July 26, 1998 Snetterton - Rounds 15 & 16 Norwich, Norfolk UK Ford Mondeo Racing bagged more championship points as the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship season reconvened at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk. The day's results put Baird right with team-mate Nigel Mansell in the points table and lifted Ford back to sixth in the manufacturers' championship, with a total of 86 points. Both Saturday qualifying sessions were plagued by a lack of straight line speed, which affected Will Hoy more than team-mate Craig Baird. The resulting grid positions gave neither driver great hopes of success for the following day and provided a focus for investigation, for engineers studying the cars' telemetry. Will Hoy summed up the team's feeling: "It's been an unexpectedly bad day really - we came here with very high hopes. It's a circuit which has suited us in the past and we know our dry performance has improved greatly in recent races, so we expected to be right up there. We're so slow through the speed traps, we'll have to look at the data in detail to see what's gone wrong." By the time round 15 lined up on the grid - with Baird and Hoy in 11th and 13th places respectively - the Mondeos' lack of straight-line speed was still a mystery, as the team decided it required detailed investigation using the telemetry data. The drivers tried their best to remedy the situation with a display of hard driving from the lights. Both made places on their first lap, before settling into a battle with John Cleland and Derek Warwick for top ten points. Hoy finished eighth, for three more points, with Baird just three seconds behind in 11th place, only forced out of the top ten by a brake problem. The Feature Race was Baird's chance to shine, his driving talent now clearly adapting to the alien front-wheel-drive formula. Starting in 12th place, he was soon up to ninth, before progressing to second during the pit-stop shuffle. After another quick service from the Ford Mondeo Racing Rapid Fit pit crew, he was back out in sixth place, which he kept to the chequered flag, notching up the best result of his rookie BTCC season. Will Hoy was still troubled by his straight-line speed problem, but fought up to a hard-earned eighth place from a lowly 17th on the grid, also achieved with the assistance of a slick pit-stop. "My first couple of laps were great", said the New Zealander, buoyed by his best Mondeo race to date. "We made some changes to the car after the first race and they really seemed to work. I got up a couple of places, then the safety car bunched us all up again and a couple of guys tangled ahead of me, before I got past Kox at the Bomb Hole. It's good to have some more points under my belt - you get one good result and you have confidence to progress from there." Will Hoy was less impressed with his Mondeo's performance, but pleased with his result: "It's the hardest race I've ever driven - the lack of speed in the straights was so bad sometimes it felt like the handbrake was on! I really had to push hard through the corners to stay ahead, but then I just settled into a rhythm to conserve the tyres to the end and keep my place. It's definitely the best result we could have had on the day. We haven't solved the speed problem yet, but have a couple of theories, which we have to work on in more detail before Thruxton." Team principal Dick Bennetts was also encouraged by the results. "I'm very pleased for Craig", he said. "He's definitely on the right track now and with a seventh in the warm up it's been an encouraging weekend for him. We will be working to resolve the speed problem in testing before the next race. It requires more detailed analysis than we could do at a circuit, as we changed most things we could here with no real effect." The Ford Mondeo Racing team now faces a fast turnaround, as they prepare for the next two rounds of the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship, at Thruxton, next weekend (August 2).
Added: 28/07/1998 06:41
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