BTCC UP­DATE

As­tras were at the heart of what’s be­ing lauded as one of the most ex­cit­ing week­ends of BTCC ac­tion in the com­pe­ti­tion’s sixty-year his­tory…

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Power Maxed TAG Rac­ing’s amaz­ing end to the 2018 Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship.

Power Maxed TAG Rac­ing (PMR) oc­cu­pied sec­ond place in the team stand­ings when the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship ar­rived at Brands Hatch for the fi­nal week­end of ac­tion in a year mark­ing the com­pe­ti­tion’s six­ti­eth an­niver­sary. Free prac­tice set a trend, with the As­tra K driven by PMR pi­lot, Senna Proc­tor, out­pac­ing the sis­ter Vauxhall driven by Josh Cook. The lat­ter strug­gled with bal­ance, es­pe­cially around the Grand Prix loop, a com­plaint con­tin­u­ing into qual­i­fy­ing. The frus­trated speed mer­chant from Som­er­set lan­guished down in twenty-first place, al­though it should be noted his Vauxhall’s bal­last was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance. In con­trast, Proc­tor was all smiles thanks a set­ting the sixth-fastest lap and for be­ing the fastest driver out­side of those in charge of hot Honda Type Rs.

Qual­i­fy­ing was played out in warm, balmy con­di­tions, and though weather fore­cast­ers pre­dicted cold tem­per­a­tures for race day, the re­al­ity was a dose of late sum­mer sun. This suited Proc­tor due to his Grif­fin rolling on the harder prime tyre, a setup which en­abled the an­gry As­tra to make a fan­tas­tic launch off the tricky slop­ing grid be­fore ar­riv­ing at Pad­dock Hill bend hold­ing onto sixth place. He lost out to Sam Tord­off’s pink Ford as the cars piled into Druids, but show­ing great grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion, Proc­tor im­me­di­ately fought back, de­ci­sively pass­ing the Fo­cus into Sur­tees as the mul­ti­coloured chain of mo­tors­port ma­chines headed onto the afore­men­tioned Grand Prix loop.

He then passed Dan Lloyd’s Nor­lin Rac­ing Civic Type R to clinch fifth po­si­tion, with Cook be­gin­ning to make ground in the rear-view mir­ror. An overnight en­gine change sent his As­tra to the back of the grid, but a shift up to nine­teenth place looked as though for­tune would soon favour the brave. Un­for­tu­nately, the num­ber sixty-six As­tra be­gan to look out of sorts, al­most im­me­di­ately drop­ping back down the peck­ing or­der af­ter a sly over­tak­ing move from Cook’s cham­pi­onship points ri­val, Adam Mor­gan, and then from Matt Simp­son and his Honda.

CLOS­ING IN

By the sev­enth lap, Proc­tor was firmly on the tail of the lead­ers, hav­ing built up a sig­nif­i­cant gap be­tween his As­tra and Lloyd’s Ja­panese joy toy. Two laps later, Proc­tor and Jack Goff (an­other Honda driver, this one rac­ing in a Eurotech Civic) were the fastest men on the track, both ea­ger to score a podium fin­ish. The or­der and gaps be­tween cars, how­ever, re­mained con­stant, mean­ing that at the end of a hugely com­pet­i­tive fif­teen-lap race, Proc­tor brought his Vauxhall home in fifth. An un­der­stand­ably frus­trated Cook crossed the line in twen­ty­sec­ond place, los­ing out to the BMW of Stephen Jel­ley on the fi­nal lap.

By the time the sec­ond race of the day ar­rived, tem­per­a­tures were start­ing to drop, even if ten­sion on the track was hot­ting up! Proc­tor, now rid­ing on the softer Dunlop op­tion tyre, but with 39kg of bal­last on board, got too much wheel­spin on launch and slipped back to eighth place on the run into Druids. He dropped an­other place be­ing

mus­cled out of the way while ex­it­ing Sur­tees. Not to be out­done, he im­me­di­ately fought back, div­ing in­side his for­mer PMR team­mate, Tom Chilton (now driv­ing a yel­low Mo­tor­base Shred­ded Wheat Fo­cus), and clos­ing the gap be­hind Lloyd. The As­tra man was then am­bushed by the Toy­ota of Tom In­gram push­ing wide through Din­gle Dell, forc­ing the Vauxhall be­hind the brightly coloured Fords. The proud Lan­cas­trian was hav­ing none of it, prov­ing his met­tle by dis­patch­ing Chilton all over again and mov­ing back into ninth place.

From P22, Cook once again strode for­ward, claw­ing his way to sev­en­teenth po­si­tion be­fore the ap­pear­ance of a mid-race safety car (sur­pris­ingly, the first and last of the day) on lap six. When the car­nage of Goff’s bruised and bat­tered Honda was cleared, Cook steamed all the way through to eleventh.

un­der at­tack

Mean­while, Proc­tor kept swap­ping places with Chilton. As if he didn’t have enough to con­tent with, the PMR driver found him­self un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from Colin Turk­ing­ton’s BMW. Ex­pertly avoid­ing a clash in­volv­ing Lloyd and Turk­ing­ton at Pad­dock bend, how­ever, en­abled him to ac­cept a well-de­served sev­enth place fin­ish.

