Race Diary 2016 Brands Hatch GP
Wow! What a day! And what an end to the season. Three top 10 finishes, which included a top six and my best-ever second place which completed my best weekend in the championship.
Saturday’s qualifying session was on an initially dry track, the car was performing well and I was happy to post a 7th place time. However, that was soon taken away from me for exceeding track limits. This decision put me near the back of the line up!
Then the heavens opened and most drivers accepted that they would have difficulty in achieving better than their earlier “dry” times. However I was determined to keep going, and in the final few minutes of the qualifying session, with the track drying out rapidly, I managed a lap time of 1:32.5, just 0.7sec behind pole position. In this incredibly competitive qualifying session (the last one of the year), that result put me firmly in 9th place.
In hindsight, qualifying went really well, considering that I never got a good run in free practice because both sessions were wet. Normally, although I like this place, I don’t go so well here but today it just hooked up really well and I was feeling much more confident going into the first race. Being in the top 10 was a great result.
In the opening race the car felt really good — I rocketed away from the grid and worked my way up the top 10 until a number of championship contenders, who had qualified behind me, managed to wriggle a way past. But I was happy taking eighth place as the chequered flag flew.
From eighth on the grid, I worked hard in Race 2, snatching sixth place way from Mat Jackson’s Ford Focus towards the end of the race, to earn my best result of the season. Not only that, but I also scored a win in the Independent's competition, the first privateer home behind the mighty manufacturer entries.
Better was to come! Although deprived of a pole position once again on the draw for the reverse grid final, this time I lined up second on the grid, on the outside of the front row. As pole-sitter Jackson bolted away and controlled the race; I was running on the softer tyre in second place and feeling comfortable until reigning champion Gordon Shedden arrived on my tail!
Wow! Best keep a clear head and concentrate — I wasn't intimidated (well, not much!) and managed to hang on to second place for my best-ever BTCC result. And of course Gordon trailed me across the line to take the championship, so well done Gordon!
The car had been amazing all weekend — it had really hooked up so well. I really had to defend in that final race and when you look at the people around me, champions and race winners, it makes this result even more special!
This weekend just felt so right. I was well prepared and the car was better than ever, but I didn’t expect to be as high as ninth in qualifying and it all came from that. Sixth and an Independent win was amazing and now second place — I can’t believe it!
It’s been a tough season at times: contact, set-up problems, diff dramas, a stop/go penalty at Snetterton but today made it all worthwhile. This second place makes up for everything. I have to thank the team who have worked so hard all season and thanks go to Laser Tools for being such amazing sponsors.
When you have a day like this, you want more race weekends rather than the season ending so I go into the winter looking forward to the start of the 2017 season.
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