SILVERSTONE NATIONAL [25-26 September 2021]

Rounds 22, 23 & 24

From the tight and twisty confines of the Croft Circuit last weekend, to the ultra fast sweeping curves of Northamptonshire’s Silverstone Circuit, means that the challenges keep coming for the drivers in the KwikFit British Touring Car Championship. And, they don’t come more challenging or thrilling than the home of the British Grand Prix… even if the weekend’s racing took place on the 1.64 miles National Circuit.

Racing with Wera and Photon Group duo Sam Osborne and Andy Neate hoped to put last weekend’s struggles behind them, as they looked forward to unleashing their Ford Focus ST’s pace this time around on a circuit which relies on good aero in order to get the best out of the cars.

The duo arrived in 23rd and 31st places in the Championship Standings respectively. Meanwhile, Sam Osborne continued to battle it out with Halfords Racing’s Daniel Rowbottom in the Jack Sears Trophy Standings, while trying to fend off Laser Tools Racing’s Carl Boardley.

There was an air of celebration throughout the weekend, as title sponsor KwikFit was celebrating its 50th anniversary. So, congratulations to them upon achieving such a milestone.

Qualifying

Saturday’s qualifying session consisted of two parts for this event, with the main session being cut to 25 minutes, before an additional five minute Top 10 Shootout afterwards.

As the cars headed out onto the track under cloudy conditions, it was noted that all drivers would be using the medium compound tyres throughout the entire weekend.

Whilst the short, yet ultra fast National Circuit is a favourite with the fans, some of the drivers aren’t really keen on it according to ITV’s co-commentator Tim Harvey. And, after watching the qualifying session, you begin to understand why. As the nature of the circuit provides thrilling and insanely close racing, for the drivers there can be a sense of going quick without moving up the grid!

That appeared to be the case for the Racing with Wera and Photon Group’s duo during the

25-minute main session unfortunately. To their credit, both were doing extremely well, as the now familiar (to yours truly) black Ford Focus ST’s flew around the circuit. Both looked right on the edge, with no room for error, on a circuit that will most certainly bite back.

Within minutes, both Sam and Andy were into the 57-58 seconds range when the session was unnecessarily red flagged after Tom Chilton lost his BMW in the middle of a fast corner, thus spinning several times before picking up a puncture on his left rear. The session would restart with just over twelve minutes remaining, where things on track became a fast-moving traffic jam!

Both our drivers were on the edge from the restart, with Sam having his fastest time blotted out for exceeding track limits. To be fair, he wasn’t the only one, as a majority of the field were doing the

same thing. Both were also being fair by moving over when blazing headlights appeared in their mirrors, signalling a flying lapper approaching from behind. Unfortunately, the same fairness and courtesy wasn’t reciprocated, and both Sam and Andy bemoaned the lack of cooperation afterwards.

Nevertheless, both registered respectable times in the insanely close session. As Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Rory Butcher claimed pole position with a time of 57.383, Sam was just five tenths behind, and Andy just a further two behind that. In the close field, the times put Sam in 21st place and Andy in 25th.

The biggest surprise was that sister team’s Jake Hill was in-between our duo in 23rd. Having won last weekend, Jake’s Ford was weighed down with 66kg of ballast, hence why his Ford just couldn’t get up to speed. Yet, all three drivers would be bumped up a position for the start of racing on Sunday morning.

Race 1 (Round 22)

Both Racing with Wera and Photon Group’s drivers got away cleanly at the start. However, Andy’s Ford went a little too wide at the first corner after coming together with Adam Morgan and, losing its grip, spun with unfortunate damage and a puncture on the left rear, which forced the number 44 Ford to retire.Sam, meanwhile, made an excellent start to climb to seventeenth by the beginning of the second lap. Seventeenth became sixteenth shortly afterwards, as he battled with Carl Boardley’s Laser Tools Racing Infinity Q50. By lap 11, the pair had closed up on Senna Proctor’s BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R, as the trio battled for 14th place.

