Tough Times For Tech-Speed At Thruxton
The GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed team endured a difficult weekend at Thruxton as the high-speed Hampshire circuit played host to the third round of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.
Widnes-racer Paul O’Neill and Guernsey-based team-mate John George had gone into the weekend optimistic of challenging for points finishes at the wheel of their Chevrolet Cruzes, but ultimately came away from the weekend empty handed as those cars running NGTC-specification turbo engines dominated proceedings.
Paul went into the weekend on the back of five top ten finishes in six starts, but was only able to qualify 13th on the grid, despite the fact that his time was virtually identical to the best time set at Thruxton last season by defending champion Jason Plato when he had been at the wheel of the Chevrolet.
Off the start, Paul held position but then spent much of the race stuck behind the BMW of Rob Collard, which in turn allowed the Vauxhall of Tony Gilham to close behind. Although he briefly got up to twelfth ahead of Collard, Paul would drop back behind both the BMW and Gilham’s Vectra to 14th although a puncture for Plato in the closing laps saw Paul climb back to 13th at the finish.
A series of changes to the car and a strong start to race two saw Paul climb up into ninth place on the opening lap and he soon set about chasing the works Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall in the fight for eighth, before he was demoted to tenth by Plato as he worked his way through the field from the back of the grid. A spin for Collard’s BMW ahead moved Paul back up to ninth and he looked set to benefit from the reverse grid for the final race until the closing laps when a gearbox issue allowed both Tom Boardman and Gilham to get ahead and demote him down to eleventh.
Paul held position at the start of race three before a heated battle with Collard and Jeff Smith, which saw the trio swap positions on numerous occasions in the space of three laps. When the Safety Car was deployed for an incident involving Tom Chilton, Paul found himself in tenth place but on lap eleven, he was shuffled back down the pack as Collard, Tom Onslow-Cole and Smith all got ahead as he started to suffer from understeer.
With Andy Neate’s turbo-powered Ford also driving by before the finish, Paul took the chequered flag in 14th. While that meant he was unable to score a top ten finish over the course of the weekend, Paul remains inside the top ten in the overall championship standings and maintains his fifth place in the Independents title race.
“I was pleased in qualifying to match the time Jason did in the car last season as that is what I have to aim for, although it was frustrating that it was only good enough for 13th on the grid given the pace of the turbos,” he said. “As a team, we go out there to do our best in every session but I don’t feel I got the best from the car this weekend. I hold my hands up to that, but mark my words, there will be no repeat at Oulton Park and I’ll be going there to grind out the best results I can for everyone who has worked so hard to put this programme together.
“I genuinely though we would be fighting for the podium this weekend and without the gearbox problem towards the end of race two, I would have got the reverse grid and things might have been different in race three. However, we just have to put Thruxton firmly behind us and after the bad luck we’ve had in recent races, put all our focus into coming out fighting at Oulton Park next month.”
Team-mate John qualified 18th in the sister car having improved his pace throughout the Saturday sessions and a trouble free run in the opening race saw him take the chequered flag in 17th position.
A heated battle with the West Surrey Racing-run BMW of Nick Foster ended with John finishing the second race of the weekend in 15th place although he lost time to the rest of the field at the start of race three after becoming stuck behind the Chevrolet Lacetti of Chris James. Having got ahead of he Chevrolet, John closed onto the rear of the field when the Safety Car was deployed and then battled his way ahead of Foster’s BMW to take the chequered flag in 16th.
“The car didn’t miss a beat all weekend and the team did a fantastic job as always,” he said. “We made some set-up changes after the first race which meant the car was totally different for races two and three and my times came down as a result, but the speed traps show how much all the normally aspirated cars were losing out to the turbos.
“I was able to keep the BMW behind me in race two and race three which was the big positive from the weekend and we’ll keep doing the best job we can.”
Following the weekend, GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed sit seventh in the HiQ Teams Championship and fifth in the Independents’ Team Trophy ahead of the fourth round of the year at Oulton Park next month.
“Thruxton was a difficult weekend,” Tech-Speed team boss Marvin Humphries said. “We worked hard on set-up but the cars were a bit nervous around the quick parts of the lap and Thruxton is a circuit where you need the car set-up perfect to really push to the maximum. We also need to work on making the car better over the kerbs as we were losing out at the chicane, which then compromised our speed at the start of the lap. However, we know there is improvement to come as we continue to find things with the Chevrolet.
“On a circuit like Thruxton, it’s more difficult to defend against a turbo car than it is to defend against a normally aspirated car and Paul lost out there, but John did well against Foster in the final two races of the weekend.
“Overall, we didn’t get the kind of results we were hoping for from the weekend, but we’ll work hard on putting that right at Oulton Park.”