The team and our Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived at the Kent speedbowl buoyed by an excellent podium finish at the end of 2016. The weekend started badly however when a regulation component failed, causing the car to lose a wheel in free practice session one. The team repaired the car for the second session and the car’s pace was excellent, our best lap just .38 sec behind that fastest recorded lap.
Therefore we went into qualifying with optimism. However, qualifying turned into a lottery as 32 cars tried to find clear track space on the 1.2-mile circuit. I found the task was made more difficult by being sandwiched between cars that weren’t lapping fast enough and unable to find clear track space. But even before I had the tyres warmed up properly the session was red-flagged. After the 20 minute delay, we all set out again, only to be red-flagged again after a matter of minutes. When the session restarted the heavens opened and heavy rain fell. At that point I was in 23rd position and we, like many other teams, called it a day and returned to the pits.
Of course this left me mired in traffic for the opening race and frustrated by this starting position. Nevertheless, I made early progress from 23rd on the grid and was working my way steadily up the order in what was a frantic race. I had got up to 14th place when contact with Josh Cook’s Ford Focus dropped me back to18th spot. So, start again and battle back into contention, only to be assaulted by Daniel Lloyd’s MG6. So, back to 18th again! However I was confident that the speed was there ready to be unlocked in race two.
The second race was stopped after a start-line crash and after a delayed start, I started pushing hard to haul the Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class up the order, only for another errant rival to end my chances. Ash Sutton’s Subaru tried to pass me and hit the kerb which bounced him into the side of me. We ended up off the track and the impact damaged the front suspension and bodywork so it was game over.
However, I've got to congratulate the whole Laser Tools Racing team for their incredible performance in repairing the car; there was lots of damage, and very little time to repair it. In two hours the car was repaired and back on the grid for Race 3! What a fantastic effort from all the team.
That also meant starting race three at the back of the grid but I got a good run off the line and was making progress from the opening lap.
However, when a car ran wide at Graham Hill Bend, I powered around the outside of the pack to gain ground, only to be hit by Lloyd once more as his MG swerved to avoid a spinner. That impact damaged the tracking but I carried on and it was going OK until the engine died four laps from home. We don’t know why yet but it was very disappointing.
It certainly hasn’t been the weekend that we were hoping for and it is frustrating that so many other drivers, and their standards of driving, have affected our weekend. Still, we will fight back. On the plus side, we can't have another weekend as frustrating as this! We take the positives to Donington Park in two weeks’ time, knowing that we have a good set-up, good balance and a fast car. Donington is traditionally a good circuit for our car and I am looking forward to going there and show what we are capable of.
The next rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship are at Donington Park, Derbyshire, on April 16/17.