David Bartrum's Blog
8th May 2013
It was still freezing cold when along came Easter and the start of the season and our first difficult weekend of the year. The British GTs were out for their traditional start at Oulton Park and the touring cars were out at Brands Hatch. Both teams had really suffered on the testing front, though the GT side of things had gone better.
The big problem we had in GT was that the organisers graded Ahmad Al Harthy as a silver driver and Michael Caine as a gold and we ended up with a 75 kg weight penalty. That's quite high and more than Ahmad weighs. Looking just at like for like in Porsches, when Michael gets in the car he has to race against people like Nick Tandy and Richard Westbrook with a penalty of 75kg, and that is not cricket.
Michael is a 44-year old second-hand car dealer from Newmarket who is also a very good racing driver. But he's not Tandy, professional racing driver for Porsche, or Westbrook, ex-Porsche works driver and also a professional racing driver. Even their partners are still quick.
But we went off to the first round at Oulton Park and it wasn't bad. In race one we were P4 from third on the grid so that was a good result. Michael had a superb battle with Westbrook in race one and stayed ahead of him for half an hour.
Unfortunately, in the second race a Ginetta caught fire three-quarters of the way through and we lost the last part of the race and it ended with a one-lap dash. We started P19 for that race and finished ninth, but did 15 minutes under the safety car. In race two they did a really good job to finish ninth and without the long safety car, I think they could have finished fourth or fifth. Ahmad had caught up the gaggle of four cars ahead of him and he clearly had the pace on them and I think he'd have got past them. It was a great effort from the team and really enjoyable to be part of it. The new driver partnership worked very well and they both did a very good job.
In the meantime, we were at Brands Hatch with the touring cars and that was our first trying weekend. People saw last year's car and thought we'd got it all sorted, but actually we were still learning. Last year we lost two race wins due to the throttle. Lots of suppliers have worked hard to make spec parts for the NGTC cars, but some of the parts don't work all the time and we seemed to hit a bad run of that happening. Various things went wrong at Brands with parts that we did not make.
We did have an engine misfire, but that happens and other parts played up to put us on the back foot. So we went away from Brands with our tail between our legs and ripped into the problems. We went testing again at Oulton Park and Snetterton and thought we'd pretty much got to the bottom of the problem.
We went to Donington for the second weekend and free practice was okay, but we qualified badly and then raced okay. We got to the last race and thought we'd finally turned a corner and we encountered another parts problem on both cars. So once again we were set back. Developing two cars very publicly and doing it in the space of three race weekends in five weeks makes it very difficult. You are also battling with the weather because Brands Hatch was very cold. It has been very difficult with the weather and very difficult with the car problems and it's not been the true dream start for Airwaves Racing we would have liked. Everyone in the team has worked astonishingly hard, but sometimes these things happen.
When you are having problems, you learn nothing about your car. We came out of Donington with a lot of data that went straight into the bin: it was no good to us. Sometimes what you see on the track does not reflect what is going on. But that is racing and I know that a lot of other teams with NGTC spec cars have gone through similar growing pains and similar problems with generic parts fitting all different shapes and sizes of car and being run by different teams.
It is a credit to just about every team in the NGTC paddock that they have achieved what they are now doing. Eurotech, for instance, has done a stonking job with their cars, but they went through growing pains and those are very similar to the ones we are now encountering. We'll be there with them soon. At the moment they are putting the screw on the Honda works team and fair play to them.
People like Frank Wrathall, senior and junior, they work very hard and so have the Welches. People approach things in different ways and then young Adam Morgan has done a great job: you can pick out loads of people who are all going through different problems, but they are all pushing.
Once these issues get ironed out and we're not all building cars and just going racing, things will get better. We've got some really good people involved: Airwaves has backed us strongly, Redstone has stayed with and so have all our regular supporters. Obviously there are pressures that go with it and we want to make sure we do the right things for their brands. We want to run fast race cars and sometimes that just eludes you a little bit.