Tuesday 11 June 2013

BTCC 2013 : Oulton Park Teams reactions

Airwaves Racing battles back at Oulton Park

Aron Smith in action at Oulton Park
Another challenging weekend for Airwaves Racing ended with a glimpse of promise this weekend (June 8/9) during round 4 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).

Cheshire’s picturesque Oulton Park circuit provided the backdrop to a drama filled race weekend that saw the Airwaves Racing squad suffer yet another run of torrid bad luck; securing two top ten finishes; despite showing promising pace in the Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST next generation touring cars.

An uneventful qualifying session on a blistering track on Saturday afternoon left the Airwaves Racing drivers with much work to do during Sunday’s three races. Mat Jackson and Aron Smith ended the session in P11 and P17 respectively; as Smith’s #8 Focus struggled with an intermittent engine fault that hindered the Irishman’s progress throughout the session.

Sunday’s opening race started well, with both Jackson and Smith making good ground through the pack in the opening laps. The good news proved to be short lived however as the Smith’s engine fault kicked in during lap 4, relegating the Irishman through the ranks - eventually forcing the #8 Focus into the pits for an early retirement. The #7 Focus ST’s improved pace and set up paid dividends for Airwaves Racing team-mate Mat Jackson, with the 32 year old managing to pick his way through the field to cross the line in 7th position.

A momentous effort in the Airwaves Racing garage to pull a rabbit out of the hat during the midday break, saw the Motorbase crew successfully changed Smith’s engine against the clock in an impressive 1 hour 15 minutes; allowing the Irishman to join the back of the grid for the start of race 2. The team’s hard work was rewarded with a sterling drive from Smith – making up an impressive 11 places to come home in P14.

Jackson looked to be on for a strong top 5 finish during the opening laps, when disaster struck once again following a coming together with Tordoff’s MG – causing damage to his #7 Focus which could only manage a crawl to the finish to end race 2 in P20.
Mat Jackson leads his teammates at Oulton Park

With a new set up and last minute coolant repairs to Smith’s Focus forcing a pit lane start; both Airwaves Racing NGTC’s started the final race of the day from the back of the pack. Once more, both Airwaves Racing drivers showed their remarkable  race craft as they picked their way through the packed grid, battling to the mid field within the first eight laps – with Smith collecting an, albeit short-lived, fastest lap time on the second lap. As has been the story too frequently thus far this season, luck played a cruel trick on the Airwaves squad once more, with Jackson’s charge through the field thwarted by a similar issue to the damage experienced in race 2 – forcing an unscheduled pit visit and return to the back of the pack. Despite a gallant effort from Jackson, it proved too little too late and the #7 Focus could only muster a P19 finish for the last race of the weekend.

Smith’s final race of the day proved to be more positive, with the Airwaves Racing driver producing a stunning drive from the back of the grid to secure the team’s second top ten finish of the weekend and some much needed championship points.

Liam Griffin on his way to a Jack Sears Trophy win.
Addison Lee Motorbase team-mate Liam Griffin had a more successful weekend to further boost his Jack Sears Trophy campaign; collecting another two class wins in his S2000 Focus ST during Sunday’s opening and closing races. A judicial reversal of the opening race results leaves Griffin just one race win off the top spot now, with everything still to play for at the next round.

Despite suffering another frustrating weekend, the Airwaves Racing squad have made promising steps forward with the pace and set up on the NGTC Focus ST’s and now have a two week break to put the lessons learned this weekend into practice before the racing gets underway when The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns for round 5 at North Yorkshire’s Croft circuit on June 22/23.

Motorbase Performance Team Manager Oly Collins said:
“As bad weekends go, that has got to be right up there. We just haven’t had a break - despite being confident we had made good progress leading up to and during this weekend. Fundamentally a poor qualifying result hurt us amongst a very competitive top twelve.

“Both drivers were dealt some really bad luck today but we have to pick ourselves up and work hard to make Croft our turning point.”

Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said:
“We’ve really made progress with the car this weekend. I think we would have had three top five finishes this weekend, but performance wise we had a few issues that cost us that, which is a real shame but we’re still learning.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now and we’re moving in the right direction – we’re challenging the Honda’s and faster than the Toyota’s and I feel comfortable with the direction that we’re heading in.”

Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith said:
“It’s been a little bit of a troubling weekend; and it’s unfortunate because we’ve done so much testing and developed the car so much from where we were – but we just never got to show our hand to be fair.

“We had engine issues in qualifying on Saturday which affected us in race 1 and forced the retirement. I’ve never seen a team work so hard to change an engine between races; because it’s one of those things that you don’t even make it out at all and even though we had to start at the back, we still made it to the grid, which was impressive.”

“Now we have a much clearer direction going into the next round which is really positive. Hopefully Croft will be a turning point for us.”

Addison Lee Motorbase driver Liam Griffin said:
“All in all I’m pretty happy with the weekend.  Race 1 was a bit disappointing with the result being reversed, but the ying and yang came through with us getting another win in race 3.

“Overall the weekend was a fair result; Lea Wood had the pace- but to come away with one of the trophies from the weekend is a good result for us and a good sign for the championship.”

Double podium for eBay Motors at Oulton Park

eBay Motors enjoyed success at Oulton Park
The eBay Motors team secured a return to the podium with Colin Turkington enjoying a second and third place finish as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season resumed at Oulton Park after a five-week spring break.

a successful launch of the Hub Live project
Alongside the strong outing on-track, eBay Motors also enjoyed a successful weekend away from the circuit following the debut of the eBay Motors Hub Live – a new interactive zone allowing race fans to get closer to both the team and the sport with a special four-person simulator, Q&A sessions with the drivers, trophy photo opportunity, download terminal for the eBay Motors app and the chance to collect a free eBay Motors Team cap.

Paul O'Neil, local lad and winner of Oulton Park in 2002, hosted the drivers in Hub Live and entertained the crowds, with the drivers answering his questions and being on the receiving end of his fun jokes.

Having worked to make improvements to its NGTC-spec BMW 125i M-Sports in a series of tests during the break, the team was able to add to its collection of silverware, with 2009 title winner Colin Turkington bringing home a brace of top three finishes.

Colin led the eBay Motors challenge in qualifying to put his car seventh on the grid, with team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster with more work to do on race day from 16th and 22nd respectively.

A solid run in the opening race saw Colin take the flag in fifth place, with Rob also lapping strongly to cross the line in tenth, despite a scare when Tom Onslow-Cole’s VW got out of shape ahead of him at Druids mid-race. Nick however was the undoubted star as, having elected to run the Soft compound Dunlop tyre in the opening race, he stormed through the field to take twelfth – making up no fewer than ten places in the process.

Race two saw Colin make a strong start to run in the top three before an opportunistic move from Honda’s Gordon Shedden demoted him to fourth just before a Safety Car period that bunched up the field. Pushing hard on the restart, Colin was able to get ahead of Sam Tordoff’s MG to take his second podium finish of the campaign.

Although the reverse grid draw for race three left him eighth on the grid, Colin was able to secure further podium glory in race three with a strong drive through to second place while there were more points for both Nick and Rob as they took the chequered flag in eighth and eleventh following a hectic race in the midfield.

Colin Turkington with the spoils of the weekend
Following the weekend, Colin sits sixth in the championship standings with Rob and Nick in 16th and 17th, while eBay Motors hold fourth in the HiQ Teams Championship having picked up its biggest points score to date from the trip to Cheshire.

The eBay Motors Hub Live will be back in the paddock at a number of events later in the year.

Colin Turkington, eBay Motors Team driver, (5th/3rd/2nd) said:

“It’s been a really positive weekend and the car was a massive improvement compared to Thruxton. I didn’t expect to get two podium finishes after qualifying, as I thought we’d be around the top six, so it’s a good way to finish. This is a circuit where the rear-wheel drive cars do go well and the higher temperatures helped us as well. We still have time to find in qualifying as we showed with the gap to the pole sitter, so even though we are moving in the right direction, there is still a lot of work for us to do.”

Rob Collard, eBay Motors Team driver, (10th/NC/11th) said:

“It’s been a really frustrating weekend for me. We can see the potential that there is in the car and we’ve made improvements again, but I just wasn’t able to get the best out of it in terms of results. This is a difficult circuit when you are in traffic to try and make up places and it didn’t go my way. This is a weekend I’m just going to put behind me and focus on Croft, which is a circuit where the rear-wheel drive cars have gone well in the past.”

