Well, what a difficult weekend we had at Croft, North Yorkshire, in rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
On Saturday, with the car rebuilt after the shenanigans at Oulton Park, all the running was conducted in wet weather on an absolutely treacherous track. We used the two free practice sessions to get a good set-up for qualifying, but, and it was a big “but”, the afternoon’s qualifying session was abandoned after just eight minutes running.
A car had dropped oil onto the track and the resultant skid pan caused a huge accident that eliminated a number of cars and left some drivers in need of medical attention. With track conditions deemed unsuitable for a restart, the grid for the opening race was based on what limited running people had achieved before the stoppage, but I didn’t even get a lap time in as a driveshaft broke at the very start of the qualifying period. It might be a legacy of the Oulton Park accident but we’re not yet sure what caused it. One thing is for certain, it gave me a lot of work to do.
Thus I started 29th on the grid for the opening race on Sunday, and luckily round 13 of the championship was held in dry conditions. They reckon it is difficult to overtake at Croft but I gritted my teeth and two laps later was in position 20. As the race progressed I steadily worked up to P16, but the tyres started to lose their edge as the 15-lap race wore on. I was really struggling for grip over those last three laps with the tyres going off. At the end of the race they were down to the canvas so I was really struggling – it wouldn’t steer and it wouldn’t stop!
However I was hanging onto 16th place right up to the very last lap; the finishing line was almost within sight when I was hit by another car and pushed back to 23rd.
Ready to fight back, I started the second race from 23rd on the grid and ran the option tyre, the harder of Dunlop’s compounds that the regulations dictate must be used in one of the three races over a weekend. The car really liked the harder rubber compound and I battled up the order and was happy to finish 14th having gained nine places in an action-packed race. We had very good pace whereas normally we don’t do so well on the hard tyre, but it really worked well here.
The final race of the weekend, always a hectic affair, lasted only one lap for me! I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a first-corner clash eliminated a number of cars. A big whack broke a hub on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and I limped into the pits to retire. It wasn’t a lot of damage but it was enough to put me out. I gave everyone room and then got hit and I know that these things can happen in motor racing but I think some people need to have a look at how they are driving and realise when they can make a move and when they can’t.
It was a frustrating way to end the weekend but I am happy that I have shown my ability to race hard and overtake but again it is disappointing to end with damage. We now have a break until Snetterton at the end of July, so it is a chance to recharge the batteries, test the car and come back fighting.
The next races in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship are at Snetterton, Norfolk, on July 29/30..