Phil Glew returned to BTCC action at Silverstone with a drive in the new YourRacingCar.com backed Seat Leon run by Special Tuning UK. The weekend was filled with incidents for the new car but a mature drive from Glew meant a number of positives could be taken away whilst the team consider what the future holds.
Before this weekend YourRacingCar.com has provided a drive for Fulvio Mussi in the Ginetta G50 championship last season and the Clio Cup this season. But hard work has paid off as the ultimate goal of backing a car on the Touring Car grid has been achieved. Run by Special Tuning Uk, the team behind Tom Boardman, the Seat Leon with the new generation engine was piloted by the popular Phil Glew who has been absent from the series since a good showing at Thruxton at the start of the season due to a lack of sponsorship.
The new car ran well in both free practices on the Saturday and all was looking good for qualifying until disaster struck. The drive shaft popped out on the first out lap and the team fought hard to fix the problem before the end of the session but to no avail. It meant starting at the back of the grid for the first race and the ability of the Leon being tested to the maximum.
A trouble free first race saw Glew move up the field to take the chequered flag in a very respectable fourteenth place. Another place was gained in race two which meant a start for race three from thirteenth and the car was running well. Pretty good going in the first race meeting for the new Special Tuning UK Seat Leon.
Race three got under way and lady luck was on Glew's side as a number of spins and retirements meant last year's Clio cup champion was up to ninth and at one point, holding off Jason Plato. Unfortunately the luck ran out. The stewards decided Glew had passed James Nash under safety car conditions and ordered him to allow Nash back through.
More bad luck was to follow. All hopes of a points finish on the Car's debut were destroyed when a drive through penalty was imposed for running too wide at Copse. A decision which seemed very harsh as it was not just Glew who had run wide at the same corner. The race ended in another thirteenth place, but Phil had proved the Car and himself were capable of better.
We caught up with Phil after the final race in the team garage, surrounded by an upbeat crew despite the disappointment of the imposed penalties, I got his thoughts on the weekend. When asked about the drive through penalty Phil told me, 'Everyone was running wide and I'm just a little bit shocked that they could have penalised anyone from the whole field and they penalised me who's running the new generation engine that TOCA are trying to run next year. We were just about getting somewhere after a hard weekend of developing it which has not been easy, then when we're about to get a points finish they penalise us.'
It seemed a bitter pill for Phil to swallow, and rightly so, as a number of other drivers should have been penalised for the same offence, so attentions were turned to the overall performance of the car. 'We've made a lot of changes over the weekend and we made some big changes for the last race' he told me. 'The biggest thing was putting new front tyres on and old rears on. We'd been running all four tyres new all weekend so I don't know if it was that or a combination of set up changes which completely transformed the car to become capable of a top ten finish. It was so much better and so much nicer. I managed to get a good start and a good first lap.'
The drive through penalty was not the only gripe Phil had as he went on to mention the incident with James Nash. 'The other thing about the race was that they penalised me for overtaking James Nash at Brooklands when the safety car wasn't even out at that point as far as I could see. Then I get told to swap places behind the safety car. It was a bit frustrating after a really hard weekend to end like that when we were about to get a good result.'
However frustrating it was, no one could fail to notice how well the team had performed on its debut and with only Glew's second BTCC outing positives shone through. Something which Phil reiterated, 'It's very good for the team. It's very good for the sponsors and everyone involved. All in all it was a solid weekend.' When asked where the team went from here, 'We'll find out' came the response. 'We will assess it over the next week and see if we can get out again this year.'
A crucial element in the teams funding comes in the shape of YourRacingCar.com. A unique way of helping run a team comes from the fans themselves. Money is generated by supporters signing up and paying a reasonable fee. In return they receive their name or photo on the race car, merchandise, exclusive behind the scenes news and a whole lot more. The amount of fans photos on the top of the Seat Leon is testament to the support received for a team who gives something back to the followers.
Hannah James, the team principle and the brains behind the YourRacingCar.com operation used her wealth of commercial and motorsport knowledge to create the team from the back of a beer mat in January 2009. By the start of that season, just three months later, YourRacingCar.com had a Ginetta G50 on the grid for the start of the G50 championships with its livery covered in the names of all the founding supporters.
A successful season saw driver Fulvio Mussi take fourth place in the championship standings much to the delight of all the fans who supported the team. This year YRC were back on the grid with a Renault Clio and Fulvio behind the wheel for his second season with the outfit. However, the ultimate ambition was to get a car on the BTCC grid, and thanks to the hard work Hannah and the team have put in, the ambition was fulfilled at Silverstone just 17 months from the formation of YourRacingCar.com
Hannah gave her thoughts on YRC's BTCC debut: 'Overall, we couldn’t have expected any more. The car, despite niggles was great, the engine stood up to the job we asked of it and proved that the package is a serious contender given some development time. Our thoroughly brave sponsors who supported us with this idea to do something completely different had a brilliant time and their faith in us was rewarded with some excellent coverage! Most importantly, as a unit, YRC proved that we’re up to the job of being serious contenders in the BTCC and I hope we surprised a few people.'
The weekend was a bit different to what Hannah has experienced before in the series as she continued 'BTCC isn’t new to me as I used to work at SEAT Sport UK but it certainly feels a bit harder when the buck stops at your feet! I think the rose tinted view that a manufacturer budget provides makes for an entirely different experience, I can tell you! And that I wouldn’t change for the world. It wasn’t easy but chucking together a group of people and expecting them all to perform at the highest level on such a public event but we did it and I think we all enjoyed it.'
So with a successful weekend now behind them, what does the future hold? '2011 is a long way off but we’re working on it.' Said Hannah. 'There are a lot of things we need to think about before then, including what we can offer fans in the future. We’ve had tonnes of feedback and now it’s a case of seeing what’s feasible. Getting out again this year would be amazing but at this stage it’s just a nice idea. We’re looking at the possibility in the next few days so we’ll let you know if anything positive comes out of that.'
With the amount of fan support received for the team, there is no doubting that there are many petrol heads out there with their fingers crossed hoping that the team will be back out and fighting for points in the British Touring Car Championship soon.