Team PSP earns rewards and repairs at Brands.
The short and fast Indy circuit at Brands Hatch saw fast and furious action over the Bank Holiday weekend with cars two and three abreast fighting for position in Rounds 17 and 18 of the 2002 MSA British Touring Car Championship. Grid positions were decided by hundredths of a second, underlining how competitive and close the championship has become, and how effective the success ballast system now is.
It was both points and pain for Team PSP, with points-scoring results for both Leslie and Bennett in the Sprint race and a rare DNF for Leslie in the Feature race in which Bennett finished 12th. Both cars suffered extensive body damage in both races, with the drivers expressing concern about over-robust overtaking tactics.
Free Practice & Qualifying
Both drivers found their PETRONAS-backed Proton Impians working well on the sweeping bends at Brands Hatch and once again topped the trap speeds, showing the power of the Proton four-cylinder race engines. After a trouble-free qualifying period, Phil Bennett secured 9th in the Sprint race and 12th in the Feature race, with David Leslie taking 13th and 11th-- with just .35 seconds separating him from poleman Reid on the Sprint race grid.
Leslie said:"Success in qualifying was about getting a clear track-- on such a short circuit, thirty cars leave little room for passing!"
Bennett said:"We tend to qualify in race trim so the car gets better as the race goes on-- my car is well dialled in and we're in with a shout of a good result."
Round 17-- Sprint Race
Phil Bennett bounced back from his early exit at Knockhill with a gritty drive to 7th place in the Sprint race. David Leslie survived a robust passing manoeuvre by Morrison in the Honda Civic to take 9th after gaining four places.
Once again, the Safety Car made a number of appearances following on-track indiscretions and mechanical failures. Both Team PSP drivers made good starts in the dry conditions, Bennett making up two places on the opening lap. Leslie found himself boxed in, and bided his time.
The Safety Car made its first appearance after just two laps, bunching the pack up again. The restart then set the tone for the remainder of the race as several drivers started looking for imaginary gaps, which led to a number of race cars soon developing battle scars and retirements.
Midway through the race Leslie passed Priaulx' Honda which was clearly feeling the effects of the success ballast earned at Knockhill to take 9th place. Shortly after, he was on the receiving end of a passing manoeuvre by Morrison which left the Scot's Proton Impian race car requiring new panels on the front and driver's side. The race was red-flagged on lap 26 after yet another incident, which involved both Barwell Motorsport cars.
After finishing in 9th place, David Leslie said:"I now know what a pinball feels like-- that was more like dodgems than a Touring Car race! I'm pleased to have made it to the finish but the lads at Team PSP are going to be working flat out to get my car back into its usual pristine condition. Fortunately it's cosmetic damage so hopefully we'll be in fighting trim for the Feature Race."
Phil Bennett said:"I'm delighted to have got some points for Team PSP-- my car was great and getting stronger as the race progressed. The Feature race should be interesting-- especially if the passing manoeuvres are as determined."
Round 18 - Feature Race
Both drivers made good starts, with Leslie making up several places in the opening laps. Sadly, his race was soon run after an audacious overtaking manoeuvre by Morrison in the Honda Civic at the fast Graham Hill Bend.
Leslie said:"I was flat out when Morrison tagged the rear of my car as he drifted wide. My car spun at high speed and hit the barriers very hard, wrecking the side the lads had only just repaired. This time it looks like the bodyshell has twisted. It'd be a shame if this championship were to be spoiled by over-aggressive driving-- the racing is so close we don't need this."
Phil Bennett had his own contretemps with Morrison's teammate at the same time, forcing him to visit the pits to have a damaged front grille removed. He said:"I hit the back of Priaulx's car at Clearways when he slammed the door on me. I saw the water temperature climb and made a precautionary stop."
Shortly after, the two Vauxhall drivers tangled causing the Safety Car to come out yet again. Bennett seized the opportunity to pit for his mandatory tyre change but infringed the pitlane regulations leading to a drive-through penalty. He then had a superb duel over several laps with Slight, Reid, Muller and Neal, keeping well ahead of them. He finished 12th, one lap down.
Phil Bennett said:"If it hadn't been for my unplanned pitstop, we were in a strong position to get a good result. The car was clearly very quick, matching the leaders for pace. If we can carry this through to Donington, the last race of the season should be a real humdinger."
David Wong, Team Principal, Team PETRONAS Syntium Proton said:"We raced hard and on the pace this weekend-- the team did a great job to repair the damage caused by others, and we came away with yet more points to add to our tally."