Chris James and Team ES Racing enjoyed some strong results from an incident packed second round of the British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park.
Having improved by nearly one and a half seconds between the two free practice sessions, the team went into qualifying in a positive mood. The session was hit by two red flags due to cars going off circuit. Shortly after the second restart, James' session would come to an early end.
Contact with the SEAT of Tom Boardman pitched James' Chevrolet Lacetti into a spin, also damaging the suspension. This left the team with a lot of work to do in order to get the car ready for Sunday's races.
After qualifying James said: “Qualifying, what qualifying!? To say it was a joke is an understatement! With the two red flags and the Tom Boardman incident we did not get the chance to put one single flying lap in. What happened with Tom Boardman was crazy & unfortunate to say the least. After a discussion in the paddock Tom & I shook hands and agreed put it behind us. No-one wants damage, and at that speed it could have been a lot worse.”
The team was able to get the car ready for the first of the three races on Sunday. “Thankfully the team put in a great effort to get the car fixed by the end of Saturday,” said James. “We did have to run with what should have been a front damper on the rear, but at least we were out.”
After starting from 22nd place, James drove a solid race to bring the car home in 17th position. “I had a reasonable start to the race” he explained. “I didn't realise until seeing footage afterwards that Tony Hughes & I briefly touched. I was focusing more on what was going on 2 or 3 cars ahead, where John George was spinning. Luckily I managed to get through unscathed and was able to continue.
“After the start I was able to make up a couple of places over the next few laps. From there it really became almost a test session as I had a good lead on the car behind me, but sadly was a little too far off the car in front to challenge. I just stroked the car home, trying to keep tyres and engine temperatures down. This was another finish and more independent points for the team.”
In Race 2, despite a poor start, James again gained some places, finishing in 14th position in an action-packed race. “I have to think hard to actually get any meaningful recollections in any order, as so much happened,” said James. “What I do remember is an appalling start; I count myself lucky that I wasn't smashed up the back at the start. The engine just bogged down & I couldn't get it moving. Once I re-grouped I got back on the tail of the pack, then there was a safety car due to the Plato incident. No-one likes to see what happened there and I am very glad Jason was unharmed.
“After a long safety car I was able to get a good re-start and make up a few places, and begin to reel John George in. I was disappointed with the second safety car as it gave the people behind the chance to catch up again. I was even more disappointed with Frank Wrathall on the re-start, as when he was 10 plus laps down I am totally baffled as to why he was pushing me in to Redgate, causing me to come off and lose a place to Dave Newsham. Luckily I re-gained my composure and was able to make the place back up again. To finish 14th was a great achievement & again more points for the team.”
More chaos at the beginning of Race 3 allowed James to move up as high as ninth place when the safety car came out. However, with faster cars coming through from the back of the pack James knew it would be hard work to remain in the top ten. An incident with Nick Foster saw James drop down the order, but he fought his way back up to 12th by the finish – the best result of his BTCC career to date.
“I had a much better start this time, which helped me avoid the carnage on the start,” he said. “The first lap was a bit of a blur, as all I can remember really was having to find gaps between spinning cars and being on the brakes when I shouldn't have been. The great start I made combined with other people falling off moved me up to ninth position under the safety car. I had a relatively good re-start, but knowing I had turbo cars behind me, it was always going to be hard to hold on to a top 10 place.
“This became even harder when Nick Foster used me as brakes and rails in to the chicane on our first flying lap. Rubbing is racing for sure, but using someone for brakes is something a 5 year old could do!! Being in a rear wheel drive car I wouldn't have thought he'd appreciate the favour being returned, what is it “what goes around comes around”, is that right? Never-the-less I was able to keep the car on the track and hold a few places. To finish 12th was amazing. In only our second ever BTCC event we managed to not only finish all 3 races again, 6 in a row now, but to move forward every single time.”
Summing up his second weekend in the BTCC, James said: “The weekend overall was a mixture of emotions. I was frustrated in FP1 as after scrubbing in tyres for the weekend we went out on “carry over” tyres that were useless and stopped me from putting any times in. Qualifying went even worse, where the damage I obtained nearly ended the weekend. But after that things improved. I was able to keep the car straight, well apart from being used as brakes in the third race, and was able to improve results in each race. To finish 17th, 14th & 12th in only our second round is amazing. We are learning more about the car at each event, but still have had so little time in the car.
“I want to thank my team for all of their efforts. I also want to thank the hundreds of amazing supporters we've gained who visited me in the paddock, and posted good luck wishes online. Without my family, team and supporters this wouldn't be worth doing.”