ANOTHER STRONG WEEKEND AT ROCKINGHAM FOR JAMES NASH
Lining up 12th on the grid for race one of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham, James' target was simple - to collect as many points as possible and use to full advantage the awesome pace of the Chevrolet Lacetti that has dominated the headlines over the second half of the season.
As the race got underway, James instantly engaged in a fearless battle with current championship leader, Colin Turkington and ex-F1 hero, Johnny Herbert. An impressive display of quick thinking saw James run around the outside of turn one as a first lap incident with Matt Neal and Johnny Herbert threatened carnage.
Half a lap into the race and James had already positioned himself in 11th place, ahead of Turkington and as the laps unfolded, James' feisty yet controlled charge continued. Closing in on Shedden, the RML driver made light work of passing the SEAT and targeted VXR's Andrew Jordan. Piling the pressure on Jordan as the Lacetti raced nose to tail with the Vauxhall, the duo locked brakes allowing Turkington to close in and menace the action. Unfazed by the three-way fight James now found himself in, he continued to demonstrate great race pace and raced door-to-door with Jordan, just looking to have the edge until all three ran wide at Deane hairpin and James tucked back in behind the Vauxhall.
An unexpected engine hiccup from the Lacetti, caused by running close to the Vauxhall's exhaust, on lap 15 resulted in James' slower exit out of the turn. Turkington hit James' rear bumper before spinning out to rejoin further down the field. Holding his focus, James kept the car on the track and took the chequered flag in a respectable points-scoring 8th place.
Race two was equally as eventful for James as he again clawed his way through the pack from 8th place on the grid. Losing a place to Paul O'Neill off the line, James' first objective was to pass Jordan, which came on the second lap. A brief stint with the safety car delayed any passing action until the race was once again underway on lap six. A great restart placed James right on the tail of O'Neill and with the latter running wide and off track by lap 8, James was up to P7. Collecting more well-earned championship points, James took the flag in 7th position, just behind Stephen Jelley.
The reverse grid saw James start 3rd for race three, with Tom Chilton on pole and Andrew Jordan starting 2nd, making him the highest placed Chevrolet and clear of any BMWs ahead. James couldn't respond to Jelley's BMW launch off the line, but by the first turn, James had regained momentum and the Lacetti powered him through back into 3rd place.
By lap 7 James was in a championship sandwich, with Turkington ahead and Giovanardi behind. Resisting all pressure from the more experienced championship giants, James clung to the back of Turkington's BMW as the slower paced Ford of race leader, Chilton, backed the pack up creating a train effect.
From lap 9 Racing Silverline's Jason Plato had passed Giovanardi and was closing in on James. Respectful racing between the pair ensured a clean, fair pass from Plato which placed James in 6th but he stayed right up there with the leading group. All was looking good for a third points-scoring finish to add to his collection.
Disappointingly for James and the RML team, his race ended prematurely on lap 13, as Plato and Turkington collided ahead. Making contact with Turkington, Plato's Lacetti forced the BMW into a half spin mid track. As the pair attempted recovery, James, who had been closing in on the squabbling duo had limited room with traffic around him. Taking avoiding action, James tried to run around Plato but as they went three abreast, James and Plato made contact which pushed the number 23 Lacetti into a half spin and James ran across the track. Limping home with a deflated tyre and too much damage to continue, James' final race of the day ended in the pits.
Summarising his weekend at Rockingham, James said, "Obviously I'm disappointed with how race three ended. Until the collision between Colin, Jason and myself which ended my race, I'd been running well and enjoyed some good racing with the RAC BMWs and Giovanardi. I was hopeful of another top six finish.
All in all, it's been a challenging weekend. From qualifying I was a little disappointed to be 12th. The pace was there but I just couldn't string my best sector times together over one lap. I was two tenths off 6th position in qualifying, which would have been easier to deal with on this track. It's very abrasive and ruins the tyres, which then means there's no grip.
In race one I didn't get the best start, so dropped back a couple of places and was forced to run wide out of turn one to avoid any trouble. I saw Matt and Johnny tangle in my mirrors so was relieved to make it round unscathed. From there I just did the best I could, keeping the pressure on Andrew because I knew I had better pace. But his exhaust fumes got in my engine intake which meant I was slower on exit out of the corner and lost a little ground to the Vauxhall.
Then race two was good. I passed Andrew early in the race and was challenging Paul when he out braked himself and ran off track. I pulled away and got on the back of Stephen, but my tyres didn't last as long as his so he managed to pull away.
Again I finished in the points, in 6th position which I am pleased with. And finally race three was looking good and I would have been happy with another top six finish, but it wasn't to be.
I've just not felt completely at one with the car or track all weekend, unlike at Snetterton and Silverstone. Given all of the challenges this weekend, I am pleased with my two top eight finishes and again I gave it my all to get them. Plus I enjoyed some great racing at the sharp end with the VXRs and RAC BMWs."