Donington Park | BTCC | 27th – 28th April 2019
For the second event in a row the Kwik Fit British Touring Car grid had its work cut out as we caught the tail end of storm Hannah during Saturday’s practice.
It was wet and very windy but our Honda had good pace as we clocked the 8th quickest time in FP1 and then the 3rd fastest lap in FP2. Qualifying turned out to be quite different and despite forecasts of heavy rain it suddenly became bone dry. However just as the session started it started to spit with rain again, causing a number cars with cold slicks to spin off. With all the red flags we struggled to get a clear lap in and could only manage a starting position of 19th overall for Sunday’s first race.
As a team, we were hugely frustrated as track position is so important on race day, but I spent most of 2018 in this position so I have learned how to convert a tough qualifying into a strong Sunday!
As always my plan was to make progress in every race and most importantly stay out of trouble.
This weekend the Option tyre was the hard compound, which is typically more difficult to switch on and lacks overall speed. We opted to use this in Race 3 and so did the majority of the grid, with only a few competitors selecting the Option tyre for the first two races of the day.
In race 1, I managed to narrowly avoid a major incident on the first lap. ‘Days of Thunder’ sprung to mind as I closed my eyes, hoped for the best and carved through the carnage at the Old Hairpin. As a result of the multi car shunt, Andrew Jordan was taken to hospital having a heavy hit to his BMW 3 Series. Despite all the drama I recomposed and made more progress to finish 11th overall.
We adjusted the car for Race 2 to try and find an extra bit of speed and it worked. I made good progress early on, passing Jason Plato out of Copes Corner and then Chris Smiley too. Finally I got through to 5th place after getting ahead of Tom Ingram at Redgate Corner. My eyes were now fixed on Tom Chilton and I closed right up on to his rear bumper, setting the fastest lap of the race and a new lap record too. The Cobra Sport AMD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Honda was on fire. I probably could have lunged for 4th place on the final lap but I thought better of it and banked the points for 5th!
Now for the final race of the day. The front 3 cars would start on the medium tyre, so the podium was already sorted, but I was eyeing up the top hard tyre position. Starting 6th after P11 was chosen in the reverse grid draw I had every chance. I ended lap 1 in 6th overall but made a move on Chilton at Redgate Corner which didn’t quite stick, so powered down at Hollywood and through the Craner Curves side by side. I hung it out on the outside and Tom gave me just enough room to sneak by into the Old Hairpin. I then caught Jake Hill who ran slightly wide at McLeans Corner, allowing me to sneak past into Copes. I was now leading the hard tyre grid and did my very best to stick with the top three on the medium compound, but it was too big an ask – I finished in a strong 4th overall, what a result!
This felt so satisfying and was almost like a podium for the team as it’s really tricky to get the hard tyre working properly. However, the tweaks we made to the car in a bid to switch the hard compound on definitely gave me an edge. It’s a really nice feeling to have 100% faith in the team’s decisions and so far they have paid off every time this season.
What was a pretty disappointing Saturday turned into a solid Sunday. With another strong points haul I’m currently sitting 5th overall, just 5 points off the championship leader. It’s all to play for but we have lots of work to do from here on in.
Next up is Thruxton Circuit, the UK’s fastest race track, on May 18th and 19th!
- Images courtesy of ESP Sportcomm