The Peugeot 406 Coupès may not have been quite as quick as the Vauxhall Astras at the first few rounds of the 2001 British Touring Car Championship, but during the first night race of the season (the sprint) at Silverstone, the coupes were on the bootlids of the Astras. A major step forward for the team and a sign of things to come.
"I always knew that my first season in the BTCC would be tough, as it usually is for an up and coming driver, but faced with the prospect of developing a brand new car and not even getting to drive it until three weeks before the first race made my job even more daunting.
As we overcame the small initial teething problems, the next task was to get the car on the pace of the Vauxhalls. With the lack of testing time, this was to be no easy task as every qualifying session and race was basically used to get a result as well as a test session. We had to take major gambles on setting the car up, sometimes they worked and others they didn't.
Every time the car has turned a wheel from the first test it has gone quicker and quicker and the team has done a magnificent job. Unfortunately we have been marred by external problems such as tyre blow-outs at Thruxton, which was a big set back as we failed to score any points that weekend.
The Vauxhalls are still the cars on the pace however at the last round at Silverstone we qualified within 8/10s of pole position, which on a circuit of over 2 miles long is the closest we've been to date. During the race Steve and myself could match their pace.
It's certainly not been easy over the first 8 rounds, but when you're working with professionals such as Team Manager Vic Lee and my team mate Steve Soper there is never a stone left unturned which makes it a lot easier and I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel. The development of the car is going well and over the next couple of rounds I can see us taking some top three positions.