Our previous visits to the famous Brands Hatch circuit this year have proved to be frustrating experiences, but we return to the circuit for the penultimate rounds of the championship with a full season of experience under our belts. Way back in...
Our previous visits to the famous Brands Hatch circuit this year have proved to be frustrating experiences, but we return to the circuit for the penultimate rounds of the championship with a full season of experience under our belts. Way back in the middle of March we found ourselves at the circuit for the official pre-season test session but track time was severely limited as we were plagued by an engine misfire which ultimately had to be returned to the workshop to rectified. A couple of weekends later we were back for the opening rounds of the 2002 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship and, whilst the engine gremlins were fixed, Jim Edwards Jnr, rolled his car into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend during the free practice session. Quite an inauspicious start to the season!
Since then things have quietly improved and, despite a number of different team-mates, Jim has continued to rack up some good solid results and has been near the top of the driver's championship for most of the season. These results have eluded us somewhat of late and this has caused some to question why some of our competitors have started to gain an advantage over us.
Typically forthright, Jim explains, "the Honda Accord is a superb motor car and it is the ideal machine with which to fulfil our goals for the season. It has been around for quite a while now but it is nearing the end of its development and we are starting to struggle against the newer cars such as the Alfa 156s, the Honda Civics and the rear wheel drive BMW. At the start of the season we were quick out of the blocks and we picked up some superb results along the way, but the newer cars are finally coming into their own as the teams who have built them are starting to iron our their reliability woes."
He goes on, "I think maybe by mid-season our position in the championship flattered us to a degree. Whilst we were there on merit it was only a matter of time before the likes of Gavin Pyper and Norman Simon started to realise their true potential and started racking up some serious points. I think I could have held on to a higher placing had it not been for a couple of meetings where we came away with less points than we deserved, but that's motor racing!"
That's motor racing indeed and Jim's teammate, the Norwich-based Australian Hyla Breese, is equally philosophical having suffered an appalling run of engine failures since he was drafted into the team to replace Peter Cate in our second car. "It's one of the situations where you wonder what the hell is going on and think it can't get any worse. I said that after Snetterton and then there was Knockhill so yes it did get worse. However, I never give up, never given up on anything in my life and am not starting now. You have to look at it as a challenge, see why it's happened and then make sure it doesn't happen again."
"The team are frustrated too as there are a lot of points being lost as a result of the engine change rules, but we have learnt a damn lot as a team and I have too and, with a bit more track time, I'm certain I can do a great job for the team." His team-boss, the charismatic John B&Q agrees, "When Hyla agreed to join us I was delighted and was looking forward to seeing how he worked with the team. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he has been working far too closely with the team - he's been doing data acquisition, looking after our guests and all manner of other things to help out. It is wonderful that he is pitching in and helping out like this but I don't want to see it happening again at Brands Hatch. I want him to be able to concentrate purely on his driving and I cannot wait for us to give him an engine that will allow him to do exactly that. When he does get a proper race meeting in that car I will be elated."
The last time that the British Touring Car Championship raced on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit was the final round of the 2001 season. Jason Plato finally won a titanic season-long battle with his teammate, Yvan Muller, to take the overall title in appalling weather conditions. That same meeting saw Jim Edwards Jnr making his race return after a part-season lay-off in, rather bizarrely, a Formula Renault single seater car! "It was an experience", is all he will say on that matter, although the smile on his face as he left the circuit that evening suggested he enjoyed that experience.
One man who didn't come away from that meeting smiling was Hyla Breese, who was leading the 40-minute Lotus Sport race and looking a dead-cert to tie-up second place in the championship behind Mark Fullalove. Fate intervened and, when his window misted up, his pace was slowed and he was caught by a competitor who pushed him off the track and left him stuck in the Paddock Hill gravel trap. As he climbed from the car he realised that he had missed out on a race win and had been relegated to third in the final championship standings.
"For some reason I have had a fair bit of success at Brands over the seasons I've raced there. In 1997 I won there in Formula Vauxhall Junior Class and in 2000 I came into the Lotus Sport Championship in the final couple of races and won them both. Last year I was leading until I was punted off the track. So, apart from that result here last year, it is fair to say that I like the circuit. Like Knockhill I can't wait to get back in the car, the Brands Indy circuit is short and twisty which produces competitive grids that are often within a second from pole to 30th place. I think our Honda Accord's will struggle against the others, as the improvements they have made will show up a lot at Brands with the track being so short and twisty. My car is probably the oldest out there so I'm just going to go out there and give it heaps. For the races I hope to get some reasonable results to give the entire team a boost and to say thanks for all the hard work! Most of all though, I have got to get out of minus points before the end of the season!"
Jim Edwards is also a man on a mission at Brands Hatch, "I will be going out and trying for all I am worth to secure that third place finish behind James Kaye and Norman Simon in the championship. If I achieve that then that will be as good as a championship win for me as Gavin Pyper and Tom Boardman are really coming on song now and they are the obvious threats to overhaul me and Spencer Marsh for third. If I can't reclaim third place and hold it to the end of the season then I will be reasonably happy to beat Spencer Marsh and be the top Honda Accord in the championship. Considering we have no set up data when we turn up to a circuit then that would be quite some achievement."
With drivers vying for championship positions this is a meeting you cannot afford to miss - be there! Remember it's a bank holiday this weekend so we will be racing on Monday and we will be delighted to see you if you are going. Please come and say hello to our drivers and have a look at the cars during the pitlane walkabout and, more importantly, give our cars a cheer as they pass you by during the race.
Sunday 25th August
10:00 British Touring Car Championship Free Practice - 40 mins 10:55 Michelin Porsche Cup Qualifying - 20 mins 11:30 Formula Renault UK Qualifying - 30 mins 12:15 British Touring Car Championship Free Practice - 40 mins 12:55 Lunch Break - 1 Hour 13:55 Heritage Grand Touring Car Challenge Qualifying - 30 mins 14:40 Senior Formula Ford Qualifying - 30 mins 15:25 British Touring Car Championship Qualifying - 43 mins 16:25 Elf Clio Renaultsport UK Cup Qualifying - 30 mins 17:15 Heritage Grand Touring Car Challenge Sprint Race - 20 Mins
Monday 26th August
09:20 Michelin Porsche Cup Race - 20 laps 10:15 Formula Renault UK Race - 33 laps 11:15 Pitlane Walkabout - 1 Hour 12:45 British Touring Car Championship Sprint Race - 25 Laps 13:40 Michelin Porsche Cup Race - 26 Laps 14:35 Heritage Grand Touring Car Challenge Endurance Race - 30 Mins 15:20 Elf Clio Renaultsport UK Cup Race - 25 Laps 16:30 British Touring Car Championship Feature Race - 40 Laps 17:30 Senior Formula Ford Endurance Race - 25 Laps