A DISASTROUS WEEKEND

10th July 2014

This blog is coming to you of the back off what can only be described as a disastrous weekend. I went to Croft full of confidence knowing we had a great opportunity to fight right at the front; unfortunately it started to go wrong straight away. FP1 and Gio and I had a misunderstanding; I thought he was backing off an letting me through but, as it turns out, he was fully focused on the road ahead and hadn’t seen me up the inside. I took avoiding action and hit a tyre stack on the apex in order to avoid hitting him. That made a mess of the car straight away and lost us FP1. Still I took the positive that I had set a purple sector on that lap and was on course to top the time sheets so we knew the potential was there.

FP2 was where it really went wrong. We had spent much of the session scrubbing tyres and it was to be my first proper run of the session. We had just gone P5 while bringing the tyres up to temperature and I was just starting what was to be our first proper quick lap when I made an error under braking for turn 1 and couldn’t recover the car in time to avoid the barrier.  It was a devastating 5.5G shunt and the car was totalled… I just couldn’t believe what I had done, completely on my own. I was sure that was the end of our weekend – there was no way my team could fix it in time for qualifying…

We are a small, family run team on a tight budget so everyone has to give 100% to make up for our lack of numbers and we have had some challenging times in the past when my boys have worked miracles so I know exactly how good they are. But I was sure that this was too much even for them... Apparently I had underestimated them! The work they did to get us out for qualifying was just mind blowing and they deserve huge recognition for what they achieved. OK it wasn’t perfectly set up and it wasn’t pretty but it was good enough to put us in the top ten and that gave us a good chance to move forward and bag some great points (see pics of them at work on our Facebook page). 

So Sunday morning I signed all my broken bits of car and headed over to the Exocet Racing clothing stand to auction them off for charity. I know I bang on about how great the BTCC fans are but we managed to raise £486 for Saint Teresa’s Hospice from a few broken bits that were fit for the bin and when we had run out of bits to sell people were still offering £5/£10/£20 for autographs which they know I would have given anyway! It was a really heart-warming experience to see such generosity from truly good people.

And then it went bad again….

Race 1: after a good start we were in P8 but then after being hit 3 times in the back in the first two corners corners by the same person he finally managed to spin me around. The rest of the race was a haze of red mist for me. I got from dead last up to P13 which was great but I was very aggressive in my rush through the pack, OK I didn’t break any rules and wasn’t called to the stewards or anything like that but I pride myself on being a clean and fair driver so I felt I had let myself down a little.  

Anyway, at least I was in a position where I could get in to the top ten and hopefully in race 2 we might be lucky enough to get the reverse grid… Er, no… I got sandwiched between the two Fords off the grid and my race was over in moments. I had a great start and there was a nice big gap but it closed so quickly I didn’t have chance to react. It was no one’s fault but it was very unfortunate as that was the end of my race and unfortunately Dave Newsham’s as well.

So on to race 3 and a bit of drama.

All I wanted to do was to stay out of trouble and pick up some points. We had been in the wars all weekend and I had had enough of it. Matt Neal had other ideas, though. He started by driving into me through turns 1 & 2 and then put a do or die lunge on me into Tower. I had to let him go or we were going to crash. So I just sat behind him and picked my way through the carnage he left behind him. Eventually, we caught Warren Scott at the hairpin and he and Matt went down the straight side by side. I had had a nice clean run out of the hairpin and could see that Warren had a better run than Matt on the outside so I bump drafted Matt down the straight to help him keep up the inside (if he got past Warren then there would be a good chance I would be able to follow him through). As we approached the braking zone for Clervaux I backed out and moved back across the track to brake on the racing line. Matt went in really deep and from my uncompromised line I was able to get a great run and sail past both of them down the inside into Hawthorn’s… Unfortunately, as I turned in I got a hit in the left rear which meant I could only go straight on. Having watched the replay it’s clear that Matt turns in to the back of my car which causes us to both go straight and then poor old Warren had to turn at some point so ends up rubbing the other side of Matt. Three races ruined and for what???

It’s also very disappointing to be publicly blamed by him for it. I would have thought with his experience and stature in the championship he would look to set a better example than that. I was ahead on the inside going into the corner, 100% under control and as I turned right I got hit and no matter how much right hand lock I put on with a Honda driving in to your bumper it was a physical impossibility to actually turn! It baffles me to think how he could possibly consider that I was at fault.

So that was our messy weekend but every cloud has a silver lining and there are plenty of positives to take from it. We had top 6 pace from both cars and Hunter had a great weekend, we proved over and over that we have an incredible team of guys, we showed yet again why the BTCC fans are so great, all our guests had a great day out in our fantastic hospitality and also my sponsors Exocet and Duo have been so incredibly supportive of me and the whole team it’s really touching.

So even though we had a tough time and got knocked about a bit, life is still pretty awesome and we are looking forward to the next round at Snetterton in 5 weeks.