David Bartrum's Blog
8th June 2014
Thruxton BTCC was alright and had a happy ending. It nearly had a very happy ending and that weekend the car went very well. As I've said before, the pace has been in the car all along and it just hasn't shown. Mat's had some good results and Fabrizio is getting used to the car.
Fabrizio drove a good race at Thruxton; better than people think. In race three, the front roll bar broke on about lap five or six, so he drove round with no front roll bar. In the race the great ITV commentator, Mr Harvey, said that the car's characteristics changed at about the time the data shows that this broke. So it also shows that Mr Harvey is the great visionary commentator that we know and love!
So Thruxton ended up well and there was good team work as Fabrizio knew that Mat was quicker and came on the radio and said: "tell Matt to go by, but don't let Jack Goff go with him. I'll get in behind Mat and do what I can." He did just that and defended very well. Mat was very good all weekend. He had a stab at the Hondas in the first race. The Hondas had the legs on everybody and Mat went early in the first race and harmed the tyres. That's why he fell back later in the race, but he had to try because if he had got Andrew Jordan it might just have worked. Mat was consistent all weekend, so it was fitting that he ended up on the podium. Mat has been scoring very well recently.
After Thruxton I went to work for two whole days, frantically trying to get rid of the paperwork and then had the very slim opportunity of a break, so we had 11 days on holiday. I thought it was going to be a holiday with nothing to do with motor sport. We went to Barbados, which was very nice, and when my old friend Robin Bradford realised I was there he soon had me stood in the middle of the new Bushy Park race circuit, which has just been built.
I have to say that they have achieved a lot. It's absolutely fantastic. That was on day two, and four or five days later Robin called again and invited me to go and meet Mark Moloney, who has been the driving force behind the circuit. We had a good look round and realised there was a fairly serious event about to go on that weekend, which was the Top Gear Festival with the Global Rallycross. There were a lot of people there I knew, so the next day we went back as guests. They did a really good job with the whole event and to build a circuit like that on a Caribbean island is a great achievement. Mark Moloney would very much like to get the touring cars there at the end of the season one year.
We came straight home and headed to Silverstone for the Blancpain Endurance race. We had a fairly good race and came in tenth, but we didn't get the rub in qualifying. We got caught by the weather: Michael was eight-tenths up on a lap and out came the red flag, so we lost out.
We started 20th and it was good to see Stephen Jelley back in the car with Ahmad and Michael and Stephen drove a stonking first stint. They all did a really good job and we finished P10 and first Aston across the line again. Michael spent most of his stint fighting with Frank Stippler, with Bernd Schneider in front in the Mercedes, so we didn't disgrace ourselves. The Oman Racing Team did very well.
We wanted better, but it was a good weekend and set us up nicely for the following week. We went home, refettled the cars and went back to Silverstone again for another three-hour race, this time for British GT. This time we had Rory and Liam in the red car.
Qualifying was good: Ahmad and Michael were fourth and Rory and Liam were ninth. Then we had a really good race. Liam did a good job and Rory has been excellent in the car all along. We had a little problem with the fuel rig for their car at one of the stops and that cost the car 33 seconds.
The strategy we called on the first safety car, about 25 minutes in, pretty much decided the race. We called the Oman car in, but didn't want to risk it on both cars. We should have called it on both cars, because we could have come out very well with the red car as well. It was the right moment to do what we did and we jumped everyone and that set us up for the remaining two and a half hours.
We won the race with Ahmad and Michael ahead by 56s. We pretty much kept that lead all race. So that was absolutely brilliant and I was very pleased with that. I was also very pleased with the effort from Rory and Liam and I think we could have done them better. I love working with Rory: he's been a great addition to the team and he's really going to go forwards as a driver. He fits the team really well and we want to find a permanent partner for him. Having Liam back in the team is great, but unfortunately he can't do the next three races, so we have to re-evaluate that.
Until the end of July, the logistics for GT racing are quite heavy. We do two one-hour British GT races at Snetterton on 21/22 June, go straight back to the workshops, re-fettle the cars and put them back in the truck on Tuesday to go to Paul Ricard for the next Blancpain race. That's the same weekend the touring cars go to Croft. We have a Saturday evening race with Blancpain, which ends at 10.15pm. I'm hopefully going to get back to the UK on Saturday night to get to Croft for Sunday.
After that, the truck will stay out and go to Spa because we have a test there on the Wednesday. Spa is quite easy for us as we're only 40 minutes from the hole in the floor! The guys will head out again in the crew bus on Tuesday and meet the truck at Spa. We'll come back again after that test, have a weekend off, re-prep the car and go back to Spa for British GT on 12/13 July.
Then we're back to the UK to re-fettle the Oman car for the Spa 24-hours, which is a lot more work before we go back to Spa with everything including the kitchen sink and a bigger team for the 24-hour race. When the flag drops on the 24-hours at the end of July it will have been nine GT races done in a very short space of time. That will just leave three races: Brands Hatch GP, Donington Park for the British GT final and then the six-hours at the Nurburgring for the final Blancpain race.
After the European season we'll hopefully look to compete in Abu Dhabi in December and possibly the Dubai 24-hours in January. It is a very intense period coming up.
Meanwhile, the touring cars went to Oulton Park early in June and it was a hard day on Saturday with mixed weather conditions. Unfortunately a red flag caused by our other car with Jack Clarke took Fabrizio out of the game a bit as he was on a run at the time and ended up P12. We'd tried to leave it until the last two minutes to get the best out of the track. Mat got P7, but Fabrizio was just coming in with his tyres and I think he had P3 or P4 in him. He's certainly getting more settled with the car.
Jack Clarke turned a corner at Oulton Park although he didn't get the best of qualifying. He was consistently quick in both free practice sessions and showed good pace and determination. He was pushing and it showed in the data and the times. He was very unfortunate to get caught out by a damp patch in qualifying. But I think he is going to progress very well.
Race two at Oulton Park was our 250th BTCC race as a team, so I got a load of abuse at dinner on Saturday evening by a load of people who had been interviewed to give their opinions on me. It was very funny and then a lot of them did nice pieces at the end. But some of them didn't and I've got a list so me and big George will be having a word with a few people!
They presented me with a very nice framed shirt, signed by all the 18 touring cars drivers who have raced with the team so far, starting with the great David Pinkney. I was quite touched by that. I'll catch up on Oulton Park race day next time around.