BTCC: Sibsport Oulton Park race notes

BLANCKLEY SHOWS FORM DURING MIXED WEEKEND AT OULTON It was a case of what might have been for Simon Blanckley last weekend as a strong performance was marred by misfortune during rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car ...


It was a case of what might have been for Simon Blanckley last weekend as a strong performance was marred by misfortune during rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Oulton Park.

The weekend started well for sibsport, with Blanckley steadily improving his pace during the two practice sessions on Saturday at a circuit he had only raced at once before - and that was on the shorter version of the track which isn't the configuration used this season by the BTCC.

As rain threatened, qualifying saw everyone scramble out onto the track to try and achieve a lap in the dry before the constant threat of rain could take effect. In the event, however, the showers never came but consistently better times during his early laps showed promise. Half way through qualifying the team elected to change the front tyres of the sibsport Honda Integra on to a set of scrubbed slicks, which proved to be an excellent decision. Blanckley went out again to try and improve and, on his 17th lap, he drove a storming on-the-limit lap to record his best grid position of the year - 15th. This lap was 0.7 of a second faster than any previous lap he had produced in the session and both the Durham driver and the sibsport team were delighted.

Blanckley struggled at the start of the first race of the day on Sunday - round 13 of the season - and was overtaken by the hard charging Tom Onslow- Cole (BMW) into the first corner. By the end of the first lap he had dropped a further position to 17th behind Martyn Bell (BMW). For the fans, as well as Blanckley and Bell, this would prove to be a thrilling, race long battle. With various accidents happening ahead, Blanckley found himself moving up to 15th when the battle intensified between the 39 year old and Bell's BMW. On lap eight, Blanckley attempted a move at the first corner Old Hall but just wasn't close enough to make it stick. Blanckley's motivation to pass Bell became greater when they were joined by Chris Stockton (Lexus) in the dogfight, so Blanckley tried again, coming agonisingly close twice on lap 11. However, Blanckley finally got a better run on the BMW on lap 12 out of the last corner and overtook going into Old Hall in a committed, assertive move that saw Bell run wide on to the grass before returning to the track. Blanckley then settled down for the remaining laps, crossing the finish line in the 15 lap race in 12th position, following more incidents ahead.

With the weather indifferent, the team took the decision to stick with a wet weather set up for round 14 as the track had failed to dry significantly following a period of dry weather after heavy rain. Blanckley lost traction off the line and dropped a few positions, but as David Pinkney (Alfa-Romeo) made a fast start from further back on the grid and attempted to pass Blanckley on the outside, the two touched and locked their front wheels together, sending Blanckley onto the verge to the left of the track close to the barrier. He retired on the spot with a smashed wheel rim, broken suspension and damaged steering.

With the sibsport car deemed to be in a safe position for the race to continue, the team suffered as a result as the car could not be returned to the garage until the end of the race - meaning around 20 minutes of repair time was lost, which would prove costly.

Despite a frantic effort from the team to repair the suspension and steering for round 15, as Blanckley toured round on the formation lap, the first time he tried to turn the car left it went straight on. With the track classified as live, the team couldn't get down to the car to fix the problem, so Blanckley didn't make it to the grid.

Simon Blanckley - Owner/driver

"It was an active weekend to say the least! The battle with Bell in the first race was really great and had I got a better start I'm sure we would have been in the points because our lap time were comparable with Gareth Howell, who finished 10th. The second race accident was a racing incident but fortunately the damage to our car wasn't as bad as it could have been. The team did a great job, given the lack of time, to repair the car for the final race of the day but unfortunately the car didn't want to turn left!

"We didn't get the results this weekend but our pace is getting better and better, which is the most positive thing."

Graham Hathaway - Team Manager

"I was really proud of the lads today. They worked their socks off to try and get the car out for race three and the issue involving the steering rack was unfortunate - we just ran out of time. Had we got the car back sooner - and as a result had more time - the car would have been out performing for the third race."

-credit: sibsport

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Series BTCC