BTCC UP­DATE

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…

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS - WORDS Si McNally PHO­TOS Peter Aldridge, Jakob Ebrey and Rob Schave­r­ien

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.

FRIENDLY RI­VALS

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.

back east

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

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