Thruxton Race Report
Now onto the high speed Thruxton Circuit – the fastest on the BTCC calendar. There were a lot of challenges for the team at the weekend, as not only had the car never turned a wheel at this circuit, there was the added challenge that Thruxton demands a unique Goodyear tyre, something else the car has never run on. Because of the abrasive nature of the track surface this tyre features a very hard compound, much harder than the “normal” Goodyear BTCC tyre. Who would be an engineer, eh?
And as it happened, on the Saturday the team seemed to have some tyre issues. The weather was quite warm but there was a strong headwind coming up the straight to the chicane and it seemed to unsettle the front of the car meaning Ash and Aiden were locking up coming into the right hander. The issue seemed to persist through both practice and qualifying sessions, with both the drivers and the engineering team trying to sort things out. Certainly this Thruxton-only tyre seemed to locking up very easily for a number of drivers at the same spot on the circuit.
As this circuit favours front-wheel-drive cars, the qualifying session finished with Ash 11th and Aiden 18th, although Ash was less than 2/10ths behand his championship rival Colin Turkington on their best laps with Turkington the only rear-wheel-drive car in the top 10.
At the off it was a great start for Ash and within a couple of laps he had moved forward and was now right on the tail of Colin Turkington. A few laps later Ash performed a terrific move and was in front of his championship rival!
Then the decisive moment came on lap 8 as Colin pulled into the pits with an engine misfire issue and crucially stayed there for 4 laps before re-joining back in 24th place. At the chequered flag, although Ash wasn’t able to close on the top 4 who were all front wheel drive, his brilliant 5th position after yesterday’s troubles gave him the championship lead by 1 point. This also meant that Ash was to start Race 2 in P5 with ballast with Colin P24 with no weight.
Aiden had a hard fought race in an incredibly tight pack to come home 15th although he had to struggle with his tyres in the last 2 laps.
With temperatures still very high for this time of year, Swindon Engines who supply the TOCA power unit were anxiously watching the temperatures as this is the fastest circuit on the championship and the cars unusually run flat out for a chunk of the circuit.
At the off it was a great start for Ash and he was in P4 by the end of lap 2. After that he spent 14 laps duelling with Matt Neal’s Honda Civic for 3rd, but was unable to get past at any point. At the finishing line it 4th for Ash which combined with Colin Turkington finishing 13th made it a great result for us. Ash also achieved another podium in this race as the Independent Championship race winner.
Aiden, who started 19th was as high as 15th before he was tapped by Carl Boardley in the chicane which cost him three places. A return of Saturday’s brake issues towards the end led to him missing the chicane on two consecutive laps and he finished one place ahead of his start in 18th.
For the final race of the day Ash will started in P5 with weight while his championship rival Colin in P13 with less weight! Aiden started P18. With this in mind and Aiden sat further down the grid it was decided that Aiden would use Race 3 as a practice run with some radical setup changes ahead of Silverstone next weekend. This set up testing was going really well until Aiden was hit heavily by Carl Boardley – see the attached picture and ask why is it always Carl Boardley? — which forced Aiden to pit and go back out 6 laps down meaning that in the end he only got 10 laps on the track..
Mind you, there was a great result for Ash who started in P5, with loads of weight after the reverse grid and some really quick cars around him without as much ballast. Quick off the line and managing to handle the weight brilliantly, Ash and Rory Butcher were both able to get past Tom Oliphant with Ash up to 4th and this let the two of them head off in pursuit of the Hondas of Josh Cook and Tom Chilton, but this proved to be a fruitless cause.
So at the chequered flag Ash scored a brilliant (championship points-scoring) 4th to cap a fantastic weekend all things considered. Ash has increased his lead at the top of the championship standings to 16 points over the BMW of Colin Turkington (209 v 193 for Colin). Laser are leading the Independent’s Championship ahead of Motorbase as we head to Silverstone and we are looking forward to next weekend very much!