Michael Epps endured a disappointing first visit to Thruxton in Rounds Six and Seven of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, contact ending the JWA-Avila driver's meeting in the opening race.
With the meeting squeezed into one day, the Anytime Fitness-backed driver was left with just a fifteen minute practice session to learn the high-speed Hampshire circuit before the all-important qualifying session, although his progress was helped with the weather staying dry for all the sessions, for the first time in 2012.
A frustrating qualifying session saw him unable to produce the pace he'd desired, leaving him just P23 and P21 for the two races. Qualifying was cut short by a lap after a horrific high-speed crash for Laura Tillett, an incident that happened directly in front of Epps and one he was lucky to avoid.
The Hertfordshire based 20-year old said: “I felt like I was struggling a little with straight-line speed, but I was also having trouble getting my braking zones sorted as well. Then there is the challenge of getting a tow around the flat-out section but most of the drivers I found were messing about too much for me to gain anything out of it.”
Heading into the race, Epps had reviewed a few things and worked out where some of his pace might be. Starting from 23rd, Epps made a good start and began to pick his way through the field, reaching the top twelve in just five laps.
Epps commented: “I was finding racing around here really easy, it's all slipstream, tactics and keeping your foot in, I think I did more passes on the outside than on the inside thinking about it!”
Averaging two passes per lap, Epps was enjoying some great progress, with a superb pass around the outside of the high-speed Noble corner seeing him take eleventh. He was on course for a top ten finish, he and his team's best ever result in the series, however it was to all go wrong when he attempted a move on Fortec's Martin Cao.
Epps explained: “I got a great run on him through Church and went for the inside, I was taking a risk and knew he would defend, but wasn't ready for what he did.”
Cao squeezed Epps to the inside at the fastest corner in British motorsport, before swiping him onto the grass and sending him into a spin. Bouncing sideways across the rough ground on two wheels, the underside of his car was ripped off, destroying the side of the car, with Epps lucky not to roll-over.
With severe bodywork damage and the later discovery of drive-shaft and potential gearbox damage, Epps was unable to take to the grid for the final race. It was a devastating conclusion to a race that had so much potential, with the final results showing Epps had potential for a top eight finish.
Epps, who now lies 22nd in the championship, concluded: ““I can't believe how much bad luck I seem to be having this year. You are supposed to leave room, but he just forced me straight off. The only thing I can do from here is just try to have a much better second-half of the season. It's been so tough, but hopefully we can finally make a decent show for ourselves at the next one
“From the day, I can at least take that I had the potential for a good result and I showed that I can out-race many of the others out there. Now to work towards the next one.”