This weekend the World Touring Car Championship heads to PortimÃ£o, Portugal, and in the build up to rounds 9 & 10 we spoke to Harry Vaulkhard who is taking part in the series this year in the Independent championship.
In his first year of WTCC Vaulkhard has already made an impact, taking his first Independent win at Monza, but unfortunately due to bad luck the Englishman has missed out on other opportunities.
“Monza was great for us with results” said Vaulkhard talking to TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, “But I think we have been unlucky not to get similar results at the other rounds. I've had 2 DNF's through no fault of my own and in particular race 2 at Zolder I was gutted. The car had been great all weekend but it was a real weapon at the start of race 2, so hopefully I can get more but time is all that will tell is the answer to that one!”
The DNF at Zolder will go down as one of the most bizarre accidents of his career after crashing out due to a wheel falling off the Chevrolet Lacetti.
“The wheel studs on my car failed, with only 4 studs on the Lacetti when 1 goes the rest just couldn’t hold on!” he explained. “The studs were all within their life period, so it can only have been the nature of the curbs at Zolder or a flaw in one or more of the studs.”
Thankfully the accident wasn't too bad, but he admits the cause of the accident is something that needs to be dealt with. “It needs looking into as that could have been a huge crash if had happened pretty much anywhere else on the circuit and flying wheels are very dangerous to marshals and spectators as well as drivers. The wheel bounced off something and came back and hit my door so fortunately didn’t come into the cabin. It’s never happened to me before with the Lacetti so I just need to accept it for what it is a freak! “
With the series rolling in to PortimÃ£o for the first time this weekend, the teams will all be faced with the same challenge of learning the track, this gives bamboo racing an advantage in their debut WTCC season. “Definitely heading to ‘new tracks’ is helping us, were on an incredible learning curve so anything that levels the wicket is good news for us, that said Monza has been mine & bamboos strongest weekend so far and the WTCC has been there previously.”
When asked about his expectations for the weekend ahead he answered: “It’s very hard to make predictions, especially here. The BMW’s should be strong, but I love the circuit, it’s like Knockhill took a load of Steroids then ‘made babies’ with the Pepsi max Rollercoaster and it grew up in the sunshine of Portugal. I'm going out to try and get on the podium again and I’m confident Bamboo will be strong there.”
This weekend will see Vaulkhard go head-to-head with a previous rival as Colin Turkington starts his first race of the 2010 season.
“It will be great to race with Colin again,” says Vaulkhard. “Colin is without doubt one of the best touring car drivers in the world, he races hard but fair and we’ve had the occasional scrape in BTCC but never taken each other off.”
Asked about how he thought Turkington would perform this weekend he said: “He’s bound to be quick, how quick will possibly depend on the ‘spec’ of car he races, but either way I’m sure he’ll be right up there.”
Despite all focus being on the upcoming weekend, the series moves to Brands Hatch in two weeks time and will mark Vaulkhards 'home race'.
“I’m really looking forward to Brands, Tom Boardman did a great job there last season in WTCC.” He said before talking about his 2009 BTCC experience at Brands Hatch, “We had a bad weekend on the GP track through technical issues but we had great race pace, so we have good info to work from and I’m sure between me and my new engineer we can do something special!”