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David Bartrum's Blog

Motorbase BTCC, 14th April 2012, The Brands Hatch & Donington weekend

"After the hype and the build up, the Brands Hatch race weekend was one of our more interesting ones. It didn't really pan out the way we wanted it to and we were hoping for better things.

"Liam Griffin had a very good weekend and with the testing he's done over the winter he's turned a corner and he had some solid results with no real problems. Aron Smith was a star. It was obviously quite a difficult first weekend for him and he had things happen to him that were not his fault. He was hit by just about everybody. He ended up sat in the pits for the re-start of race three and the boys did a super job to turn the car round

"He had quite a big impact in race one and the boys did a great job to fix that. Unfortunately, there was a tiny little crack in the fuel rail and he had a slight misfire in race two and the car felt down on power. We tried to find it and couldn't. Dave Engwell from Mountune tried very hard to find it and he sorted it out for race three. But that didn't go well either and he was one of the people to end up in the gravel after Mat Jackson laid a bit of oil down. Mat ran through the gravel at Paddock and ripped off an oil pipe and that ended up with a car park at the top of the hill.

"Unfortunately, when you have a problem in race one you use all your time up getting the car ready for race two, there's no real forward work on the car. You're just repairing the car. So Aron never really did anything other than fight fires and drive the car as it was.

"In race three, the car was okay and he went well, but then had the off. He got back to the pits, started the restart from the pitlane and then had a pretty solid race, but he didn't get the chance to work with the car and make it better. He definitely had a good turn of speed in qualifying and showed very well and showed a great sense of character and he's a real asset to the time. We're the sort of team that suits his character.

"Mat Jackson had a P7 and a P4, which was okay. The crying shame for me was in race three when he had a magnificent start and pulled himself up into second. We knew that Rob Collard was going to go down on his tyres in six or seven laps. It would have been interesting to see how far up the road we could have gone and see how the NGTC cars fared against us.

"TOCA has done a fairly good job of trying to come up with a balance of power this year to achieve parity. But you can't beat seeing what happens on the track. I'm afraid we lost a bit of research there that we could have done with. All in all it wasn't the weekend we wanted, but it wasn't terrible. Liam and Mat have taken to Aron very well and they work as a unit.

"We then had the three-mile drive back to the workshops. But we were the last truck out of the paddock when the tail lift broke and we had to call out the man to fix it, it kind of topped our weekend off.

"We had a fair bit of damage after Brands and Ants Waller was a star in the bodyshop, not to mention the efforts by all of the Motorbase Team who really show their worth at times like this. While we were prepping the GT cars, work was going on with the touring cars and lot of things were being sorted out along with more stickering.

"We're hoping to benefit at some point from the frailties of the NGTC cars, but at the moment I'm not seeing frailty if Mr Plato is anything to go by at Brands Hatch. He rolled it out, pushed everyone off the circuit and got what he wanted in his usual style and the tank rolled on. But fair play to Triple 8 for doing what they did and getting that car to the grid in record time and to their usual high standards.”

Then on to Donington where we had hoped for much better than what Brands had delivered. Right from Friday the weekend seemed much more enjoyable. Saturday morning came round quickly & all 3 drivers settled in well. The Donington Park circuit suits our car much better and that was apparent. Qualifying was actually a little disappointing as all 3 cars lost a couple of places right at the end of the session but P6, 10 and 16 wasn't horrendous and a good place to start Sunday.

The weather held off and Mat rose to the NGTC challenge. Some absolutely fantastic driving saw our first win of the season. When he is on it no one seems to be able to touch him. Aron had a solid run but unfortunately Liams run of reliability came to an abrupt end courtesy of some over exuberant driving from others. He was really disappointed as he was looking forward to the racing last weekend. The win really went a long way to paying back everyone involved with Redstone Racing as they all put such hard work in. When its not going your way its really tough, but when everything else falls in place it reminds you why we do this job! Its an amazing feeling.

Race two went perfectly. We knew the NGTC cars were taking a while to get their tyres up to temperature so we really needed to make hay whilst the sun was shining! Mat did exactly that and got a good lead, one which I think the Honda's would have found difficult to overcome. But thanks to a coming together between Plato & Collard the safety car ruined our plans! Mat still managed a great result with 45Kgs on board. Liam however had a different race. He was going really well and caught a group of cars in front of him of which he was faster. Chris james went wide, Morgan got a bad exit from McLeans and Liam saw a gap. Adam went left to cover, forcing Liam further left just as Chris was coming back on track and the rest you saw on TV. Liam did over react but in the heat of the moment with the adrenaline pumping its difficult to keep your emotions in check. He saw it back and saw a bigger picture. He was man enough to go up to Chris and apologize for his reaction. So on to race 3

Another awesome start from Mat saw everything go to plan again and off he went with a minor mistake at the first corner and he never looked back. Aron was running well but had a thing with Andy Neate which ruined his race. He did report a slight lack of front end grip. Looking at the front of his car afterwards he kind of realised why! But he came through with another points finish. His time will come that's for sure. Liam, well he was in the wars again, and with who? None other than his new best mate Chris James! He wrestled the car home after more damage but it was a bad end to a bad weekend unfortunately for Liam, the annoying thing was he was mostly blameless, but heh, that's Motor racing.

The worst was yet to come. It was noticed on a download of the car that mats car had been over boosting. At some stage during race 3 the boost regulator failed, a very unfortunate thing but it made the car illegal. As soon as we found out we brought it to TOCA's attention well aware of what they would have to do. We wanted to show them that this was a fault and not a cheat. It was accepted that this was a component failure and we weren't doing anything untowards. We have never cheated, never will and we hate the fact that people feel they should. So in a nut shell after what was an amazing weekend we came away with only two podiums and not 3, so a bit dissapointed.

Now it's a regroup, loads of repairs on Liams and Arons cars which makes a change for it not to be Mats! A weekend off for me (I hope) which is the first in a while and then on to Thruxton. I'll be honest I'm not sure what it will bring. We expect the NGTC cars with the larger tyres to be very strong on race pace, but we'll see. Maybe we'll ask for rain, it might help. No doubt whatever happens the manufacturer drivers will bleat and moan about how their cars don't handle or are too slow in a straight line. I thought they were here to promote their brands not slag them off. If I heard any of our drivers tell ITV that one of our major investors provided a sub standard product they would be out of the door faster than it takes Mat Neal to mention boost in a post race interview! Plato and Neal are 1st & 2nd in the Championship in after 2 race meetings in relatively untested cars and they have the cheek to complain about the organisers and slate their Honda's & MG's to over a million viewers each weekend. I find that very unprofessional, but bloody hell they can drive!

David Bartrum