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David Bartrum's Blog

15th April 2014

It's been a really busy winter. We needed to take stock of the touring cars and we did that: quite a lot of changes were made, including staff changes on the engineering side as well as a lot of changes to the car. Stuart Beaton has joined us and he is engineering Fabrizio Giovanardi's car. There was a lot of workshop time spent on re-packaging and that took up a lot of time.

Alongside that we started our changeover from Porsche to Aston Martin for the GT team. We got the second car in late February and went straight to Portimao for its first run in the Aston Martin test. The weather wasn't too bad and we got used to the car and I enjoyed that. We went from there to Paul Ricard for the Blancpain test and media day. They are beautiful places to go and the circuits have got real character and real standing.

We also did quite a lot of UK testing: Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and Snetterton. We were flying around everywhere with the GT cars just getting used to the Astons.

We had round one of the BTCC at Brands Hatch, which was frustrating but not disheartening. The speed is in the car without doubt and Mat showed brilliant pace in qualifying and was two-tenths off pole. One-tenth would have put us third and with 30 cars on the grid it takes a bit of doing to get a clear lap. Fabrizio had a throttle problem in qualifying, which took a while to find and we changed just about everything overnight.

We were looking forward to race day and Mat had a blinding start. Fabrizio has come back to the BTCC and has realised its grown and changed and he's still getting used to the car. Now he understands what goes on, he'll be right there. He came out of race day Brands saying he now knows what he has got to do. He's a great guy to have around the team: he's a great personality and he's very upbeat, He's good fun. Ian Harrison said to me that Fabrizio was the best driver he'd ever had and I can see why he would say that.

Mat did a sterling job and put in an excellent effort. The disappointing thing was that in race one he got tapped and got sent out of the race. We were running P6 at the time and we knew the pace was in the car. I think Mat was good for P4 or P5 and that would have carried him through to the next race.

So we recovered from that and went into race two and there was a safety car when three cars overtook us under yellow flags. Then we got into race three and Mat was still fighting and got up to P6 and was going really well until he got nudged again, so that was how it was. It was a difficult weekend, but the pace is in the cars. We just didn't get the luck and we deserved more from the weekend.

Our two new Jack's though had a great weekend. Jack Clarke had a strong first run in the Crabbie's Focus and managed to bring the car home in all three races, which is no mean feat in Touring Cars as anyone will tell you. He showed good pace and progressed well through the races as well as keeping his nose clean so I feel sure he'll settle in fine. Our ‘pocket rocket' Jack Mitchell also had a blinder in the Airwaves Racing Ginetta – first off putting the car on pole for both races before going on to win them both and set the fastest laps as well! We'll all really pleased to see him do so well and he's definitely one to watch for the future.

After Brands BTCC we went to Donington for the British GT media day on the Tuesday 10 days later. We then packed the truck up and sent it straight to Monza. The truck, driven by ‘Grump' went as far as it could on Wednesday then stopped for his rest before getting to Monza on Thursday morning. The rest of the team flew in Thursday morning.

The whole Blancpain programme is a big challenge on the back of everything else we are doing. It's a challenge I'm looking forward to and it starts a different chapter for us and we hope to be successful and grow.

At the last stop in the Monza race, when Ahmad handed over to Michael, the car developed an electrical issue. After sterling drives by Stephen in first stint then Ahmad in the second, it was all set for a good top ten finish when Michael joined the race P11 and ready to push his way further up the order.

But after only one lap things started to play up: firstly the wipers, then the pit-lane speed limiter. So Michael pitted and that was the end of the race. The team worked to fix the problem but to no avail. It was a real shame as the drivers and the team had done a great job and we were on for a P6 or P7 overall. Michael did not get the chance to finish the job started by his team mates."

Sunday evening we got the truck away with two drivers and we all flew back late on Sunday night. The truck got back late on Monday night so we had Tuesday to re-prep for Oulton Park.

The Easter weekend has British GT at Oulton Park and BTCC at Donington Park, but the BTCC cars race on Sunday and the GT cars race on Monday so a few of us will be to-ing and fro-ing. Saturday is a bit busier and I'll stay with the GTs and leave Oly Collins to do his job with the BTCC team.

David Bartrum