DOYLE CLIMBS BTCC INDEPENDENTS POINTS TABLE AT OULTON
In-Tune Racing's Michael Doyle once again produced performances far exceeding the capabilities of his aging Honda Civic Type R during the seventh event of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Oulton Park yesterday, Sunday, 27th July, in front of a huge 30,000 strong crowd.
The 21-year-old Scotsman, from Gartocharn on the banks of Loch Lomond, has raised a lot of eyebrows so far during his maiden year of BTCC action and over the weekend at Oulton Park's Island Circuit he was on great form to climb the Independents Trophy table.
Finishing round 19 as the ninth best Independent runner and then securing an eighth place Independents result in round 21, Michael has risen to 13th place in the class standings while also securing enough points to lift his family-led, Glasgow-based In-Tune Racing squad into the top 10 of the Team Trophy.
"We've had a pretty good weekend and, as always, it's been a pleasure working with the guys from the team who did me proud", said Michael, "We raced well and I think we proved once again how we deserve our place in the BTCC."
Qualifying with the 18th fastest time of 1m 29.928 seconds (89.11mph), at the start of the first of the weekend's three races, Michael got away well and moved into 16th place before taking 15th position from the BMW 320si of Rob Collard at the hairpin.
Dicing hard for much of the race with Harry Vaulkhard's Chevrolet Lacetti and, latterly, the works Vauxhall Vectra of former champion Matt Neal, Michael came home in 16th place overall -- less than seven 10ths of a second shy of Neal at the chequered flag.
Race two wasn't as joyous for the In-Tune squad when serious damage to the left-rear wheel on the Honda resulted in an eventual retirement just a couple of laps from the finish.
Starting 16th on the grid, he made progress yet again and into lap two was running in 14th position. Unfortunately, a small mistake under braking into Old Hall forced Michael wide, spinning the car on the exit of the turn and enforcing contact with the barriers.
Recovering to run at the tail of the field, Michael soldiered on while becoming increasingly aware of a problem which prevented him from turning right. Even so, he remarkably lapped at a consistently good pace before the problem gained severity.
Closer inspection by the team after Michel pitted revealed the left-rear wheel had almost broken away completely from the car with damage to the suspension and entire wheel assembly. The team did an outstanding job to get the car repaired in time for race three.
Lining up 16th on the grid, he ran well during the opening lap and then did brilliantly to emerge from chaos at Knickerbrook Chicane on lap one in 11th position. Scything his way past several stricken front-runners, the young Scot ran comfortably -- following a short Safety Car period -- until lap seven when Collard forced him wide at Lodge Corner.
Recovering onto the track after the contact, Michael raced hard and managed to fend off 2008 title contender and former champion Jason Plato for a while before succumbing on lap 11. Slipping to 13th place, that's where he remained to the flag. Impressively, he also lapped within one second of the times being done by race winner Gordon Shedden.
"Hats off to everyone in the team for getting the car turned around in time for race three after the problems we had in the second one, they did a fantastic job", said a grateful Michael, "The weekend didn't start too good, we tried some different things for the second practice and then put in some reasonable times in qualifying.
"The races were good in the main. In the second one I made a blinding start but the spin at Old Hall was a real shame. I stood on the brakes a bit too hard as they were new and I ended up hitting the barriers. As the race went on the car got progressively worse at turning right until it reached the point where it wouldn't turn right at all!"
He added: "To finish just one second off the pace of the first three drivers in a car that's five years old is exceptional in our eyes. We're really pleased with the performance we've shown again. My best lap was actually only nine 10ths of a second off the quickest done by (Fabrizio) Giovanardi -- that's a good feeling!"
Scottish homecoming just three weeks away for BTCC ace Doyle Next up on the BTCC calendar is the biggest event of the year for Michael and the In-Tune Racing team as the championship makes its annual visit to Scotland. Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2008 campaign will take place three weeks from now over the weekend 16th/17th August at Knockhill Circuit in Fife.
"We can't wait for Knockhill, it's going to be huge for us and we're going to be giving it our all to achieve our best results of the season", said Michael, "We're planning to have plenty of guests there and hopefully we'll have some potential sponsors there too as we're trying to secure further backing to help carry the team through into the 2009 championship."
In the meantime, television highlights of this weekend's action from Oulton Park will be shown on ITV1 at 01.50 late tonight, Monday, 28th July, with additional screenings broadcast during the coming week on Freeview, cable and digital satellite channels ITV4 and Men & Motors. Please check listings for additional information.