Power Maxed TAG Racing recently enjoyed a guest spot at Goodwood before returning to the paint-swapping action of the BTCC to compete in a race marking the championship’s sixtieth anniversary…
Power Maxed TAG Racing’s adventures at Croft, Snetterton and the Festival of Speed.
The last time you heard from us, we were back at the workshop after a disappointing weekend of racing at Oulton Park. We were preparing for the fifth outing of this year’s BTCC, which was held at Croft Circuit. You’ll be pleased to hear we fared far better at the famous North Yorkshire motorsport venue, although it wasn’t all plain sailing…
Our time at Croft took place right in the middle of the recent heatwave (weather which appears to have turned the British Isles into barren wasteland!). As always, Saturday provided us with the usual format of Free Practice (FP1) followed by a second practice session (FP2) preceding a forty-five minute qualifying session ending with the starting order for the first race of the following day. FP1 saw our driver, Josh Cook, third fastest. Sadly, he couldn’t match his achievement for qualifying, but he managed a more than respectable P9, with teammate, Senna Proctor, kicking off from P14.
Race day. What a scorcher! Our VIP guests were joined by two-time BTCC champion, John “the man’s an animal” Cleland, who was asked a variety of weird and wonderful questions about his racing career before everyone rushed trackside to witness the first race of the day. Truth be told, it wasn’t overly eventful, but both our boys made up ground, resulting in Josh finishing P7 and Senna crossing the line in eleventh place after being held up in traffic. He even managed to lap almost a second quicker than his nearest competitor. Nice work!
With just an hour so until the next race, the team worked tirelessly to ensure the cars were ready to head back out and win. We have a number of essential tasks to take care of each race, jobs which include changing the brakes, swapping wheels and tyres over, plus ensuring the chassis of each car is set millimetre-perfect using our Absolute Alignment hightech professional alignment equipment. Away from the track, we practice these exercises hard, ensuring we’re ready to tackle any problems which might present themselves on race weekends.
Our efforts came into play at the start of the second race of the day, when Josh suffered a braking system
complaint after the first few corners, causing his Astra to fly off the track in spectacular fashion! He was sideways at nearly 200kph! He brought the car straight to the team garage, where the boys (and girl!) checked it over. Everything looked to be in good order, so both Vauxhall and driver were sent back out to join the race. Unfortunately, it became apparent there was a possible safety issue with the car. Josh returned to base for a full investigation to be carried out. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry when something goes wrong.
Senna was having an altogether more positive experience! After five laps, he’d forged a path to P8, a position he maintained until he crossed the finish line. The third and final race of the day, however, was more interesting than those which came before it; thanks to Josh’s earlier retirement, he was forced to start from the back of the grid. The presents its own unique challenges at Croft, not least of all the fact he was effectively starting on the final corner of the circuit with starting lights out of view. Additionally, he was having to contend with a midway corner at race start! Unphased, Josh’s experience shone through, proved when he managed to progress six places on the first lap.
Senna had a great start off the line, but was pipped to the first corner by his former teammate, Tom Chilton. Our boy ably fended off attacks from the rear, edging closer to Tom’s Ford Focus as the race progressed. The Blue Oval pilot admitted afterwards he was pushing his RS’s tyres to their absolute limit in order to keep Senna at bay, who was very close to overtaking. A fine performance!
Sadly, Josh missed out on the Dunlop Forever Forward award (a hotly contested trophy given for most places gained during a race weekend) by just one place, but the team still managed to bag silverware and headed home third in both the Teams and Manufacturers standings. We’ll take that.
And so came the summer break, giving us the opportunity to relax, put our feet up and catch up on
East Enders. Ha! Fooled you! This is motorsport – there is no such thing as a break! Immediately after being unloaded from Croft,
Josh’s car was stripped to a bare shell and put on our chassis jig, where our main fabricator, Colin, set to work replacing the entire side of the car which suffered damage during the second race of the weekend. Less than a day after the work was complete, the repaired shell was sent to the body shop before a swift return for a two-day tyre test and an appearance at the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester.
The tyre test was held at Snetterton in preparation for the much-hyped Diamond Double (an extended round of the BTCC planned for when the Norfolk circuit was due to host the series). For two days, the top current BTCC teams worked with Dunlop’s engineers to provide feedback ensuring tyres would go the distance in the race we were all looking forward to.
As soon as we were done testing in Norfolk, it was time to set sail for Sussex! Every year, thousands gather at the stunning Goodwood Estate to watch the greatest drivers in the world hammer some of the most valuable and historically significant race cars up the hill climb outside Goodwood House. This year’s bash was extra special due to it being twenty-five years since the first Festival of Speed. More than 500,000 people are reported to have passed through Goodwood’s gates during the four-day event!
We were invited to compete in the BTCC shootout, a feature pitting several of today’s quickest BTCC cars across each of the days the event ran. Josh took up the gauntlet, driving his Euro Repar Car Service-sponsored Astra to the limit on the tight and twisty course, which has claimed numerous priceless cars over the years. By the end of the weekend, his Astra was the quickest front-wheel drive BTCC car up the hill, finishing second overall. Of course, it’s not as though these results have any impact on the championship, but it was a fun event to take part in, and we were obviously very happy with the results.
Less than a fortnight later, we could be seen packing our gear into support trucks all over again. A return to Snetterton beckoned. Famous for its open track days, the circuit has been a consistent fixture of the BTCC for many years. It’s also a favourite track for many BTCC drivers past and present. It seemed fitting, then, that Snetterton should play host to the aforementioned Diamond Double.
Billed to mark six decades of the BTCC, the race was the of the day. Promising double the usual number of points and almost double the distance of a regular race – and without the handicap of success ballast – this special attack of the track would test each team and driver’s mettle to the limit.