Nick Foster, eBay Motors Team driver,  (12th/15th/8th) said:

“I had a great run in race one to make up ten places and the car felt strong. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect to make up so many places on a circuit where overtaking is tough. Race two I got mugged off the line and after the incident with Rob and some contact from behind, I managed to score despite the damage to the car. It was good again in race three and it was an action-packed way to end the weekend. I’ve scored some good results but we know we are still lacking the pace over a single lap and even though the team is doing a great job, there is more to find.”

Toyota Man Morgan Claims Podium Finish At Oulton

Adam Morgan sprays the champagne after finishing third at Oulton Park
Toyota Avensis racer Adam Morgan is celebrating his maiden BTCC podium finish after a gutsy drive to third place for Ciceley Racing in the final race of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s Oulton Park raceday. The result was not only a personal best for the 24-year-old from Lancashire on his home circuit, but also the best BTCC finish so far this season for a Toyota driver.

Morgan’s success came at the end of another remarkably consistent day for the Toyota independent - he finished ninth and seventh in the earlier races to maintain his run of form. He’s one of only four drivers to have scored in every race and has claimed a top-10 result 11 times from 12 starts.

“It’s fantastic to get a podium finish, especially at a circuit that has been a bit of a bogey one for us in the past,” said Morgan, who holds seventh place in the drivers championship and is second in the Independents Trophy standings. “I have to give massive thanks to the guys in the Ciceley Racing team and to all our sponsors for their support, as I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Adam’s podium charge saw him battle past Adam Welch’s Proton for third in the early laps to latch on to the tail of the lead battle, being disputed by Jeff Smith’s Honda and Rob Austin’s Audi. Smith ousted Austin from the lead at mid-distance and Morgan followed him through for second before being returned to third by Andrew Jordan’s Honda. Jordan went on to win from BMW driver Colin Turkington, with Morgan holding off a determined challenge from multiple champion Matt Neal (Honda) by just 0.078s at the line.

Added Adam: “It is fantastic for me to be able to race side-by-side with people like Colin Turkington and Matt Neal - and it was a great feeling to hold off Matt at the end when my tyres were shot. We’d gone with an aggressive set-up and I knew we had to push early on to get ahead.”

Dave Newsham (17) leads Adam Morgan
There was a strong showing today also from the Speedworks Motorsport team and in particular Dave Newsham, who scored his and the team’s best results of the season - fourth in qualifying and eighth and sixth respectively in races one and two. Unfortunately a thump from another car led to a spin in the finale after he showed strong early pace. “We have really turned a corner with the Toyota,” said Newsham. “It’s better to drive and we showed we had a good qualifying car. Today, we struggled in race one but made changes and now we have a good race car as well, so I feel very positive for the future.” His team-mate, Ollie Jackson, scored his first point since the season-opener at Brands Hatch with 15th place in race three.

After a good qualifying performance, Dynojet Racing Toyota driver Frank Wrathall endured another day of misfortune. He started the first race from sixth on the grid but a knock from another car in the
first-lap melee knocked his Avensis about sufficiently to demand a pit stop for investigation; Frank
rejoined a lap down and finished 23rd.

In race two Wrathall drove brilliantly to claim back 11 places and secure 12th position, which he used as a springboard to race to ninth in the finale. “The Toyota felt really good and was strong, but we were up against it because of where we started,” said Frank. “We set the fourth-fastest lap in the final race, which showed what we were capable of. We were really on the back foot as a result of the first race - it is so difficult around here to make up places from the back of the field.”

Toyota’s quartet of independent racers will be back in action in a fortnight (23 June) at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire.

 Honda Yuasa Racing Battles on at Oulton Park
Mat Neal in action at Oulton Park
 Honda Yuasa Racing maintained its lead in all the major Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings despite a trying event at Oulton Park last weekend.
Shedden celebrates 3rd in race one
The Honda Civics of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden again handled well around the Cheshire track, but success ballast from previous rounds and low turbo boost levels thanks to the championship’s engine equalisation system made life tricky.

Shedden qualified third after having his best time disallowed for exceeding track limits, while Neal – running with the maximum 45kg of ballast – was eighth quickest.

Reigning champion Shedden tracked the leading MGs relentlessly in race one to finish third and then went one better second time out to grab the runner-up spot.

