BTCC Croft — June 25-26
Coming into this weekend, the end of the first half of the season, the team were quite happy following their heroics at Oulton Park last time out. Aiden getting his first trophy of the season and Dexter getting his first championship points were a great result for the team and they were keen for this success to continue at Croft before they go into the mid-summer break.
In Saturday’s first free practice session it was clear that the improvements the team had made at Oulton Park were holding good for Aiden at the circuit he dominated last year. Never dropping below 6th throughout the session, Aiden was consistently quick, occupying 4th and 5th before finishing the session in 6th place. Dexter was also doing well and ended the first session 24th with some good feedback and learning points from the session.
For the second practice session just before lunchtime once again the boys were quick out of the blocks, but an early red flag after Dan Cammish crashed his Ford Focus at the first corner held up everyone’s session, including ours. The circuit did a great job in clearing up the mess and we were soon back out and putting the laps in. We were certainly quicker than we had been, in both cars, and things were looking good! As the session entered its final few minutes, a couple of teams risked using a fresh set of tyres for one last quick lap and the result that Aiden ended up in 9th and Dexter was 20th, once again showing that we are there or thereabouts.
The session began in a similar fashion to the way that Free Practice 2 had ended with everybody pushing hard and the entry into Clervaux (turn one) was spitting people out towards the gravel trap before Hawthorn bend. First up it caught out Adam Morgan in the BMW who hurtled sideways into the barrier to bring out the first of three red flags. Then Stephen Jelley suffered the same fate, but missed the barriers and left a huge cloud of stones, dust and debris right on the corner where Dexter was rapidly following. Dexter was blinded in this sandstorm at full speed – see the pictures. As he came through the cloud, he was only a foot away from the barriers and had no chance to avoid the heavy impact. Although signalled as a red flag, Dexter was able to keep the car going round to the pits, but it was deemed too damaged to continue in the session.
After that it was a disjointed session in which Aiden was as high as 9th, before falling back to 19th and then driving brilliantly to finish 10th, with Dexter having to start at the back of the grid for Race 1.
As the team lined up for Race 1, Aiden was in 10th place on the grid and Dexter was 28th after his qualifying drama. Both drivers were confident of progressing and it was with a positive mind-set that they flew off the line. Lap 1 saw Aiden climbing all over the back of George Gamble and Tom Chilton and on lap 2 he made his move and gained 8th place before we had a prolonged safety car session.
Dexter was also quick out of the blocks and had taken Will Powell and Nicolas Hamilton before the safety car. As the safety car went back in, Dexter was at it again with some brilliant overtakes on Jade Edwards and Ricky Collard before we had yet another safety car!
They restarted with only three laps to go and Aiden and Dexter pushed as hard as they dared; in the end Aiden got a fantastic 8th place with Dexter gaining 8 places to finish 20th. Quite a result for the boys and with Aiden being the best of all the independent drivers he took the Independents’ Trophy to add to the silverware from Oulton Park.
The top eight drivers all got great starts off the line and the race was remarkably incident free at the front as all eight drivers completed the entire race without a single overtake. This means two things: firstly, it showed that Aiden is as fast as anyone on track and secondly that he won the Independents’ Trophy for the second race running.
At the back, things were a bit more lively as a safety car period made life interesting and Dexter was initially in 20th, then down in 24th before managing to pull off a series of breathtaking overtakes to finish 18th.
The final race of the day started full of possibilities for Laser Tools Racing with Aiden sat in 5th on the grid. Disaster struck on lap 6 for Aiden when one of his bonnet catches failed after an impact with a heavily braking Tom Chilton. Despite him coming in for a repair and trying another lap, it was deemed too dangerous and Aiden was forced to retire from another promising position.
Dexter drove brilliantly from 18th on the grid and despite the attempts of those around him, he was able to hold them off and give as good as he got to finish in 16th spot. It is clear that Dexter is learning his craft very quickly and I am sure that he will develop further as the season continues.