Welcome to my final blog of 2010 for TCF. It’s been a real rollercoaster of a season, there have been highs and lows but most importantly I left the last round of the BTCC a happy man.
Brands Hatch was the showdown. There was a sell out crowd – a record for the past decade – of 42,000 which made it even more special and promises that next year the BTCC is set to be just as well supported as this year. I knew going into the final round the main objective for me was to finish 10th in the championship and I wanted to win, a podium was just not good enough. If doing this could help Jason clinch the title, even better, but I wasn`t just focused on helping Jason I was out there to prove a point too.
I arrived at Brands on the Thursday night. I normally spend the Fridays watching the support series testing and catching up with teams I used to drive for in the past. At the end of the day I walked the track which had just been resurfaced. I picked up on a couple of important kerbs that had been changed. I then got I call from my dad to pick him up from Biggin Hill airport.
On the Saturday the first test went really well, I was in the top six which is always promising. There were only a couple of corners I was struggling with compared to Jason so my engineer and I studied the data closely and made a slight change to the camber. In free practice two I was P1 for a long time until Jason just snuck in front at the end. It was really unusual because we both set our fastest times on old tyres. I don’t know if it was just down to the new surface which prevented the new slicks from heating properly or what it was but for sure it was strange.
At the end of the session Jason and I were one and two, it was a great start to the day for us and it was looking like another Chevy front row for qualifying. Into qualifying, for some reason the car felt a bit more nervous on turn-in which didn’t let me get into a good rhythm. My times were quick and at one point I was on pole but I knew I wouldn`t stay there. On my second set of tyres I produced a time good enough for fourth on the grid. I knew a pole position was in me so I went for another shot on four brand new slicks. I reset my mind and just went for it. I set the fastest first sector and then going into the last sector I made a slight mistake and spun. I was pushing so hard I was about to run wide so a lifted slightly to try and recover it but it was enough to cause a spin.
I was really disappointed. I knew I had a good chance having the quickest car on the grid and no success ballast which all the drivers in front of me had. Jason was on pole so the camp was still smiling, just not me! At the end of the day we had a team photo shoot in front of the garages. It’s amazing how many people there are in the team when you get to see them all together.
I woke up on Sunday feeling confident and focused on the job I had to do that day. It was a busy morning with the autograph session at 9:30am and then the Q&A at the Chevrolet stand. The first race went really well, I made a good start and I got a slight tap from Matt Neal which allowed a couple of cars to nip up my inside going into Druids. I was determined to make the places back up and I got back into fourth by lap 14 and then started to catch the leaders. The car felt really strong towards the end of the race but the laps were counting down and I ended up in fourth which wasn`t a bad result. I was now into 10th in the championship and I would start fourth for the second race.
Jason won the race and Chevrolet got the most manufacturer points in that race which allowed a member from Chevrolet on the podium to receive the manufacturer trophy. The day was going well so far for me and Jason. Race two was another good race…well, for the first 500 yards! I made an awesome start and got into second, I had a good enough gap to not defend into Druids but Matt Neal was on a do or die strategy and he came from two car lengths back to knock me sideways and onto the grass. I was now dead last and I had a lot of ground to make up. I knew I had a quicker car than everyone in front of me but I ended up having to be quite aggressive to get past them as they were out there to race too so were defending heavily. The problem when you come up against backmarkers is that those cars are a lot less developed and its pretty stupid when they start to defend so I tried to lunge one of the old Honda Integras into Paddock. We made slight contact but I lost control of the rear as I had to mount the kerb and went through the gravel trap which burst one of the hydraulic pipes for the power steering. I had to retire, that was me out of the race and by the end I dropped back down into 11th in the championship.
I had to start race three from the back of the grid. I did plenty of overtaking on every other lap and by lap 14 I was into 11th place. I tried my hardest to unsettle 10th place but they drove really well and so I stayed 11th. It was all over, the season had ended and I finished 11th in the championship.
When I look back on the season it’s with a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction. Taking two pole positions in my debut year in touring cars and becoming the youngest ever driver to qualify on pole was a great achievement. To think that the BTCC has been around for over 65 years and I am the youngest ever in the history of the championship to qualify pole gives me great pleasure. Qualifying has been our strong point this season. I knew that the racing would be tough and it was. I think if we’re back next year there will be wins and I’d like to finish in the top three in the championship.
I want to thank TCF for inviting me to write blogs for you to read and to enable you to get to know me a bit better. Roll on 2011!