News 2013: Michael Caine spills the beans on Croft
Reigning British GT champion Michael Caine is a permanent part of the Motorbase Performance squad and jumped at the chance to return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) for round 5 at Croft last month. Off the back of a drama filled wet 'n' wild race weekend; the 43 year old says that there are a lot of positives for the Kent-based squad to take away.
"The third NGTC car was set there and I probably phoned David Bartrum most days about having a go in a touring car again. It was 2011 when I last raced a touring car and I absolutely loved it.
"David needed the third car to run and help them speed up the development. So we did something completely different to the other cars to help gather experience and data. Ricky Martino came over from the GT programme to engineer the car and so it was very entertaining. We both wanted to make it work and he was an absolute star.
Having made his BTCC debut in the Airwaves Racing S2000 Focus back in 2011; the weekend was a step into the unknown for the Newmarket-based driver's first run in the newly-built third Ford Focus ST next generation touring car as Caine explains: "Free practice one was a complete no-go. The car was not how I would want it to be so we made some changes, but we didn't get out in FP2 as the barriers were damaged and the session was abandoned. I took the top off a set of tyres before the red flag and that was it. We really needed that running, as we went into qualifying not knowing where we were and not having driven it on new slicks. I learnt that I wasn't aggressive enough on the new tyres to start off with and I didn't get the heat in the fronts. That was my fault.
Caine continued: "We probably lost a bit of time by losing the best of the tyres. The time that we did was acceptable considering where we are with the boost. We have to run either 45kg or what they call flat boost, so we don't have as much power."
Affectionately referred to as 'Motorbase's resident crash test dummy' by Team Boss David Bartrum, Caine is an integral part of the Motorbase Performance squad and his brief return to the BTCC was all with one aim in mind – to aid the BTCC squad's progress with the new NGTC Ford Focus ST's.
"Everything we were doing was designed to benefit the Airwaves cars: to make the whole team stronger. We could take different risks with the set-up and as long as the data came back for the boys, that was mission accomplished. The backing of Autoglym Life Shine helped make this possible. It was a one-off unless I can raise some more backing. I'd love to come back and do some more. Having had a weekend in the car, I'd do qualifying differently.
After a challenging qualifying session; Caine put in a sterling performance during the opening race of the weekend to work his way through the field to secure an impressive top eight finish on the Autoglym LifeShine branded Focus ST's maiden appearance in the BTCC.
"We qualified okay in 15th place and in race one the car was great. In some respects, the car was better than me, because I just didn't know what to expect from it. Towards the end of the race we were one of the fastest cars out there. It was a great car and eighth place was a great result for everybody. It was a platform to build on.
"For race two, there was rain about and Jason Plato went for wets. We thought he'd either sent the helicopter up or had the most expensive weather forecasting system possible. So I thought if both MGs have gone for wets; that was telling me it is going to rain. Because everybody else was on slicks, I went for the opposite. It was worth a punt and if it had worked it would have been great. But it didn't rain and so we came in and bolted the slicks on. I went back out and the car was fantastic. I was a lap down but it was more data for the team to use in race three.
"Then unfortunately the car packed up with an engine issue and that forced us to miss the third race. I'd have loved to have been out there because the car definitely has the potential to win races. I was frustrated by the end of the weekend because I think the car was better than the results we had."
Caine returns to the track at Motorbase Performance's local circuit Brands Hatch on 10/11 August competing alongside Oman Air Motorbase team-mate Ahmad Al Harthy in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship. The BTCC makes a return following its summer hiatus at Norfolk's Snetterton circuit on 3/4 August.