David Bartrum's Blog
12th October 2014
Rockingham BTCC was a good day: it wasn't one of our finest days but out of the second half of the season we've had some really good days. None of them have been bad, but Rockingham wasn't one of the greater ones.
Then we went to British GT at Donington Park for the final round. We went with a pretty impossible task, one that we never thought was possible. We had to win the race and it didn't matter where Marco Attard and Alexander Sims finished in the BMW. They had done such a good job that we had to win the race.
Our impossible plan nearly worked! We had get pole and we got pole, we had to get other car up there with the Oman car and we did. We'd had a good result at Brands Hatch, so we had a pit-stop extension with both cars, 15-seconds for the Oman car. Our tactic in qualifying was to get pole, get the other car up there and then get them first and second in the race. And we managed it!
We got Ahmad into the lead and then Liam Griffin, in the red car, ran second and tried to help Ahmad drive away and get the 15-second penalty back. So we effectively sacrificed their pit stop for the good of the team, which is how we won the teams' championship. Without all four drivers working together for pretty much the last three rounds, we wouldn't have done it. You'll never see a better example of team work than you saw from our four drivers at the final round.
Liam got into second place and drove very well and left no-one a gap. He wasn't slow, he wasn't fast, deliberately. He kept Jon Minshaw and Gary Eastwood at bay and there was a stack behind him for a good hour. Meanwhile, Ahmad drove away and got an 18-second gap. So Ahmad could pit, take his 15s penalty and still put Michael back out with a three-second lead.
Unfortunately, that's where it all fell down and 35 minutes into the second stint and we couldn't keep the lead any more. Two of the other cars got by and we lost the championship. We won the team championship and were runners-up in the drivers' championship. For our first year with Aston Martin, I'm not unhappy with that.
It would not have been possible without Rory Butcher, because he played a massive part at Brands Hatch and when he was third behind the Oman car he could have taken second. He and Liam then played a major role at Donington, and Geoff Smith earlier in the season as well. Rory had two partners in the car and they both did a brilliant job.
For the Oman car of Ahmad and Michael to go and win the team championship and finish runner-up in the drivers was a good result for a first year with the Aston Martin.
The Nurburgring Blancpain race didn't work out so well. It had the makings of being good and Stephen Jelley rejoined the team with Michael and Ahmad and we put it P8 overall on the grid against the best there is in GT racing. We thought that was great and we had a very spirited team dinner on the Saturday night. But it all started to go wrong at about 6am on Sunday when I got a text from Stephen saying he was rather unwell and he'd been up all night being sick. We got him to the circuit and took him to the medical centre and they said he couldn't race.
The weather was extremely bad to the point where the race shouldn't have gone ahead. So we were left in a corner and we had to find some acceptable to the clerk of the course as we were not allowed to drop to two drivers. Very luckily, Joe Osborne kindly stepped in. So he did the first stint in the Mark Poole car and then the last stint in our car with a two and a half hour rest in between.
We managed to get the stewards to agree to that because Joe is a typical fit young racing driver. He came and did a very professional job, but unfortunately we'd already had a bit of an incident on the first racing lap when Mr Caine got tangled up with a Bentley. We lost a lot of time because it came back with two flat tyres and a door missing. So it all ended up a bit of a test session, really.
We've got very much unfinished business in Blancpain: we've had good speed and good showings, but no results. That was pretty much the end of our GT season, which then left me with two British Touring car rounds.
We'd had a good Snetterton, a very good Knockhill and a reasonable Rockingham, so I wanted a good Silverstone, and we got it. We qualified very well and Matt did a brilliant job and we came away with another win and another step forward. The car has shown really well in the second half of the season and Fabrizio was strong in the race and raced hard. It was looking like a double podium for us; we'd already had one this year, but Mr Plato got himself into the side of Colin Turkington and Gio was at the front and got hit wide. I have to say that Fabrizio has had a load of that this year. I know he's had his own incidents and got tangled up in things, but he's been in the lead of three races this year and has been biffed out of all of them.
But it was a stonking team effort at Silverstone and Fabrizio was there to help Mat with the overall championship. Mat won the race and Aron Smith tried to chase him down, but couldn't. Once Mat gets into the lead of the race he's very good. We had a really good day at Silverstone.
Jack Clarke has been getting better and better over the second half of the season and his aim was a top 10, which he got. He's had to learn about the BTCC pretty quickly: it is a pool of piranhas!
So we went to our home track of Brands Hatch for the final BTCC weekend of the season and qualifying on Saturday was very interesting. It was a wet/dry and so was qualifying and it was going to be about the last man to take the flag. We were working merrily towards that and had a good tactic. Fabrizio got into P6 and Mat was circulating with three minutes to go ready for a flyer. But then Dave Newsham fell off. But Mat had got a banker in and was P8.
Race one was an interesting race and it all kicked off at the first corner. All the Hondas got wiped out, but thankfully our three all survived and off we went. Mat ended up P4 and Gio was P7, so that was all well and good.
We went into race two and it all kicked off again and Mat got the lead. Bear in mind we were after P3 in the championship, so its happy days. But that lasted for about a lap then Mat made a mistake and fell off out on the Grand Prix loop to 24th place. But he then got his head down and drove it back to P12, which became 11th when Mr Plato was penalised. Jack had finished P11 on the road, so that put him to pole,
Fabrizio suffered yet again and touched up twice by Tom Ingram, who later got points on his licence. Fabrizio has had the worst run of luck this season and his shocking year continued.
So off they all go in the rain and Mat has to beat Andrew Jordan to get P4 in the championship. Mat was soon up behind Andrew and the next thing we knew Mat came round having done three of them and is now P4. Jack had dropped to P2, but only after a brilliant fight with Gordon Shedden. Jack drove brilliantly and Mat got himself up to P3.
Alex, Richard, Stuart and Graham have worked massively with Jack this year and he's got used to the team and now feels like he is part of the clan. He did a mega drive because the weather conditions were awful and I was very proud on his behalf. For the last race of the season in very difficult conditions with two cars in the top three: what a way to finish the season.
All the team has done a great job. The engineering team has really taken the car forwards in the second half of the season and the NGTC Ford Focus is a force to be reckoned with. It will only go faster now and we've got something up our sleeve for 2015, which will help it go faster.
I think Jack Clarke should have the final word in my blog: "I've had a lot of mickey-taking this year and I was late a couple of times to David's briefings. But it paid off because I got a really good car!"