UK: Matt Howson Silverstone report

PODIUM STREAK CONTINUES AT SILVERSTONE Two extremely determined and resilient drives by Matt Howson were rewarded with another pair of podium finishes in the penultimate meeting of the Formula BMW UK Championship season at Silverstone last ...

PODIUM STREAK CONTINUES AT SILVERSTONE

Two extremely determined and resilient drives by Matt Howson were rewarded with another pair of podium finishes in the penultimate meeting of the Formula BMW UK Championship season at Silverstone last weekend.

There have been times in 2005 when Howson and his Filsell Motorsport team were comfortably the fastest combination on the grid, but also occasions when the package wasn't quite on the absolute pace. Silverstone fell into the latter category, as Matt realised on the pre-race test day.

"The National layout at Silverstone is such a short track and it's not really much of a drivers' circuit, it's more about how the car is working," he said. "There are only a few corners, but a couple of them are long-constant radius bends that lead onto long straights, and they really show up any handling weaknesses.

"Unfortunately we had too much understeer and were struggling in testing and qualifying one (when Howson was only sixth), but we made some changes for qualifying two, the car worked a lot better and we took third."

All too often this year, the Formula BMW race results have been largely determined by qualifying, as overtaking proved extremely difficult on the narrower, tighter tracks. The wide expanses of Silverstone gave Howson and his rivals more room to manoeuvre, however. Matt put the extra space to good use by passing Niall Breen on the first lap, then Stian Sorlie and Nathan Antunes soon afterwards, ultimately placing him third behind points leaders Sam Bird and Dean Smith.

"Obviously it's great to come through from sixth on the grid to third," said Howson. "But in a way it's probably one of my most frustrating podium finishes ever, because the only two drivers ahead of me were the two who are ahead of me in the championship, and I didn't quite have the pace to stay with them."

In race two, the mission would be to stay ahead of Bird and Smith, as Howson had out-qualified them both. Although Matt made a great start and moved up to second, Bird's getaway was even more rapid and he attacked immediately.

"Bird got a bit of a run on me going onto the back straight, so I made sure I went to the left and defended the inside for Brooklands," said Howson. "He was alongside me but not ahead when we braked for the corner, and he just turned right in and we made very light contact that sent him spinning into the gravel.

"He was trying to do it all on the first lap, and given his championship position he really didn't need to. For Bird to actually pass me from that position would have required me to brake very early and wave him through. I went side by side through there with Dean Smith later on and there wasn't a problem.

"Even though the contact was very light, it still put my tracking out, so after that I was having to work hard to keep the car straight â^a" just to add to the excitement."

Despite this handicap, Howson was still able to hold off Smith and a number of other challengers for the entire race, and in the final stages he even closed in on leader Sorlie, finished just 1.8s behind. The result means that he still stands a remote chance of taking the championship title in the final meeting at Brands Hatch two weeks from now.

"That makes it five podiums from the last six races, which is the sort of form I wanted for the whole season," said Matt. "The championship is certainly still possible, but it's unlikely now, so I'll just try to win both races at Brands like I always try to, and let them sort out the championship behind me.

"More importantly, my aim for Brands is to get the car set-up absolutely sorted, because after the championship is over, we still have the BMW World Finals in Bahrain to look forward to in December."

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About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers Dean Smith , Sam Bird , Nathan Antunes , Stian Sorlie , Niall Breen