Lea Wood and his Houseman Racing squad battled through a tough season-opening British Touring Car Championship weekend at Brands Hatch as they focussed on getting to grips with their new Toyota Avensis.
Wood has switched to the Avensis for 2014 following the cessation of the S2000 class in which he claimed last year’s Jack Sears Trophy. Thanks to the support of Rob Houseman and his other backers, Wood has been able to remain in the popular tin-top series, but the adoption of a brand new machine meant the Brands Hatch event would prove a very steep learning curve.
Focussing on mileage in free practice, Wood began working down his lap times to eventually take 24th on the bumper 30-car grid for Sunday morning’s opening race.
Wood racked up more important miles in race two, though ultimately he would not secure his second finish of the day. Again starting from the pit-lane, he continued to gather data on the Avensis before a final-lap steering column breakage ended his race just short of the chequered flag.
The weekend’s third and final race would prove less fruitful, as an issue with the rear of the car, coupled with the continuing clutch problem, led Wood to retire early on safety grounds. Nevertheless, the team left the Kent circuit with renewed optimism for the season ahead.
Lea Wood: “Given the lack of running we had in the new car, this weekend was always going to be something of a glorified test session. With that in mind, I’m pleased to have completed two race distances and brought the car home in one piece. The lap times were competitive too, so there’s definitely reason to be optimistic.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to my sponsors, supporters and the whole Houseman Racing team for a great effort this weekend. We can now head to Donington with a lot to be positive about and hopefully start getting the most out of the Avensis.”
Wood and the Houseman Racing squad will be targeting further progress with their new car when the BTCC returns to action at the Leicestershire venue on 19/20 April.