Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
Single seater ace Will Bratt will make his tin top debut in this weekend’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting at Oulton Park driving an Audi A4 prepared by Rob Austin Racing at Oulton Park. Bratt has been competing in the FIA Formula 2 championship for the past couple of seasons but now the 2009 Euroseries 3000 champion has turned his attention to Saloon Cars after a successful recent test in the car at Rockingham. Bratt will drive in the second Audi A4 which hasn’t competed since the final race of last season as driven by Chris Swanwick.
Sadly though this will be the sole Audi competing this weekend as regular driver and team boss Rob Austin explains although admits there is a positive by not driving and said, “Unfortunately I’m not able to race as my own car is still being repaired following its very big shunt at Thruxton. Will is going to be in our second car which is fully prepared to the latest 2012 specification. But I fully intend being back out for Croft and we’ve also got on top of the engine problems that we’re affecting us at Thruxton and Donington Park. In fact I’m gutted not to be racing at Oulton but, as a one-off, in some ways it might prove beneficial as it will enable me to see how they operate when normally I’d be out in the car. Plus it means I can have a beer!”
I don’t think getting him up to speed in a touring car will be any problem.
Austin admits that for now it is only a one race deal but hopes that this is the start of something and admits that he is excited by having Bratt in the car by saying, “It’s a deal just for Oulton at the moment but hopefully it’ll be the start of a longer relationship. I think he’s seen the potential of the Audi and wants to be part of the programme. I don’t think getting him up to speed in a touring car will be any problem. He’s already a very quick driver and we saw that at Rockingham where he was very good straight away. In fact I think he’s going to be very exciting.”
Also once again we will sadly be without John Thorne in his Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Insignia. Thorne has had a nightmare start to the year with drastic handling issues as well as a constant misfire.
In a recent test at Silverstone Thorne made progress with the handling front but is still suffering from that major misfire and is less than impressed with engine suppliers Swindon and said, "The team is gutted, we've worked so hard to get to the BTCC, in testing last week we managed to improve the cars handling 10 fold over the course of the day and I was starting to push the car harder and harder which is a huge improvement over Brands and Donington, but this misfire is just soul destroying.
"We come out of Maggots with 6mph more speed than we recorded at the media day then cough and splutter our way up the straight, it's a joke and frankly we've had enough. All Swindon have done is replace a coil pack, which did nothing even though we were charged for it.
"We are stuck with the engine, NGTC regulations are clear on that and our alternative engine will not be ready for this season so we have the choice either to simply withdraw for the 2012 season completely or develop our own mapping for the TOCA control engine, sadly that will take more than the couple of weeks we have before Oulton Park so we have no choice but to withdraw."
The team will now undertake a complete development process with existing and new engine and ECU partners to develop their own engine mapping in house as well as complete the re-development of other areas of the car that can be improved and come back into the championship for the second half of the season although will sadly miss the next 2 meetings both at Oulton Park this weekend and two weeks later at Croft.