Will Burns has had to bring his 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season to an early conclusion on medical grounds after suffering injuries during a massive incident at Silverstone last weekend (16/17 September).
During the opening race on Sunday, Burns was impressively battling on the cusp of the top twenty when he was collected heavily by the damaged car of Rob Collard, resulting in large contact to the front-right and then the rear of his Volkswagen CC.
After being taken to the circuit’s medical centre, Burns was airlifted to the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for assessment, before being discharged later that afternoon with three fractured ribs and bruising to a lung.
With the doctor’s advising at least a month’s rest, Burns has made the difficult decision to withdraw from competing in this weekend’s season finale at Brands Hatch GP in his AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing machine.
Will Burns: “It’s disappointing not to be able to complete my maiden BTCC season at Brands Hatch this weekend, but withdrawing from the meeting is certainly the right decision to make in the circumstances.
“I want to say a huge thank you to the marshals who were the first on the scene at Silverstone, to the BTCC and Silverstone medical teams, and all the staff at the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for all their fantastic help.
“I must also say a massive thank you to everyone who has sent their well wishes since the incident, the response has been truly overwhelming. I hope to be back in a race car soon as we begin to look ahead to the 2018 season.”
Will Burns saw a race three incident out of his control spoil what was otherwise a promising day of racing in the latest rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham this past weekend (26/27 August).
Burns headed into the meeting having experienced the true highs and lows of motorsport in the previous two outings, with a first ever visit to the BTCC podium at Snetterton followed by a huge 100mph+ accident at Knockhill during his toughest meeting of the season so far.
Fortunately the repair job following that incident was not as big as initially feared, however with just two weeks in-between meetings it still required a fantastic job from Team HARD to ensure his Auto Aid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC was on the grid at Rockingham.
Burns had a strong track record at the circuit with five consecutive podium finishes there during his last two visits in the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, however he wouldn’t be able to show his true pace in Saturday’s two free practice sessions as he battled issues with the car.
Some hard work with his Team HARD engineers meant the car was much stronger come qualifying later that afternoon, however Burns would see his best lap time unfairly removed for a perceived track limits violation, which ultimately left him 30th overall on the timesheets.
That meant the Weston-Super-Mare racer faced an uphill struggle come race day, however Burns would get his head down and produce a promising display in the opening race, which took place in front of a bumper crowd under the sweltering Northamptonshire sunshine.
On the favourable medium compound tyres, Burns would make steady progress throughout the race and despite a couple of rivals trying to derail his challenge with contact, the 27 year old continued to produce impressive lap-times on his way to 23rd place at the finish.
In race two, the Cases Ltd, Eurocams and Weston College backed driver would replicate that strong pace despite running the option hard tyres, with a battling display seeing him fight back after losing some ground and take the chequered flag in 21st position.
Back on the medium tyres for the final race, Burns was determined to break into the top twenty but unfortunately he would have no opportunity to showcase his potential once again as contact from another driver ended his race in dramatic fashion on the opening lap.
Sticking to the inside of the circuit coming out of the Tarzan hairpin, the Somerset racer received heavy contact to the rear which speared him across the track into another car, and with broken steering and suspension, he was powerless to prevent more contact at the next corner.
Burns would eventually nurse the car back to the pitlane, with the team left to assess another extensive repair job for the car ahead of the penultimate meeting of the season in three weeks’ time (16/17 September) around the Silverstone national circuit.
Will Burns: “This weekend really feels like an opportunity lost for us to get into the points positions, and a lot of that came down to the harsh track limits penalty we got in qualifying, which meant instead of starting closer to the top twenty, we were at the back of the grid.
“It’s always an absolute dogfight to try and make any progress from there, but we were able to produce strong pace on both the medium and the hard compound tyres in the first two races, and from where I started I was pleased to finish in P23 and P21.
“Unfortunately despite my best efforts to steer clear of any danger, another driver managed to get me involved in a big incident in race three which has caused more big damage to the car. Hopefully the luck might turn in our favour at Silverstone!”
Will Burns has been left battered and bruised after a massive 100mph incident capped off the toughest meeting of his maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season so far at Knockhill this past weekend (12/13 August).
Following one of the best moments of his racing career last time out at Snetterton when he stepped onto the BTCC podium for the first time after winning the Jack Sears Trophy, Burns would suffer one of his worst in Scotland as he encountered a high-speed brake failure.
The Weston-Super-Mare racer headed north with a superb record of eight podium finishes in his previous ten races at Knockhill in the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, however there were lower hopes for this visit with the circuit historically being one of the worst for his Volkswagen CC.
There was some cause for optimism for Burns on Saturday as he enjoyed some positive running in wet conditions during the opening free practice session, however changing weather throughout the day would present a challenge for Burns and the rest of the Team HARD squad.
A drying circuit in qualifying meant the session would boil down to a frenetic last few minutes, with Burns losing out in the lottery as he was one of the first drivers to take the chequered flag, meaning he had to watch on as others improved their times and pushed him down to P26.
