Rockingham: after such terrible weather on the Saturday which completely disrupted the Free Practice and Qualifying sessions, the Sunday was clear and dry and I was satisfied with three points scoring finishes in the latest three rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
The Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class coped with torrential wet weather conditions in qualifying to secure 12th on the 31-car grid, despite a fuel pick-up problem that compromised the car’s pace a little. However, on a sunny race day, I managed to battle my way up to ninth place, despite running the harder compound Dunlop tyre, that the regulations dictate must be used once over the weekend by each driver.
That harder tyre took a long time to work at its best and that meant that I had to defend from the quicker cars as well as do my best to make progress up the order. I was determined to overtake whenever I could and was running ninth until, with just two laps to go, I was tagged at the Tarzan Hairpin by Dave Newsham’s Chevrolet Cruze and ran wide. That dropped me to 11th place but I still finished as the best-placed of the drivers on the harder tyre. With that out of the way for the weekend, better results were on the cards.
From 11th on the grid for race two, I made my way up to sixth place until the fuel pick-up problem kicked in again. We had that all weekend and never really got to the bottom of it, so it allowed Matt Neal (Honda Civic) to get by and then it cut again at turn one and Aron Smith’s Volkswagen CC went by. That left me ahead of Adam Morgan.
Morgan, in the sister Mercedes-Benz A-Class, crawled over the rear of my car, but I managed to defend the eighth place for lap after lap. Adam eventually took advantage of earlier damage to my car — the wing mirror had been bashed in — and I was unable to confirm where Adam was on the track as he made a move. Unable to defend fully, I was forced to cede the place and dropped to ninth place but was in the draw for the reverse grid for race three.
Pole position was drawn by the seventh-placed finisher and hence we started ninth and were subsequently involved in fierce fighting. Then I was hit from behind by Ollie Jackson’s Audi S3. He hit me at the Tarzan Hairpin and it really bent the suspension. I was turning right on the straights! It was well out.
Worse was to come as under the third and final safety car period, I was hit again, this time by Jason Plato’s Subaru Levorg, but despite the damage, I managed to hang on to ninth place, once again in the points.
On one hand it has been a frustrating weekend because I really feel that I had the pace to do better but on the other, three points-scoring finishes and two top 10 results are a really positive way to end a weekend that had its problems, with the fuel pick-up and some of the contact.
You forget just how tough this championship is. Yes, I want to be winning or being on the podium, but when you look at the quality of the field and their level of experience, to be racing with those drivers and finishing ahead of some, is very satisfying so on the whole I am pleased with where we were this weekend. I can’t wait for Silverstone!
The next three races in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship are at Silverstone, Northants, on September 17/18.
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