2022 BTCC Season Opener – Donington Park
Over the weekend of April 23-24 we were at Donington Park for the first round of the 2022 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign with Aiden Moffat and Dexter Paterson keen to get to grips with the new technology.
For 2022 we see a whole new hybrid powertrain with new engine suppliers M-Sport teaming up with world-renowned Cosworth who are providing the hybrid systems.
That was the plan anyway. The two LTR cars got very little pre-season testing under their belts as we are the only team to run the new M-Sport engine in rear-wheel-drive. Teams running the engine in front-wheel-drive configuration had received their new engines quite a few weeks ago and they enjoyed the benefits of plenty of testing. However with the late delivery of the rear-wheel-drive version, testing for LTR was quite limited. Indeed Aiden’s car threw a belt that destroyed his engine just a week earlier at the season launch at Thruxton, leaving him with just two laps completed in the whole day’s testing.
The nature of this first round with brand new engines from a new supplier and a never before used hybrid system is evident as teams up and down the paddock were finding gremlins. Therefore a frustrating Saturday at Donington followed, with Aiden’s car having hybrid problems (the main hybrid battery would not accept charge) and Dexter finding his car down on power due to turbo issues. With both Cosworth and M-Sport working on the cars, by the all-important qualifying session both Aiden and Dexter were hopeful that the problems had been fixed. As the first few laps it became clear that this wasn’t the case and despite visits to the pits, there was no improvement to the situation. The team who have worked so hard in the run up to this weekend were left asking for answers as the diagnosis showed that Aiden’s car was suffering with no hybrid power at all and Dexter’s car was still suffering with boost issues. This resulted in very disappointing qualifying position for Race 1 with Aiden achieving P23 and Dexter P27.
Aiden Moffat: “We have definitely had a tough day at the office today with the installation of the new technology. The hybrid system not working is the biggest issue as that affects engine performance, but once these are sorted we can then judge the cars pace against the competition.”
Dexter Patterson: “That has been an interesting first day in the BTCC. I started with no hybrid system and then we got it going. Then we were suffering from boost issues and I hope that the guys from M-Sport can help us to get that sorted before tomorrow. Apart from that, the car felt quite comfortable and every lap is a learning curve for me.”
Despite starting 23rd and 27th on the grid, the potential of the car and its drivers was evident from the start. Both drivers were happy to report that all systems were go as they sat on the grid and as the lights went out both drivers got good starts.
As with anything in life when you have just had something fixed, there were nerves in the car and in the garage, but Aiden’s proven talent and Dexter’s potential saw them lapping much quicker than yesterday. Not only were the times better but with the added confidence the boys were able to push the cars harder and were soon gaining places as the first half of the race progressed.
Things were good during the second half of the race and as both pushed on, they found that the only limits now were the set-ups, which they hadn’t had chance to explore yesterday due to other issues. At the end, Aiden had got up to 15th and into the Championship points, with Dexter a creditable 17th in his first ever race.
During the lunchtime break we saw the first pit lane walkabout and signing session since 2019 giving the massive crowd a chance to meet their heroes. Aiden and Dexter were mobbed by their fans as they signed autographs in the late April sunshine.
Soon it was back on track for the teams as they lined up for Race 2 of the weekend. Starting from 15th and 17th on the grid the boys got a decent start and were soon battling with those around them on a circuit where overtaking can be tricky if the cars have similar pace.
As the race wore on, Jade Edwards overtook Dexter, as he was suddenly surrounded by other cars, but to his credit he was able to retake the position before the end. So we were one place outside the points with Aiden in 16th and Dexter was 18th. There is more work to be done, of course, but after the despair of yesterday, this gives us something to build on.
Off the line both cars got a clean start and Aiden was soon up to 15th as all the teams were really pushing hard before some more brilliant driving saw him up to 13th on lap 6. Even though the hybrid system was still not functioning correctly, Aiden was on a charge until he got a puncture on lap 11 forcing him into the pits and out of contention for points and therefore finishing at the back, but only just!
Dexter was running comfortable in 17th until he lost two places in a battle on lap 9. He kept fighting brilliantly and on lap 13 he took both those places back. Unfortunately he then lost a place back on the next lap and finished in 18th place, having thoroughly enjoyed his first weekend in British Touring Cars and proving that with time, experience and a bit more from the car he will be up in the points on a regular basis.
Going forward, we have just under three weeks to solve the component problems that plagued us over the Donington weekend, and then fine-tune the set-up of both Infinitis to enable us to look positively at the coming Brands Hatch round.