GEARBOX PROBLEMS TAINT DOYLE'S KNOCKHILL HOMECOMING
Hometown hero Michael Doyle wasn't quite able to achieve the results he had hoped for at Knockhill Circuit in Fife yesterday, Sunday, 17th August, during the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship's annual visit to Scotland for rounds 22, 23 and 24.
The 21-year-old BTCC rookie from Gartocharn -- making his first Knockhill appearance at the wheel of his Honda Civic Type R -- saw his hopes of at least one points-scoring finish evaporate due to a recurrence of gearbox problems which have had a major bearing on his maiden touring car season to date.
"I'm a bit gutted not to get a finish here this weekend but all credit to the team, they did an exceptional job to get the car out for every session", said Michael, "Every one of them worked tirelessly every minute of the day and I can't thank them enough.
"It's great to have had such fantastic support, we had lots of friends and family here and I'm just disappointed we couldn't give them a result. We tried really hard but it wasn't to be with all the bad luck, we'll have to see what we can do at Silverstone in a fortnight."
Backed for the weekend by daily newspaper the Scottish Sun, Michael and his Glasgow based In-Tune Racing team headed into the event in buoyant mood with high hopes of delivering some strong results.
Unfortunately for Michael, his problems started in qualifying on Saturday afternoon when a coolant leak from the engine bay resulted in fluid on his tyres and an inevitable spin after just 10 laps. Even so, he still managed to out-qualify several drivers and lined up 19th on the grid for round 22 with a best time of 55.065 seconds (83.11mph).
At the start of the first of Sunday's races, Michael had a fair amount of wheel-spin but still managed to get away well and made up a couple of positions to move into 17th place ahead of the Safety Car being deployed at the start of lap two. The re-start came on lap six but as the young Scotsman battled hard with Jason Hughes, the pair made contact and both ended their involvement in the tyre barriers.
Bitterly disappointed with the outcome, the In-Tune mechanics did a tremendous job to ensure Michael's Honda was ready for round 23 and at the start, from 20th on the grid, he moved up one position before the end of the opening lap.
Embroiled in tight scrap early on with four other cars battling over the top 16, as the race approached mid-distance Michael started to slip back and at the end of lap 12 he was forced to pit with gearbox and radiator problems.
Round 24 saw Michael start at the back of the grid due to his retirement from the previous encounter. Making an outstanding getaway, the Scot gained a handful of places on the run to the first corner to move into 17th position. His terrific early progress was halted once again though when gearbox problems resurfaced.
Michael commented: "From where I was on the grid for race three I couldn't see the lights so I just watched one of the Halfords cars and when he went, I went. Some of the cars in front of me weren't away as well so I gained quite a few places.
"Down onto the back straight, I tried to take sixth gear but the computer said no! I was stuck in fifth gear on the rev limiter and so I had to back off. We made some set-up changes for the third race and the car felt a lot better handling wise. That's really the only positive we can take from the weekend.
"We're annoyed the gremlins with the gearbox have come back again, we really thought we'd sorted that out but something has obviously gone wrong again. We'll get the car back to the workshop and get it all looked at. It's been a disappointing weekend on the track but a fun one nonetheless, I want to thank everyone for their incredible support."
During the build-up to this weekend's action, Michael took part in a variety of Knockhill promotional events including an appearance in Glasgow city centre alongside regulars from the British Superbike Championship -- which competed at the Fife venue seven days ago -- and also some photo-shoots with the Scottish Sun at the track itself.
"I'd like to thank Jon Doran and the guys at the Scottish Sun for giving us extra support this weekend for our home event, we really have appreciated it and the additional exposure we've received has been invaluable alongside the fantastic support we always get from Clyde 1 radio station and the Lennox Herald", added Michael.
The penultimate race meeting of the 2008 BTCC season -- rounds 25, 26 and 27 -- will take place just a fortnight from now on 30th/31st August at Northamptonshire's Silverstone National Circuit.
Before then, highlights of this weekend's Knockhill race action will be broadcast on ITV1 at 12.35 late tonight, Monday, 18th August. Further replays of the highlights package will be screened on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channels ITV4 and Men & Motors in due course -- check listings for more details.