The preceding Thursday and Friday were roasting. Air temperature in the forties meant track temperatures were in excess of fifty degrees Celsius! Luckily, the Astras wouldn’t be out until the Saturday, and the promise of heavy rain and thunderstorms through Friday night had us hoping for a reprieve from stifling heat. We needn’t have worried; Saturday dawned wet, with much lower air temperature than we’d experienced in weeks. You might think this was of benefit to teams, but the failure of the track to dry left a greasy surface for the cars to tackle. Not ideal. In fact, Josh ended up having an unwanted indicident with Senna on the very first lap of FP1! A combination of new brakes, new tyres and a slippery surface saw Josh’s Astra collide with a a slowing Senna’s Vauxhall after he took action to avoid another car getting a little too close for comfort.
The car was brought back to the garage for the team to assess. The damaged parts were replaced in readiness for FP2, which was far more productive than the earlier practice session. Both drivers were able to make the most of their time out on track, with rapidly drying asphalt leading to quick lap times and even quicker setup changes by the team. With not one, but two qualifying sessions looming, pressure was on to ensure we had racewinning pace.
“Two qualifying sessions?” I hear you ask. Yep! The standard qualifying session is a staple of all race weekends. The second was to determine the starting positions of drivers for the Diamond Double. The first session started well, with Josh quickly working his way up to the pointy end of the grid. He managed P6, giving him the perfect opportunity to use his vast skillset to get to the front of the pack come race day. Senna didn’t have quick as much luck, and despite being on the pace from the get-go, was unable to get a clear lap, leaving him in a frustrating P19. He achieved the same result in the Diamond Double qualifying session. Josh ended it in P11.
Sunday morning came, and it was time to go racing again. We arrived at the track and were startled to find we’d encountered some kind of monsoon! It was, without doubt, the wettest day of the season, and the weather showed no sign of letting up.
The first race of the day was a frustrating affair. Josh lost a place almost immediately off the line. The Bath-based ginger ninja did what he does best, though, and fought gallantly throughout the twelve lap race, eventually finishing in fourth, narrowly missing out on a place on the podium. Senna had less luck after a brief love-tap with BTCC legend, Jason Plato, saw the Astra return to the pits with broken suspension. Having prepared and trained for such an occurrence, the team had the offending component replaced within
minutes, allowing Senna to head back out and chase down the pack, eventually finishing P25 out of thirtytwo cars. To be honest, it could have been a lot worse.
Race two looked as wet as the first, but a last-minute apperarance from that yellow thing in the sky meant nearly every car on the grid changed from Dunlop’s wet compound back onto slicks, with us using the Option soft tyre. The switch paid dividends for our boys, with Josh moving up to P3 in the second half of the race, eventually passing Dan Cammish’s Honda Civic Type R to take P2. This was just after the Safety Car was deployed due to an incident elsewhere on the track. There was a chance we’d be penalised for passing under Safety Car conditions, so the decision was made to hand the place back. Reassuringly, a few seconds after the Safety Car returned to the pits, Josh overtook the Type R!
ash to ashes
The final stage of the race saw Josh chase down the Subaru Levorg or reigning BTCC champion, Ash Sutton. The Astra crossed the line just 0.3 seconds behind the Scooby, with ITV commentators convinced Josh would have taken the win if there had been another lap to race. Confirming their suspicions, Ash told interviewers he was on the limit of what he had to offer. He also said he was sure Josh would have taken him for the win had there been more time to play with.
Meanwhile, Senna was racing flatout, seemingly attempting to recreate his landmark victory at Brands Hatch back at the start of the season. Within a few laps, he’d battled his way up from P25 to P7, resulting in a fantastic points haul. Good job, lads!
By late afternoon, it was time for the race many had been waiting for. The buzz in the paddock created by the arrival of the Diamond Double was electric. Every car was sent out with exactly the same Prime tyre, nobody was carrying ballast and there was everything to play for. Within a couple of laps, Josh found himself in a tussle with two-time championship winner, Colin Turkington, a scrap which saw the Astra’s rear bumper hanging off and the front end of Colin’s BMW sporting a Vauxhall-shaped dent! Josh held on until another incident with the Colin forced the Astra wide, dropping it valuable places. The battle-scarred Griffin was then pushed wide again, this time by fellow copper-top, Adam Morgan, who came off worse by stacking his Mercedes into the barrier and retiring from the race. Ouch!
Senna was on top form. Both drivers were held up for a good few laps buy the Honda of Chris Smiley, who eventually retired just a few laps from the end of the race, almost taking Senna with him! Fortunately, the plucky Vauxhall driver recovered, finishing in tenth place, although he was later penalised for a completely unavoidable on-track incident, the upshot being he was subsequently relegated to P12. Josh clawed back lost time to finish P7, meaning the double points on offer netted us exactly what we needed to put us back in the title fight.
After an eventful weekend, we’re now second in the Teams Championship and third in the Manufacturers Championship. Josh is fifth and Senna is twelfth in the Drivers standings. These results put us in a really strong position moving forward. Hopefully, by the time you read this update, points won at Rockingham will have put us back on top. Be sure to read our update in the next issue of Performance Vauxhall.
Striking livery (and Performance Vauxhall graphics!) makes the Astras the best-looking cars on the grid
Tight racing is making for a fantastic anniversary season
One of these BTCC drivers has won the championship. Twice.
The Power Maxed TAG Racing boys are quick in the wet
The Astras are proving themselves to be cars capable of winning in all conditions
Presenting BTCC director, Alan Gow, with a piece of commemorative Track Wall Art
A fantastic sight on Goodwood Estate’s famous hill climb
TAG’s Astra J VXR is being used as a development vehicle by PMR