluded due to technical infringements, Pidgley moved up into a best yet 21st spot.
Even though rain ceased later in the afternoon, the third and final contest still took place on a wet track and from 21st on the grid – surrounded by a number of very experienced touring car drivers who had encountered misfortune in the previous encounter – Pidgley put together a sensible start.
Ending the opening lap in 25th position but well in touch with the pack ahead, at the end of the second tour he was forced to pit with the broken tow link after contact at the hairpin. Thanks to great work from the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing pit crew, Pidgley was able to rejoin the race and ended 26th of the cars still running, albeit eight laps down, to gain vital extra experience.
“I’ve only ever been to Knockhill once before, and that was in F4, so everything was pretty new to be honest”, said the Old English Properties and MSP Capital supported racer, “On Saturday we kept making progress, getting used to the car and the track and only using old tyres. All of the targets we set ourselves we kept hitting, so it was a really productive day.
“The rain on Sunday, though, made everything more of a challenge – I’ve never seen anything like those conditions to be fair, the wipers on a touring car aren’t the best and the water doesn’t run off the plastic windscreens like it does on a regular road car. It’s the same for everyone, obviously, but visibility was pretty tough.”
Next up for Pidgley and Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing will be penultimate race meeting of the 2018 BTCC season over the weekend 15th/16th September, at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire.
“Silverstone is one of the tracks I’ve done most at before, in Clios and MINI Challenge, so I’m really looking forward to being there in a touring car”, commented Pidgley, “I’m confident it’ll be a good weekend and if it’s dry I think we have a great chance to make some more steps forward, plus it should be a good track for our Volkswagen.”
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rookie Bobby Thompson isn’t getting carried away following his Rockingham Motor Speedway heroics as he prepares to make his first ever visit to Knockhill for rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2018 campaign, saying that the undulating 1.24-mile track just north of Edinburgh poses his biggest challenge of the season so far.
Three point scoring efforts from the last five BTCC races including a maiden top ten at Snetterton and a career-best seventh place at Rockingham for the driver of the #19 Team HARD with Trade Price Cars VW CC has made the BTCC paddock sit up and take notice of the 22 year-old Hornchurch based ace.
But despite a stellar reputation in the VW Cup Series resulting in the 2017 title and a place on the BRDC’s Rising Star scheme, Thompson knows that you are only as good as your last race and with the Scottish circuit offering a far different type of challenge than any other he has faced, the driver known throughout the paddock as ‘Bobster’ is approaching the eighth weekend of the BTCC’s record breaking 60th anniversary season with caution.
“We have now had two meetings where the whole Team HARD package has been moving forward,” says Thompson. “A lot of people have made a reference to how Rockingham suited our ‘slippery’ VW’s and that Knockhill won’t suit the car as much and for sure this is definitely a track that favours the RWD cars but the way the team have been developing our cars I don’t think we will be at as much of a disadvantage in Scotland as people think.
“Obviously the circuit is new to me and is a very different style of track to anything else on the BTCC calendar but I genuinely think we can still contend for points here just because of the engineering changes the cars have undergone in the last six weeks or so. I’m not saying that we will be in the top four in qualifying like Mike [Bushell] was at Rockingham but if the weather is a bit mixed then anything is possible.”
Having qualified a career best 18th at Rockingham, Thompson also added how critical finding some clear track in qualifying will be, not to mention the uphill start/finish line that has caught many a driver out over the years.
“I’ve been studying last years’ races at Knockhill and it is definitely a track where you have to be super aggressive on the kerbs and really committed around the whole lap,” concluded Thompson. “Qualifying is going to be massively important and so are the race starts. I haven’t always done a great job of putting myself in the right position in qualifying so far and it is fair to say that over the first half of the year my race starts were a weak point. However in the last two rounds I have been making places not losing them on the opening lap as it is just a case of getting more race starts under my belt. Track position in qualifying is always a bit of a lottery but if I can qualifying the top half of the field I know we have the car to be able to stay there in the races.”
Here are all the times that fans of team BT19 need to keep in their diaries for the weekend.
Saturday August 25th
09:50 – 10:30am – Free Practice 1
12:30 – 13:10pm – Free Practice 2
15:25 – 15:55pm – Qualifying (Live on http://www.itv.com/btcc/qualifying-live)
Sunday August 26th
11:50am – BTCC Race 1 (Live on ITV4)
13:05 – 13:35pm – Pit lane Walkabout/Drivers Autograph Session
14:25pm – BTCC Race 2 (Live on ITV4)
17:20pm – BTCC Race 3 (Live on ITV4)
Team HARD. are delighted to announce that it’s VW Cup driver, will pilot one of the VW Passat CC BTCC cars at the up coming tyre test at Snetterton, Norwich.
Bond who currently sits 3rd in the VW Cup standings will jump into Bobby Thompsons car for the second day of the tyre test. With the car and Bobby getting into a groove together at Croft with an immense drive in race 3 the pair are hoping to bring the car forward and extract more pace in preparation for Round 6 in the BTCC which is also at Snetterton.
The Wrightsure Insurance backed driver has had mixed fortunes so far in the VW Cup with a puncture at Silverstone and Fluid on the track at Rockingham preventing him standing on the top step. But Bond is confident that he can help Bobby get the most from his CC “I raced against Bobby last year and we had a good battle to the title, it was decided on the last race of the season. I’ve spoken with Bobby about his experience so far this year in the BTCC and what the car is like, so I can get as much of an understanding of what to expect. I was also asked to attend a shake down before Croft where I got to drive all 4 of the Team HARD. CC’s. This taster has made me even more excited to get behind the wheel.”
Team Boss Tony Gilham said of Bond jumping into the CC “Bond is a great talent behind the wheel which is clear for people to see with some of the drives he has produced over the years in the VW Cup and with the backing of Wrightsure Insurance and Oakleaf Heating I’m sure he will show that natural skill at the test. As part of the driver development programme within Team HARD. it was logical for us to get Bond in the car to see where he sits in relation to other drivers, as we believe he can make the step up from VW Cup just as Bobby has this season. With the similar driving styles, we hope that between them they can unlock some more pace out of the car at the test.”
Bond finished with “I’m so please to be getting into the CC, I’ve driven the old Team HARD. Avensis and the Maximum Ford Focus so I’m looking forward to the feeling the difference in the cars and how I compare to some of the best drivers in the UK.”
The BTCC Tyre test is this Wednesday and Thursday the 11th and 12th of July.