David Bartrum's Blog
Motorbase BTCC blog – 24 September 2012
We came back from Knockhill with no real damage, which was nice. Mat's exhaust needed some development and it was time to refettle the cars. We did some work on Aron's car, but we didn't go testing as there is no budget for testing at the moment. We stripped the NGTC car back again and got stuck into the cars in the workshops.
Having launched the NGTC car at Snetterton and then done a quick turn around and gone straight to Scotland, it didn't leave a lot of time. So we were able to re-work some things and re-position some items. We had to work out why the headlights kept on popping out and re-work the exhaust.
It was important to use Knockhill as a very hard test to find out what was right and wrong with the car. You could go up there testing, if we went that far for testing, and if you drove around Knockhill on a general test like you do at a touring car meeting, you would be thrown off straightaway: probably by Gordon Shedden. But you would never, ever learn how the car behaves.
It was important that we ran the NGTC car at Knockhill, even though we knew it wasn't ready, to see what broke and how things like the steering and subframe stood up. Just about every moving mechanical part goes through a big load at Knockhill. We then stripped the car down and went through everything and made a new exhaust system. We did a bit of work on dampers and springs and continued to learn about the car.
At Rockingham there was mixed emotion in qualifying. In free practice Aron went very well and we thought we knew where we were for qualifying. But we went a bridge too far and engineered the speed out of his car: simple as that. So Aron had a tough race one because of that. He got punted by Jeff Smith and Jeff came around and apologised and I appreciate that. Jeff had a big accident later on in the third race and I'm glad to say he is okay.
Aron turned in a sterling drive in the rain in race two and pulled himself up to sixth with a great, great drive. He then got pulled out of the hat for P4 on the grid for race three. He made some great moves and led nine laps of the race. I think that's the first time he has led a race in the BTCC. But you could see the works cars including the Honda twins and Mr Plato coming from behind. We could see that we were not going to get an overall podium, but if we could hold fourth it would be an Independents' win. Unfortunately, Andrew Jordan found a bit of pace. You could see very clearly that the Super 2000 cars went off just as the NGTC cars came to life. So the S2000 car went off and Andrew came past very cleanly.
I still think Aron did very well to hang on where he did and drove excellently all day and finished P5 in the final race. That continued the strong run he had at Snetterton and he's showing a real progression in touring cars. I thought he was very mature when leading the third race and was very controlled. Unfortunately, we had a safety car go against us and that took away the little buffer that he had.
Mat went out in free practice and we were doing okay and then in qualifying he went and pulled a P4 out of the hat. They were really working at the car during qualifying and processing data and car information quicker than ever before. They wanted that information back into the car as soon as possible. They de-briefed just before the last run, made a few changes and Mat pulled out a P4.
That's still only the third qualifying session for that car, so I was really pleased with that. Then to go and have a good set of races, with fourth in the first two races and then P6 in the last race was very good and gave us good solid points. In race two he got us our first trophy for the NGTC car with an Independent win. That earned him a 'Scooby' sticker with laurels for the door.
It was another sterling weekend for the NGTC car. We're developing this car as an independent team and at the wrong end of the season on what is left of our budget. We're doing well and if we had the money of the works teams we would spend some more money before Silverstone. But we can't and we've got to be realistic. We've got to build another car or two and the shells are already on the jig. There is a lot of work to do and we're still learning and going forward.
So we had five finishes at Rockingham and very little damage. We're not going to spend much money on accident damage so that means there is a bit more in the development fund.
For the final two rounds we are back to three cars as Liam, the Griffmeister returns, and I'll be really glad to have him around again. Liam has made a lot of things possible and without him taking one for the team over these last two rounds, we'd not have an NGTC car. He gets my gratitude for that. He'll be driving Mat's old car, which has been sat in the workshop waiting for him. We've had a few people make approaches about going in the car, but I wouldn't let them have it as it has been sat there waiting for Liam.