Toyota's independent drivers Frank Wrathall, Adam Morgan and Tony Hughes shared mixed fortunes at an actioned packed Brands Hatch.
Accidents and mechanical dramas blighted the promising start to the 2012 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship the teams had hoped for.
With little testing for the Dynoject Avensis, Wrathall qualified an impressive eighth. Despite this, a gearbox problem flared up in the early stages of the first race. Wrathall was forced to retire to the pits in the third lap.
“Third gear broke up,” he said. “It's something that has never happened before, and who could have predicted it? It's a shame because that was probably my best-ever BTCC start. I got off the line well and in the first couple of corners was battling through. I was in quite a good position, then it started vibrating and when I hit third gear it just exploded.”
Twenty-three year-old Adam Morgan made his debut at the Kent circuit in the Ginetta backed Speedworks Motorsport Avensis as team mate to Tony Hughes. Just like Wrathall had a rather short first race of the season: “My initiation into touring cars – about 300 metres, I think it was,” said Morgan. “I got an OK start and was heading for Paddock Hill Bend and the next thing I know I get a smack on my left hand door and I'm heading for the wall.”
Morgan's team mate, Tony Hughes had a better first race than his Toyota counterparts, finishing the first race just outside the points in 16th after starting 21st. With Morgan and Wrathall spectating in race two, Hughes was the sole Toyota driver on the grid and again finished in 16th.
The Speedworks teammates fell casualty in race three in the red flagged incident, where seven cars piled into the gravel. Morgan, again suffering significant damage. Hughes made the restart like Wrathall who narrowly avoided the carnage by piling into the back of Dan Welch's Proton.
Hughes commented: “I took my foot off the brake, losing a little bit of braking, but I was able to steer into the gravel and avoid the other cars.”
Morgan added: “ I could have had a good race but then the oil went down and it was game over.”
Wrathall was set for good results come the restart but after a bump start on the grid and a drive through penalty he managed 13th: “The car just wouldn't fire up, so I got a bump start and as a result of that we got a penalty, which was harsh. The Toyota wasn't in top form – it had taken a couple of knocks in the earlier crash and wasn't handling brilliantly.”
Hughes however, was full of praise of his Speedworks Avensis: “I'm really pleased with the way the Toyota is handling. What I need now is more power.”