The third and fi­nal race of the day pro­vided a fit­ting end to the com­pe­ti­tion’s spe­cial cel­e­bra­tory year. Once again, PMR was at the heart of the ac­tion. Both As­tras were on Dunlop’s prime tyre, and hopes were high for the gang to con­sol­i­date sec­ond over­all in the team stand­ings. From pole, Cook was out-dragged by the lone Alfa Romeo on the cir­cuit, forc­ing the Vauxhall into sec­ond place as all cars swept down the hill at break­neck speed. Once again, Proc­tor strug­gled to ex­e­cute a clean start, slip­ping from P4 to P8 by close of the open­ing lap. Four rounds of the track later, Cook pulled a great move to slide up the in­side of the Alfa on the exit of Clear­ways, im­me­di­ately lap­ping six tenths quicker and pulling away. In re­tal­i­a­tion, the diminu­tive Ital­ian race car gained speed and held the gap, pushed along by the ea­ger Subaru Levorg driven by reign­ing cham­pion, Ash­ley Sut­ton, who man­aged to fight his way to sec­ond place be­fore one of the

BTCC’s great­est ‘cat and mouse’ games en­sued.

From the tenth lap to the end of the race, Sut­ton and Cook showed amaz­ing race­craft and a healthy dose of mu­tual re­spect as they ran side-by­side. The Scooby probed left and right, not quick enough to pass the Vauxhall, but chal­leng­ing ev­ery as­pect of its driver’s ex­ten­sive de­fen­sive ar­moury. It was cap­ti­vat­ing, edge-of-the-seat stuff!

Proc­tor was firmly slot­ted into sev­enth place, and with Cook lead­ing the pack, PMR was on course for a re­mark­able fin­ish re­gard­less of the dou­ble one-two achieve­ments of the fac­tory Hon­das at the end of the first and sec­ond race of the week­end. It cer­tainly looked as though Sut­ton had run out of ideas, dumb­founded by Cook’s abil­ity to po­si­tion the As­tra in ev­ery inch of space the Subaru was head­ing for. Then, just as the fin­ish line came into view, Sut­ton let rip, a move which saw both cars sprint to the fin­ish along­side each other in spec­tac­u­lar style, the Subaru nudg­ing for­ward by just 32/1000ths of a sec­ond to take the win. Ob­vi­ously, Cook and the PMR fam­ily were gut­ted to lose out by such a nar­row mar­gin, but ev­ery­one in the team garage was proud to have watched two he­roes of the se­ries per­form so well in a race nei­ther de­served to lose.

sat­is­fy­ing end

Proc­tor man­aged to re­tain his twelfth place in the driver’s cham­pi­onship by end­ing the race in sev­enth, with the width of a leaf forc­ing Cook to drop to sixth. PMR fin­ished third in the team’s cham­pi­onship, equal on points with Honda, but de­feated on count­back. A bril­liant re­sult which of­fers great hope for a ti­tle chal­lenge in 2019.

“It was a week­end that will stick in the mem­ory!” smiles PMR’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, Martin Broad­hurst. “Senna was on the pace from the start, as proved by his three top ten fin­ishes, the re­sult of hard work on and off the track, the lat­ter in part­ner­ship with his en­gi­neer, Rob Peacey. They put to­gether a storm­ing car for the week­end. I was hop­ing for more pace from Josh’s car af­ter the en­gine swap, but his per­for­mances in the sec­ond and third race of the week­end were epic, even if he was dis­ap­pointed to have been pipped to the post in what will un­doubt­edly go down in his­tory as one of the best races ever seen in the BTCC!”

PMR team prin­ci­pal, Adam Weaver, ex­presses sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment. “As al­ways, the BTCC never fails to dis­ap­point. We started the sea­son with a ground-break­ing race at Brands Hatch, wit­ness­ing Senna make up twenty-seven places to take his first win, be­fore watch­ing Josh fight one of the great­est bat­tles of the se­ries at the end of the sea­son’s last race. I couldn’t be prouder of both As­tra driv­ers and the en­tire PMR team.”

You may be won­der­ing what’s in store for PMR and its cars now the sea­son is over. It cer­tainly doesn’t in­volve hav­ing a rest, with ‘be­hind the scenes’ work al­ready be­gin­ning in prepa­ra­tion for 2019’s com­pe­ti­tion! In forth­com­ing is­sues of Per­for­mance

Vauxhall, we’ll bring you news of what’s hap­pen­ing dur­ing the ‘off sea­son’. Sub­scribe to the mag and never miss out on an up­date.

Josh’s ef­forts in the fi­nal race of the sea­son are al­ready the stuff of leg­end

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