Rollercoaster Weekend For Team ES Racing at Donington Park
An incident packed weekend at Donington Park for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship ended with a positive result as Luton-based Chris James and the Team ES Racing squad secured twelfth place in the final race of the weekend.
Heading in to the qualifying session the team was in a positive mood after making a leap forward from the first session of the day, improving by nearly 1 and a half seconds.
Red flags flew early in the session after Mat Jackson ended his session in the gravel trap after avoiding a slower car through the Old Hairpin, soon after the restart Andy Neate spun at the Craner curves knocking the advertising hoardings on to the track, stopping the session once again.
James' session would end shortly after the restart after contact with Tom Boardman pitched him in to a spin with damaged suspension, ending the session and leaving the team with the job of getting the car race ready.
Summing up qualifying for the team James said: "Qualifying, what qualifying!? To say it was a joke in an understatement! With the two red flags & the Tom Boardman incident we did not get the chance to put one single flying lap in. What happened with Tom Boardman was crazy & unfortunate to say the least. After a discussion in the paddock Tom & I shook hands and agreed put it behind us. No-one wants damage, and at that speed it could have been a lot worse."
A solid job by the small team would see the car race-ready on Sunday morning. "Thankfully the team put in a great effort to get the car fixed by the end of Saturday. We did have to run with what should have been a front damper on the rear, but at least we were out" explained James.
Starting from 22nd place James went in to the first race with an uphill challenge, a confident drive would bring home the Chevrolet Lacetti in 17th place. "I had a reasonable start to the race" explained James. "I didn't realise until seeing footage afterwards that Tony Hughes & I briefly touched, I was focusing more on what was going on 2 or 3 cars ahead, where John George was spinning. Luckily I managed to get through unscathed & was able to continue. After the start I was able to make up a couple of places over the next few laps. From there it really became almost a test session as I had a good lead on the car behind me, but sadly was a little too far off the car in front to challenge. I just stroked the car home, trying to keep tyres & engine temperatures down. This was another finish and more independent points for the team."
Race 2 would prove to be exciting for both James and fans alike, an action packed race saw championship challenger Jason Plato exit the race in spectacular fashion as he collided with another car, pitching him off the circuit at around 100mph in to the grass banking before rolling three times, thankfully unhurt. On the restart James made his move, gaining places and setting his sights on the Chevrolet Cruze of John George. Another incident would bring out the safety car, closing up the field once again. The restart would see Frank Wrathall attack James in to Redgate, despite being laps behind and not challenging for position; as a result James would lose out to Dave Newsham, but it wouldn't be the end of the race as he regained the position a few laps later, finishing the race in 14th place.
Talking about the second race James said: "I have to think hard to actually get any meaningful recollections in any order, as so much happened!! What I do remember is an appalling start; I count myself lucky that I wasn't smashed up the back at the start. The engine just bogged down & I couldn't get it moving. Once I re-grouped I got back on the tail of the pack, then there was a safety car due to the Plato incident. No-one likes to see what happened there, and I am very glad Jason was unharmed. After a long safety car I was able to get a good re-start and make up a few places, and begin to reel John George in. I was disappointed with the second safety car as it gave the people behind the chance to catch up again. I was even more disappointed with Frank Wrathall on the re-start, as when he was 10 plus laps down I am totally baffled as to why he was pushing me in to Redgate, causing me to come off & lose a place to Dave Newsham. Luckily I re-gained my composure & was able to make the place back up again. To finish 14th was a great achievement & again more points for the team."
A good start for race 3 put James in a good position to avoid the start line accident between Newsham and Hughes and the further accidents on the first corner. With the safety car out on track James was placed in 9th ready for the restart but with the NGTC cars behind James knew it would be a hard task staying in the top 10. An incident with Nick Foster would drop James down the field. A spirited drive saw the #78 Lacetti fight back up to 12th place, a brilliant result for the Team ES Racing in only their sixth race.
An excited James described his best result of his new BTCC career: "I had a much better start this time, which helped me avoid the carnage on the start. The first lap was a bit of a blur, as all I can remember really was having to find gaps between spinning cars & being on the brakes when I shouldn't have been. The great start I made combined with other people falling off moved me up to 9th position under the safety car. I had a relatively good re-start, but knowing I had turbo cars behind me, it was always going to be hard to hold on to a top 10 place. This became even harder when Nick Foster used me as brakes and rails in to the chicane on our first flying lap. Rubbing is racing for sure, but using someone for brakes is something a 5 year old could do!! Being in a rear wheel drive car I wouldn't have thought he'd appreciate the favour being returned, what is it "what goes around comes around", is that right? Never-the-less I was able to keep the car on the track and hold a few places. To finish 12th was amazing. In only our second ever BTCC event we managed to not only finish all 3 races again, 6 in a row now, but to move forward every single time."
Summing up the weekend said: "The weekend overall was a mixture of emotions. I was frustrated in FP1 as after scrubbing in tyres for the weekend we went out on "carry over" tyres that were useless & stopped me from putting any times in. Qualifying went even worse, where the damage I obtained nearly ended the weekend. But after that things improved. I was able to keep the car straight, well apart from being used as brakes in the third race, & was able to improve results in each race. To finish 17th, 14th & 12th in only our second round is amazing. We are learning more about the car at each event, but still have had so little time in the car. I want to thank my team for all of their efforts. I also want to thank the hundreds of amazing supporters we've gained who visited me in the paddock, and posted good luck wishes online. Without my family, team & supporters this wouldn't be worth doing!"
-source: team es racing