The trio closed up on Chris Smiley (EXCELR8 Motorsport Hyundia i30N) and Motorbase’s Ollie Jackson, but Sam just couldn’t manage to get past Boardley and into the final point-paying position, and he finished in 16th, just seven-tenths shy, yet easily clear of Aron Taylor-Smith’s Team

HARD-backed Cupra Leon.

Race 2 (Round 23)

The second 22-lapper saw Sam start in 16th and Andy in 25th place. Both drivers made good starts, and Sam would nick 15th from Carl Boardley as they crossed the line to start the second lap.

By lap 4 the Safety Car was out due to Nicolas Hamilton beaching his Team HARD Rokit Racing Cupra Leon in the gravel. The lap-count increased to 23 as we went green on lap six, as both Racing with Wera and Photon Group’s drivers maintained position, until Andy was passed by the sister team’s Jake Hill on the following lap. Jake’s teammate, Ollie Jackson, then fell down the field on the ninth lap, which promoted Sam up to 15th, before the Safety Car entered proceedings a lap later.

This time it was Jade Edwards’ PHSC with BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R that was in the gravel, having been punted out in a melee of cars. As both Jade and Andy caught Rick Parfitt (EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com Hyundia i30N) and Carl Boardley, they got caught out by the concertina effect, and Andy couldn’t avoid tapping the back of Edwards’ Honda to send it off the track.

The restart occurred on lap 16, and as the distance was increased to 25 laps, Sam found himself behind Jason Plato’s Adrian Flux with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra. As battle commenced, Sam’s 15th place became 13th when Senna Proctor collided with someone else. The number 4 Ford Focus continued to fight it out with Plato, Aron Taylor-Smith, Jack Goff (Team HARD Cupra Leon), and Tom Chilton (Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport BMW 330i M Sport).

Things happened so fast on the penultimate lap, that the drivers had to have their wits about them. Chilton got past Sam, as did Goff, only for the number 4 Ford Focus to guide its way back past the Cupra Leon immediately to see Sam then defend well to finish 15th and gain a Championship point.

After his earlier shenanigans with Edwards, Andy fought it out with Rick Parfitt and Jack Mitchell’s Team HARD with Autobrite Direct Cupra Leon until the end. He guided his number 44 Ford Focus to 24th, as he fended off the Hyundia driver to the finish line.

Race 3 (Round 24)

The start of the final race of the afternoon saw our duo promoted due to others having to drop back. Therefore, Sam would take up 14th position and Andy would move up to 22nd. Both Racing with Wera and Photon Group Fords got off the line well, and were subsequently promoted an additional place after Gordon Shedden’s Halfords Racing Honda Civic Type R bogged down at the start, causing everyone behind to take avoiding action.

A lap later saw Senna Proctor and Sam Smelt (Toyota Gazoo Racing UK) get past Andy, and Ollie Jackson overtake Sam, before disaster occurred on the third lap.

As the closed-up field stormed through the notoriously fast Copse Corner, Colin Turkington moved his BMW over to defend his line, forcing Tom Chilton to dodge right to avoid it. His BMW collided with Sam’s Ford, sending it down to 29th place with damage, virtually ending what was potentially an epic battle for points.

Meanwhile, Andy was fighting it out with Nicholas Hamilton and Jade Edwards for 25th position. By the ninth lap, however, Sam had caught them as battle commenced with all cars separated by a second. Sam managed to leapfrog both his teammate and Hamilton, and was chasing down Edwards

at the flag, as they finished line astern in 25th (Sam) and 26th (Andy) respectively in what proved to be an extremely tough day at the office for both drivers.

Both Racing with Wera and Photon Group drivers were disappointed with their three races as, despite the speed of their Fords and the closeness of the field, both struggled to get past others on such a short track. The Fords were quick throughout the weekend and, with more fairness and cooperation during qualifying, both could so easily have started Sunday further up the grid, which would have enabled them to exploit the Ford’s speed.

Sam did earn a Championship point with his fifteenth place in Race 2 (Round 23), and he also remains in second place in the Jack Sears Trophy Standings. Andy sits in a comfortable tenth place in the latter competition, and will be focused on hunting down Jack Mitchell and Nicholas Hamilton as the KwikFit British Touring Car Championship heads to Donington Park in a fortnight’s time.

By Chris Palmer