There was success for York on the track at Donington Park this weekend, but it was Vauxhall's James Thompson and not the York City Racing team taking the overall honours. Thompson held off a spirited season-long assault from teammate Yvan Muller to secure his first Touring Car Championship, with a win in the Sprint Race and 3rd place in the Feature Race at the final meeting of the season.
With early-morning queues forming from all directions it was obvious that the huge crowd were hungry for an exciting climax to the 2002 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship and the crowd of 26,500 were destined not to leave disappointed. After twenty action packed races at venues up and down the country it is obvious that the series is back on a par with what it was in the mid nineties and we at York City Racing are proud to be part of that. Next year we will step up into the premier Touring Class and race in the Independents Championship but for now we can look back with pride at a job well done in the cutthroat Production Class Championship.
A disappointing qualifying session saw Hyla pull off the track at the Old Hairpin when a warning light came on in the car. This would ultimately lead to the team deciding to withdraw his race entry as the light indicated minor damage to the engine and, rather than risk completely destroying the engine, it was decided it would be better to return it to the engine builders for repair.
His teammate, Jim Edwards Jnr, struggled with an engine misfire that saw him with the lowest speed through the speed traps and a time good enough to start from the back row of the grid alongside Steven Wood's Mitsubishi Carisma for the Sprint Race. He would sit out the qualifying session for the Feature Race as the York City Racing technicians set about rectifying the problem and he would therefore the Feature Race finale from the same position.
With Gavin Pyper and Tom Boardman breathing down his neck in the championship Jim Edwards Jnr would need to score well to retain fourth place in the championship. Starting from the back row of the grid he had no option but to abandon his policy of safe consistent driving - which had served him so well throughout the season - and replace it with one of 'maximum attack.'
A scorching start and a blistering first lap saw the Maidenhead-based driver pass Spencer Marsh, Alan Blencowe, Mark Thomas, Steve Wood, Annie Templeton, Alan Morrison and Dave Allan by the time the pack had completed the first lap and he looked set for the race of his season. However the safety car was soon out on track and when it returned to the pitlane it was obvious that Jim was starting to struggle with mechanical gremlins once again and he was re-passed by Spencer Marsh and Tom Boardman in successive laps. He regained a place when the Alfa 156 of Graham Saunders crashed heavily underneath Starkeys Bridge on lap eight, which moved him up into seventh place. After being passed by Mark Thomas on lap nine he regained the place and, despite some strong battling at the front of the pack, this is how they crossed the line.
With Gavin Pyper having moved ahead of him in the Drivers Championship after a sprint race win, Jim was determined that he would pass the Scot to reclaim fourth place in the final race of the season. Another stunning start saw Jim move from the back of the field up into seventh place but his rival had gone one better and was running one place ahead of him in the Team Dynamics Alfa 156. After passing the Peugeot of Mark Fullalove on lap seven, and the BMW of Tom Boardman on lap nine after the youngster spun off the road, Jim found himself running in fifth place.
Desperately trying to catch and pass his championship rival ahead of him he ran wide at the Old Hairpin and, as he kicked up a cloud of dust, he was slowed slightly allowing his foe to eek out a lead that he was unable to make up. Cheered across the line in fifth place by team and fans alike he was visibly delighted to have tied up fifth place in the Drivers Championship in a car that weighed significantly more than his rivals.
COMMENTS AND QUOTES
Jim Edwards Jnr: "I am delighted to have tied up fifth place in the championship for the team and its sponsors. We learned a hell of a lot over the course of this season and we are looking forward to next season where we will start off in an altogether better state than we did this time. Stuart (Isherwood) and his guys have worked miracles to move us on from last season and if they can repeat that improvement next year we really will be out to cause a few surprises."
Hyla Breese: "This weekend was going to be a bloody great one. I felt great and more at one with the car, and the handling issues that has plagued me since joining the team were rectified after the second free practice session; Neil and I sorted that out after trying some drastic changes to the toe-in's and damper settings. The front end of the car felt more alive and I could turn the car in and get on the power a lot earlier than before when front end grip was a struggle. The Donington circuit was well suited to our cars, which gave us all more confidence. Unfortunately during the first qualifying session my engine suffered a component failure (not yet known) and the oil pressure dropped so I switched off the engine to prevent a complete blow up. This turned out to be terminal and I took no further part in the car. To say that the team and I were gutted was an understatement. The whole team worked so hard to have both cars out for the last round and I feel most sorry for them."
"On a positive note, I want to thank each one of them for the top efforts and work put in at each race meeting. Without every one of them we wouldn't be able to function as a team. I'm certain John will work his magic and we will be doing something next year and everyone will be back for that and that's what I'm really looking forward to now. I think a big thanks also goes to the B&Qsi for the dedicated following throughout the season. They travel great distances and at great expense to support motorsport they love so much."
"And finally, well done Jim for a great effort this season, I know how tough it's been at times but you've kept your head down and got 5th in the Team and Drivers Championship which is a great result considering the limited recourses Team B&Q had compared to other teams. I look forward to being you team mate next year."
John B&Q: "I'm so happy! This year has been a really busy one for me and I've not spent as much time around the race team as I would have liked but to secure fifth in both the Drivers and Teams Championships is a huge reward for all the effort that everyone has put in. I was hugely disappointed to have been injured at the start of the season and it was tough to sit out the races at first but now I am getting used to it a little."
"I feel truly bad for Hyla as I know exactly what it's like to be forced to sit and watch a race that you should be competing in progress and I am determined that we will reward his faith in us by giving him a decent and reliable motor car to drive next season. I believe that I have two of the best drivers in the championship and I am looking forward to seeing them cause a few shocks next season!"