After a trying few months for his team, John Thorne was pleased following the return of the Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Insignia to Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship action – and set his sights on getting the car out again for Silverstone later this season.
A deal with Tony Gilham saw the Team HARD. step into the NGTC Vauxhall while Robb Holland took over his own Honda Civic. Despite not turning a wheel in an NGTC machine before, and with the car off-track since race two at Donington Park, the second round of the season, the partnership turned a few heads.
But with Gilham not returning to the driver’s seat, and the team losing their truck deal, Knockhill is out of the question and budget restraints mean Thorne is eyeing the penultimate round of the championship at Silverstone as the car’s next outing.
“Happy with that,” Thorne wrote on the Thorney Vauxhall website. “Happy that we showed everyone that the Insignia can run in the top ten, happy that we suffered no mechanical failures (on a day when there were many due to the heat), happy that a driver with zero seat time can immediately put the car into contention and happy that our decision to take time out, develop the car in testing and come back into the BTCC as a contender and not an also ran was proven the right one.”
Despite problems in practice limiting his seat time further Gilham qualified the car 19th and finished 13th in race one, a result which “delighted” the Thorney boss.
For race two, the team made some set-up chances to improve the car’s grip in the middle of the corners and it paid dividends early on, with Gilham running close to the top ten and lapping quickly, before contact scuppered the team’s chance of a top ten finish.
Thorne continues: “In the back of my mind was something Tony said before he got in the car, ‘all we need is a 7th/8th, reverse grid and pole for last race and we’ve got a podium’. At the time I admired his optimism but now I was thinking he could be right.
“But then we got the call over the radio that the car was losing power and Tony brought it in. He’d hit Neate’s MG pretty hard which smashed the bumper across the centre, sadly it meant the ducting for the intake got crushed and covered over the intercooler. No air = no power, damn.”
With a car weakened from crash damage, and the team’s limited budget meaning replacement parts were out of the question, the decision was made to repair the car as best as they could and solider on. Another strong start saw Gilham battling just outside the top ten early on but contact with the Proton of Dan Welch ended his race early.
Thorne writes: “The disapointment and poor luck in race two and three was hard to take but the team was pretty happy overall. This was a minor feeling of what could be but once we got over that we took great heart in how the car performed and in many respects felt vindicated for the past 4 months hard work in the workshop and in testing.”
Thorne was particularly pleased with how race day vindicated not only the decision to step back and develop the car, but also the choice of car in the first place, with strong pace in all three sectors – especially one and two.
But he reserved special praise for the “stunning job” his TMS team members did. The small outfit had just four men on call at Snetterton, one on loan from Team HARD., and the boss also complimented the work from Swindon Engines for their help after differences caused a temporary split earlier in the season.
“As for the future?”, he concludes. “Well we don’t know, the deal with Tony was for Snetterton only and without him and Karcher supporting us this weekend, we wouldn’t have even been out for that. Our Karcher partnership is more about our off road racing operation, where we are racing Arctic Cat Wildcats in next years Tuareg and Dakar Rallys, but their help in getting the Insignia on the grid was also crucial, albeit a one off for Snetterton.”