By Pat Cranham - BTCC reporter
As well as Silverstone hosting the official unveiling of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship it was also the scene for the first and only official test of the season giving the teams the first opportunity to get on the track with the entire field.
The test caused some interesting results with two Vauxhall Vectra’s setting the pace both fitted with TOCA’s Swindon powered Turbo NGTC engine.
It was Andrew Jordan for Pirtek Racing who posted the fastest time of the 4-hour test although for sure a number of teams and drivers were trying out a number of options including running with and without weight.
We’ve shown a lot of promise and all the hard work over the winter has paid off.
Current champion Jason Plato admitted prior to the test he would be part of what he expected a number of teams would do, in his words “be playing various games.” Jordan also admitted that the test didn’t count of too much and said, “I don’t think everybody has shown their true pace today, but hopefully we can continue this good strong run into Brands Hatch when the real stuff starts. We won’t read too much into today’s times, but it’s certainly nice and I would never turn it down. I think Brands Hatch will be a very hard race weekend, but we’ve shown a lot of promise and all the hard work over the winter has paid off. Hopefully we can transform that into productive races.”
Second was Tony Gilham’s pink and green machine, which he shared with teammate James Nash and it was indeed Nash who set the quickest time. This was the first time that the team had run the new engine which it had only just received hence the reason why just the one car was running. The team did however suffer an early scare in the morning when the car stopped out on track during the morning’s tracking photography.
Third quickest was Matt Neal driving the Honda Racing Civic now fitted with the all new Neil Brown engineering NGTC Turbo engine. Neal was just ahead of archrival; Plato in the S2000 engined Chevrolet Cruze although according to the sector times it was indeed the Chevrolet that was quickest through the more technical section.
Next up was a pair of Ford Focus’ with Mat Jackson for Airwaves Racing in the older spec car just ahead of the new ‘Global’ Focus belonging to Tom Chilton for Team Aon. Alex MacDowall was 7th in the second Silverline Chevrolet who ended up ahead of Gordon Shedden in the second Honda Civic after the Scot started the session late with his car still someway behind his team mates Neal in terms of development.
Paul O’Neill was 9th as he gave his new Chevrolet Cruze a first run in full Go Mobile livery with Andy Neate finishing in 10th now looking happier at the wheel of a front wheel drive touring car during his first official appearance for Team Aon.
Just outside the top 10 were BTCC rookies for 2011 Jeff Smith in the second Pirtek Racing Vectra and Liam Griffin in the other Airwaves Racing Focus. Both had held top 10 positions right up until the last 10 minutes of the session and both made full use of the session completing 99 and 90 laps respectively more than any one else.
The two Ebay sponsored WSR BMW’s were next up with Rob Collard who was still within 0.800s of Jordan’s quickest time in 13th ahead of rookie team mate Nick Foster who was 0.300 away from Collard.
Current Clio Cup Champion Dave Newsham in last years Airwaves BMW was next up for Geoff Still Racing with John George behind him, who was getting his first real taste of his new Chevrolet Cruze apart from a brief stint at Brands Hatch.
Elsewhere there were problems for several other competitors. Chris James who did not have a transponder working in his ES Racing Chevrolet spun in a cloud of engine spoke bringing out the only red flag of the session while he was recovered although he would continue later. Tom Boardman only managed a handful of laps in his Special Tuning Racing Seat all be it quite away off the pace while there was worse news for Tom Onslow-Cole following his shock move to AmD Miltek when his engine failed on his VW Golf during the morning installation lap. The team now face a race against time to repair it ready for a planned test of theirs next Tuesday.
While Tony Hughes only managed a handful of laps at slow speed over the day as he got his first running of his Speedworks Toyota Avensis. However, there was one NGTC Avensis running with former BTCC champion and Current Porsche Carrera Cup GB Champion Tim Harvey at the wheel of TOCA’s prototype Avensis.