The opening race on Sunday wouldn’t go his way either as a lack of pace and traction in his Auto Aid/RCIB Insurance Racing machine meant he struggled to make an impact in front of a bumper Scottish crowd, eventually taking the chequered flag in a lowly P29.
Burns’ best result would come in the second race of the day as the Cases Ltd, Eurocams and Weston College supported driver benefitted from a number of drivers in front hitting trouble to climb through the order to twentieth place at the finish.
The 27 year old would initially charge to sixteenth position on the opening lap of race three, before contact from a rival sent him across the gravel. Emerging at the back of the field, Burns would pick his way up to 26th place before disaster struck.
Approaching the final hairpin, Burns would receive no response as he hit the brake pedal. Immediately swerving left to avoid his team-mate in-front, he was a passenger from there as he hit the barriers and came to an immediate and painful halt.
Fortunately, Burns was able to walk away with only minor bruising, but with the car sustaining extensive front-end damage the team are in a race against time to get it back on track for the next rounds at Rockingham in Corby next weekend (26/27 August).
Will Burns: “After a really good Snetterton weekend where I was on a massive high, this is our car’s bogey circuit and while we knew as a team we’d have a tough weekend, it’s been much harder than we anticipated and ended in the one of the worst ways imaginable for me.
“The brakes failed on the car at one of the fastest points of the circuit and ended up causing substantial damage to the car. The pain on my body will go away, but this will cause a big pain financially and is likely to put us on the backfoot for the rest of the season.
“I tried to make the best of a bad situation all weekend and kept pushing, so I’m proud of myself for that, and we’re confident that our car will be much stronger in the final three rounds, so hopefully we be back on the grid at Rockingham in a couple of weeks.”
Will Burns saw impressive pace and racecraft rewarded with a first visit to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship podium at Snetterton this past weekend (29/30 July) after taking a maiden victory in the Jack Sears Trophy for rookie drivers.
The Weston-Super-Mare racer enjoyed his most competitive outing in the BTCC so far in Norfolk as he battled to a hat-trick of top twenty finishes in his Auto Aid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC, narrowly missing out on a first ever overall points finish.
After picking up seasons best qualifying and race finishes at Croft before the summer break, Burns returned to action in buoyant mood that he could improve upon those results around a circuit he’d previously finished on the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup podium at in 2014 and 2016.
Luck wouldn’t be in his favour on Saturday however, as after two productive free practice sessions, his hopes of challenging for the top twenty in qualifying were ended by a gearbox failure just as he was about to start his flying laps on new tyres.
Not only did it end his session immediately before he’d set a representative time, leaving him 28th on the grid, but the problem also led to a late night for the Team HARD mechanics as they changed his gearbox, with a fantastic effort ensuring the car was ready to go for the opening race.
Burns would reward their efforts with one of his most impressive drives of the season so far. Calmly moving his way up the order during a frenetic race, he climbed into the top twenty by the end of lap six, before eventually working his way into a superb sixteenth place at the finish.
A strong performance in race two would yield the same result, with Burns recovering well after losing ground early on to pass former double BTCC champion Jason Plato for sixteenth, before then almost closing down a three second gap to Rob Austin in the final points position.
The Cases Ltd, Eurocams and Weston College supported driver had finished both those races as the leading Jack Sears Trophy entrant, meaning he headed into the final encounter knowing a top four class finish would be enough to earn him a first piece of BTCC silverware.
As it was, Burns briefly had loftier ambitions as he emerged from a brilliant opening lap in eleventh position overall, however on the next tour a piece of robust driving from Tom Chilton sent him off circuit and down to 22nd place – though crucially still fourth in class.
From there, a composed and mature drive saw Burns keep his nose clean and soak up some late pressure from class rival Josh Price to bring the car home in eighteenth position, a result that was enough to see him take the JST victory.
That meant Burns, who turned 27 years of age during the summer break, would take to the podium alongside BTCC champions Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden, much to the delight of his gathered team, friends, family and sponsors.
Will Burns: “I couldn’t be happier with how the weekend panned out. The team worked overnight to repair the gearbox after qualifying and despite starting so far back, I was still feeling confident of some strong results heading into the three races.
“I was starting to feel like some of the other drivers were just looking at me as a backmarker getting in the way, but now I’ve shown that I can battle with many of the regular podium finishers and showed some good racecraft
“I really feel like I deserve to be in that midfield action now and I’ve proven that by taking three top twenty finishes, narrowly missing out on my first points finish twice, and picking up my first Jack Sears Trophy victory.
“It’s a dream come true to step onto the BTCC podium alongside the likes of Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington. It’s a dream that was starting to feel like it would never come, but we kept pushing, luck came our way and now hopefully we can win it again.”
Burns’ 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season continues next weekend (12/13 August) with Rounds 19, 20 and 21 around the undulating Knockhill circuit in Scotland.