He was in the jostling lead pack in the reversed-grid encounter, which he started on the BTCC’s soft tyre, before contact with a rival punctured a tyre and sent him to the pits.

“Splitting the MGs was good in race two,” said Shedden, who remained fourth in the drivers’ standings. “The car has been fantastic all weekend and we maximised what we had.

“The Civic was great on the soft tyre again, but it was a crazy reversed-grid race and it didn’t go my way.”

Neal battled his way to sixth in race one and, with no ballast for race two, improved to fourth in the second event.
After a battling drive in the finale, which included a dramatic fight with former champion Colin Turkington, Neal came home fourth to hold a four-point lead over Pirtek Racing Honda driver Andrew Jordan in the title race.

“The weight and the boost made it hard,” said the triple champion. “You’ve got to drag the weight up in four places here.

“When we had the weight out for race two we made a set-up change that didn’t quite work and we didn’t reap the benefits.

“We changed it again for race three and the car came alive. It was awesome. I wanted the race to go on. It felt like the soft tyre was lasting better than the hard!”

As well as holding first and fourth in the drivers’ championship, Honda Yuasa Racing also maintained its lead in the teams’ championship. To complete the set, Honda leads the manufacturers’ standings and Jordan and Pirtek Racing head the independents’ championships.
Plato on fire at Oulton Park – literally
MG Drivers Plato and Tordorff on the podium
Jason Plato thrust himself right into the heart of the fight for this season’s 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship by taking his MG KX Momentum car to two stylish wins at Oulton Park in Cheshire on Sunday.

The former champion was the highest points scorer across the weekend’s three races, but was ruled out of the final event when damage caused his car to erupt in flames.

Plato’s team-mate, Sam Tordoff, underlined the team’s competitive showing in Cheshire by landing the best result of his career to date when he followed his sister car over the line in the opening race. 

Plato said he was delighted to have turned the car’s potential into a big points pay day with his 77th and 78th career victories in Britain’s leading motor racing championship.

“That was one heck of a weekend,” he said afterwards. “We had a fantastic car underneath us but that is only part of the job. You still have to land the results and we did. The team has worked hard to get the best out of this car, and I am now confident that we will be able to go anywhere and be fast. It is a joy to drive.”

After his fiery exit from the third race of the weekend, Plato said during the lap prior to retirement slight contact in the pack during the early jostling might have contributed. “There was a concertina effect at the hairpin on lap two, and everyone tapped into the back of each other,” he explained. “I nudged into the car in front, and that may have a link to the failure but there is no apparent damage we can see on any external components. It is a shame, but we’re still able to walk away form here with a smile.”

Tordoff was all smiles after the opening race of the weekend. The Leeds ace, a member of the KX Akademy, banked a career best second place finish behind Plato after a brave opening lap. He ran side-by-side with a rival through the first two corners before securing the spot.

He failed to finished the second event after a brush with another car – incredibly, Tordoff’s first non-points finish of the season – before staging one of the drives of the weekend to go from 21st to seventh in race three.

“I was delighted with the podium in the opening race and, as Jason says, it underlines the progress we have made in the car throughout the year,” explained Tordoff. “I was still able to push at the end of the first race if I had needed too, but fortunately, I didn’t have to. I went with the softer option tyres in race two, which went off towards the end and I dropped back before the contact.

“Race three was really good fun, and that shows what we are capable of – I think if I had have started in the top ten, I could have won that race,” he added.

Tordoff consolidated fifth place in the standings, while Plato has moved to within seven points of the title summit as the title fight reaches its halfway point at Croft in North Yorkshire in two weeks’ time.

MG KX Momentum team principal Ian Harrison said he thought that the team had exploited its chances with the wins at Oulton Park.

“When you have won two out of three races, you can’t complain,” he explained. “But what I am delighted about is that we have two cars up there capable of battling for wins, which we haven’t had before. Sam had some rough times this weekend but hey, this is the BTCC. It isn’t easy. Jason’s narrowed the gap to the points leaders and we are in a strong frame of mind.”

British Touring Car Championship
Afer 12/30 rounds

1                                                                   Matt Neal (Honda Civic)       173

2                                                                   Andrew Jordan (Honda Civic)      169

3                                                                   Jason Plato (MG KX Momentum MG6)  166

4                                                                   Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)   142

5                                                                   Sam Tordoff (MG KX Momentum MG6)        129

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