David Bartrum's Blog
21st October 2013
We had a good weekend at Silverstone touring cars and came out of there quite happy and buoyant. We went back to the workshop with two things in mind. The following weekend was the final British GT race at Donington Park and we had a Tuesday test with Tom Onslow-Cole on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. So we came back on the Monday a bit busy.
Yet again the boys were being pushed to the limit and they did a sterling job. We had a really good test day with Tom, probably one of the best we've had all year. We went away feeling very positive having learnt a lot. The touring cars boys then carried on prepping for Brands and I went off to Donington with the GT guys.
I went with great anticipation in my heart. Unfortunately, in a typical motor sport twist, we suffered something being called 'getting Jones'd'. We went to Donington only 10.5 points behind with an outside chance of the title and a good chance of being in the top three. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.
We did our usual average job in qualifying given the weight and pushed hard in the race, which didn't go according to our plan straightaway. Steve Tandy was hit by the Mercedes SLS and his BMW was fired into Ahmad and we fell off at the Melbourne Hairpin. We came back on a long way down and the boys worked brilliantly and both did really good stints. We got back up to 12th and the important thing for me and the team was that we finished. That gave us a 100% finishing record for the year, but we were two slots away from the points.
Without the contact we would have been in the top 10 and kept our 100% record of scoring points for the year. But there was nothing to be disappointed about. We were set a task by the championship organisers which felt like a mountain to climb. We had 75kg put on us for our very, very exotic driver pairing of Ahmad and a second-hand car dealer from Newmarket.
Having had the jubilation of winning a year before, it was a shame. But I don't think anyone felt totally deflated, even the drivers, because we'd had a good year, the team had done a really good job and given it their all. The pit stops had been good, the car preparation was good, the drivers were good, the strategy was good and the engineering was good. I think Oman Air Motorbase did a brilliant job in British GT and I thank everyone involved for that, even Michael Caine!
You come back from Donington after another weekend and you've still not seen the inside of your house and you're now getting ready for the BTCC at Brands Hatch, our home Grand Prix. The good news is that I could go home to my own bed. Free practice on Saturday went fairly well, except for Aron Smith. Unfortunately, he had the mother and father of shunts, going up the hill out of Paddock. The car went over on its side and was badly damaged.
We had to spend all night rebuilding it and, for me, it was very disappointing that the car was damaged. These things happen and it is motor sport, but it is still very tough and it falls on the team to keep sorting it out and it's not good. On the other side of things, Mat had an average qualifying in his usual 11th or 12th spot: not brilliant and nothing I'm going to jump up and down about. But I felt he would go and race, like he always does: Mat always races better than he qualifies. That's where Mat is brilliant, he races very well.
Tom Onslow-Cole has had a couple of weekends tugging around at the back with lower boost, getting used to the team and the car. He got hit at Silverstone and went back and back and we had to make the best we could of it. At Rockingham he drove a stonking 22nd to ninth. But in qualifying at Brands he put in a really credible P7, a few thousandths off third, and we were completely over the moon with that performance.
For the hard work we have done this year as a team; that gave me a little bit of heart for our qualifying pace. I've been very disappointed with everything we've done in qualifying. We've worked very hard as a team and it just seemed that we hadn't been able to get a driver to connect with what we've done.
Aron holds our P6 record, which was followed by a massive shunt. So to get a P7 with Tom without a shunt was excellent. But we dealt with Aron's accident and went racing on Sunday!
We were in really early on Sunday so the boys could finish off Aron's car. They got to about 1am Saturday night and enough was enough. They got the car to the point where we could finish it in the morning. Corbeau was bringing the seat runners up for us on Sunday morning. The car was finished by 9.30am and they then set it up. They did a fantastic job and the car was sitting there looking like nothing had happened to it.
We had a good race one and Tom got a podium with an Independent win, Mat was ninth and Aron was tenth. Aron had come from the back of the grid, so it was a good drive and a good reward for the boys who worked so hard on the car. That set us up for race two, which was also really good for us.
Mat got the Independent win with P3, Aron was P5 and unfortunately Tom was a bit further back after an adjustment they made to the car didn't work out. So it wasn't such a good race for Tom. But for the team it was a good race because we were up there again.
That led us into the final race of the season and all the anticipation around the championship and Andrew Jordan starting at the back of the grid. We were keen not to get involved, but we needed to do our own thing. Aron came out of the hat best in the draw and got P3 but at the end of the race Mat was P3 and Aron was P5, with Tom behind that.
Mat drove brilliantly and passed Aron completely cleanly to finish on the podium with P3. So we had a really good Sunday, with good results all round and all the cars ran faultlessly. We put three fairly clean cars back in the truck. Liam Griffin is not keen on the rain but he collected his runner-up trophy for the Jack Sears Trophy. Unfortunately he went off in race two and damaged the bumper and radiator and in the process the engine got cooked. We got the car back out for race three, but the temperature went up pretty quickly so we think it did the head gasket. But he ended up on a high note after an excellent season with second in the Jack Sears Trophy. He showed fantastic pace up at Knockhill; unfortunately we had too many mechanical problems.
But the big thing for me was Andrew Jordan. Congratulations to Andrew for winning the championship and it was really, really nice to see. It proves that teams that are not the old established BTCC teams can do it and they did a brilliant job. They were lucky to be concentrating on one car in the final couple of rounds. But it wasn't about one race, it was about the whole season and they did a really good job. Congratulations to Andrew and the team.
A big thank you goes to everyone involved in our team. They have all worked very hard this year. Without the support of our great sponsors and everyone in the team it would not have been possible. And we owe a big thank you to everyone involved in running race meetings, including all the marshals.
Now we're heading into the winter and working hard on plans for 2014. So watch this space for all the news as it happens!