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News 2007: High Flying Motorbase Performance Denied Success at Thruxton

Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Thruxton

Motorbase Performance drivers Matt Allison and Gareth Howell enjoyed their strongest outing so far at the third meeting of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton this weekend.

Matt AllisonBoth Howell and Allison led the Independents' category during Sunday's races, battling with the manufacturer-backed entries from SEAT and Vauxhall. Only a cruel dose of luck prevented the two young drivers from leaving the Hampshire circuit with results that reflect the strength of their performance throughout the weekend.

In qualifying on Saturday, the Motorbase Performance pairing were closely matched, with just one tenth of a second separating them around the 2.36 mile track. Howell claimed ninth spot on the grid with Allison 11th.

The opening lap of the first race saw Howell climb to seventh, passing reigning champion Matt Neal and his teammate Gordon Shedden. Howell defended from Neal until the midway point in the race, when the Thruxton curbs took their toll, damaging a wheel on his Toledo and leaving him to fend off huge amounts of understeer for the remainder of the race.

Matt Allison / Gareth HowellAllison finished the race in seventh position, with Howell 11th. Starting from these positions for race two, the Motorbase Performance pairing put in their most impressive performance so far in the team's first season in the BTCC. Allison quickly passed Darren Turner in the works SEAT Leon, while Howell gained a couple of positions early on in the race to close up on the tail of Turner and Allison.

Both Motorbase Performance drivers were running comfortably within a train of eight cars fighting for the lead of the race. They were up to fourth and sixth respectively when disaster struck. On the run up the hill to the final corner chicane, both were caught up in an incident with Turner, which saw the works car and Allison's Toledo end up in a spectacular heap in the barrier on the outside of the track. Fortunately there were no serious injuries, but it was the end of the race for Allison. Howell continued in fourth spot but was later forced to retire with a damaged radiator.

Matt Allison commented, "It was quite a big one. You don't have a small shunt here really. It's just a shame because we were running so well. It's the most competitive we've been. I was fourth on merit; we're genuinely on the pace this weekend.

"The boys did such a good job to get the car out for the third race. The car had its problems – I didn't have very much in the way of brakes and it was understeering a bit, but all credit to them for getting it out there.

"The only silver lining from today is that we've scored Independents' championship points when some of the others haven't managed to do that. We're moving in the right direction and hopefully we can carry on at Croft and actually finish in a good position rather than just running in a good position."

Gareth HowellA mammoth effort from the Motorbase Performance team saw Allison's SEAT repaired in time for the day's final race, but both drivers were forced to start from the back of the grid, hampering any chances of repeating race two's high-flying success. Nonetheless, Howell climbed up through the pack to finish seventh, with Allison making it to 11 th.

Howell said, "Between us we were up there for all three races. We've drastically changed the car since Rockingham and it's had a big impact on our pace. If I'd been able to make it into the top five in the final race then I'd probably have come away quite happy. Obviously I had to push hard to make up positions early on and we just didn't have enough left to keep going like that to the end.

Matt Allison Crash"The team is encouraged by the pace we've had this weekend and it's great to be challenging the works cars up at the front. It's slightly disappointing not to come away with a bit more to show for all the hard work, but we've taken a huge step forward."

Motorbase Performance team principal David Bartrum said, "We've had good pace this weekend but the luck just isn't there at the moment. Everyone worked really hard to get Matt's car out for the third race. This is still a new programme for us, but we're moving in the right direction, and we've had another good weekend in the Porsches, which gives everyone a bit of a boost."

There is now a four-week break before rounds 10, 11 & 12 of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Croft in North Yorkshire over the weekend of 2/3 June.

Race results (provisional)

Round 7
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
2. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
3. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon)
4. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si E90)
5. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
7. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
11. Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 8
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
2. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
3. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra)
4. Mike Jordan (Honda Integra)
5. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si E90)
DNF Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
DNF Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 9
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
2. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)
3. Mike Jordan (Honda Integra)
4. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
5. Matt Neal (SEAT Leon)
7. Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
11. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

All images courtesy of Enver Meyer