Peter Cate's return to the British Touring Car Championship, as a temporary replacement for the injured John B&Q, was supposed to have been a low key affair, but it was clear shortly after the pitlane opened for the start of free practice that he...
Peter Cate's return to the British Touring Car Championship, as a temporary replacement for the injured John B&Q, was supposed to have been a low key affair, but it was clear shortly after the pitlane opened for the start of free practice that he had different ideas. Having set aside the first session of free practice to familiarise himself with the car, he responded to the sight of the large B&Q flag that had been erected by fans opposite the end of pitlane by gunning his new mount around the Hampshire circuit at warp-speed and trading times with the teams lead driver, Jim Edwards Jnr, during the second session.
Once the serious business of qualifying had begun, the challenge continued, with the two Team B&Q Jet York City Racing cars continually trying to outdo each other. After an immensely frustrating debut season in 2001, the team personnel were unprepared for this and smiling faces were evident as both cars ran in and out of pitlane as improvements were made to their setup. And smiling faces were much in evidence in the Cate camp as he out qualified his more experienced team-mate by two places for the sprint race, and then found himself one place behind for the feature race, the pair separated by just 0.006 of a second.
"The car was very badly balanced during the qualifying session, compared to free practice, and I was suffering with large amounts of oversteer. The problem was the change from wide track to narrow track wheel rims between the sessions. Nonetheless I am delighted with what we were able to achieve today, especially as it was the first time I have driven this type of car for almost a year", said Cate after returning to the pits.
Peter was also blocked by Tom Boardman on his second flying lap, "he just backed right off in front of me after running a hot lap and dived into the pits! I had nowhere to go but into his bumper - it's not the kind of tactic I'd expect at this level."
* Sprint Race
Peter Cate sprinted into an early lead - the first time that a Team B&Q car has led a BTCC race - as the competition were caught napping when the lights changed quickly from red to green. Slotting into third place through Allard, he was able to power through Goodwood and take the lead ahead of Gavin Pyper and James Kaye into the fearsome Church corner. "I was looking for more Production runners ahead but I couldn't see any!" he smiled.
Whilst Peter was battling it out at the front, Jim Edwards was suffering with an ill-handling car in the midfield, "I took the decision that a solid finish was to be my best route to take as it was frantic ahead, and with a car that was not to my liking I felt sure that I would have been bundled out of the way."
With his lack of power coming out of the slow corners it was always a matter of time before Peter's car dropped back and, sure enough, he found himself slowly being passed by faster cars, his cause not helped when he was hit from behind by the touring class Astra of ex-bike racer, Aaron Slight. "I think we raised a few eyebrows but I knew it was just a matter of time before the more powerful cars just out dragged me." Peter defended resolutely and it appeared he would be able to hold onto third place ahead of Spencer Marsh, until a determined Mark Fullalove raced past him into the Chicane. "I was amazed at the power of the Peugeot considering it's supposed to have been pegged back this year, but I just stuck to his boot lid and when he made a mistake and ran wide out of the Complex, I was able to dive through to retake the place, but he retaliated and in doing so he hit my car, damaging the suspension and dropping me back."
A sixth place finish for Cate, on his debut, and a seventh place finish for team leader, Edwards, was fair reward for the team's efforts. Race results remain provisional as Mark Fullalove, who eventually finished one place ahead of Peter, may be penalised for passing under yellow flags during the race; if this happens it will see Cate move up to fifth.
* Feature Race
With Jim starting in eight place, and Peter in ninth, a quick getaway were going to be needed if they were to stand a realistic chance of success in the feature race. However, with the rolling start making it difficult to gain an advantage, hopes were not high. As the pack entered Noble for the first time, touring class driver Tom Chilton spun causing chaos and collecting Spencer Marsh. Both Jim and Peter held their Hondas over to the left hand side of the track and managed to squeeze through the carnage, emerging in second and third place. As the duo approached Church for the first time, Peter was able to make a daring pass of his team mate and set about catching the leader, Alan Blencowe, who he was reeling in on the fast stretches.
As the field approached the Chicane, at the end of an eventful first lap, the safety car was deployed to enable rescue crews to clear up the wreckage of the Chilton and Marsh cars. When it returned to the pitlane several laps later, the Team B&Q Jet York City Racing cars were able to continue to run in second and third places until Cate eventually spun off the track at over 100mph entering Noble. Initially it was thought that something had broken on the right rear wheel, which was hit by Slight in the sprint race, but after extensive checks in pitlane it was found that a small oil leak had developed and so this was rectified, new tyres were bolted on, and the car sent back into the race, albeit four laps down by this point
Team leader, Jim Edwards Jnr, meanwhile had ordered changes to be made to his car between the two races and was now able to run at a much more competitive pace. With team boss, John B&Q, frantically pacing up and down at the Chicane, he was able to demonstrate that it was not just his new team mate who could run with the leaders. As the race went on he was pushed harder and harder for third place by the Alfa 156 of Graham Saunders but, having taken a steady approach during the first half of the race, his tyres were in better condition and he was able to hold him off and bring the car home third after a fine battle.
* Comments And Quotes
John B&Q: "We have some fine sponsors in B&Q and Jet, but I think I am going to approach Silk Cut - after the stress that my drivers put me through this weekend I think it would be a good tie-up! Being forced to sit on pit wall and watch your car being raced by a replacement driver is an absolute nightmare. Usually the pressure builds up over the course of the weekend, but this is released when I'm belted into the car and leave pitlane on Sunday afternoon. This week though there was all the usual pressure, but no release. However, when Pete led the field at the end of the first lap I could almost have gotten used to life as a team manager, I was so proud of the whole team, and to see the fans on the other side of the circuit jumping and waving was worth it all."
"The feature race though was almost unbearable! To have your cars running in tandem makes for great photos, but it doesn't do my heart rate any good at all - especially when they start racing each other for position. I know that I got through two packets of cigarettes during that race, but I couldn't tell you what happened during the race itself, as I was too scared to watch! Superb stuff though - the results at the last two meetings make up for the whole of last season and I look forward to Silverstone where we aim to move Jim further up the drivers points table. We have definitely arrived!"
Jim Edwards Jnr: "I was delighted to visit the podium once more at Thruxton, this really is a habit I'm getting used to again. I struggled during most of the weekend unable to find a balance that enabled me to attack what is an exhilarating and challenging circuit, but I will be back at Silverstone in three weeks and I intend to make it three different steps of the podium in three meetings!"
Peter Cate: "All in all a good weekend for me and the team - very happy to be back doing what I do best and very grateful to John and the team for giving me the chance. It is a desperate shame about the feature race result, but that's motor racing, and at least Jim was able to pick up another podium position for the team. Having been involved with the team for some time now I am obviously well aware of their fantastic supporters, but it wasn't until I hit the track that I realised just what an impact they have on a driver's performance - I'd like to thank them all for their support and encouragement over this weekend."
"I don't know if I'll be driving at Silverstone or if John will be recovered, but either way I suspect this particular car won't be as competitive there compared to Jim's, simply because there are even more slow corners where it really shows it's age, but you can be sure that whatever happens, it will make entertaining viewing!"