The Snetterton crowd witnessed a historic moment for the British Touring Car Championship when Frank Wrathall drove his NGTC-spec Toyota to fourth overall in the opening race of the event, scoring a maiden independent win the process. However, the weekend ended disappointingly for both Avensis drivers.
The Dynojet driver's weekend had got off to a positive step in qualifying on Saturday afternoon, setting the seventh fastest time – by far his best performance of the season so far – and immediately putting himself in contention for a points paying finish.
Climbing to sixth in the opening lap Wrathall moved up another place on track, passing James Nash at Agostini on the new infield section. The Toyota displaying hitherto unseen pace Wrathall caught Tom Chilton, the leading independent in race, placing the Team Aon driver under increasing pressure before a mistake at Riches allowed Wrathall through unchallenged. With the race completed Wrathall got the chance to step onto the podium as top independent, fourth overall behind a threesome of manufacturer backed drivers.
“The aim for the year was to get into the points,” said Wrathall. “To get fourth overall and top independent at the sixth meeting of the year is way beyond our expectations. From day one we've known that the Avensis had the potential. To put everything together and to get a podium is the best reward for all the hard work that's gone in.”
“I was a little worried about the start but I pulled away well from the line and put myself in the best possible position. I was tucked right up in the pack; then there was a lot of dust and a Honda spinning in the middle of the track. I used my head and picked my way through it.”
Further reward was a second row start for the second row, which Frank converted into third on track after the first lap, However, the Avensis had picked up damage during the first lap bumping which led to an overheating problem. Wrathall tried to correct the problem, dropping away from James Nash in second, into cooler air but was forced to retire late in the race. The damage to the radiator proved to be impossible to fix before the final leave, reducing Wrathall to spectator.
Speedworks Motorsport driver Tony Hughes was also watching the final race from the sidelines after a race two retirement.
A throttle problem in the second race meant the car went into 'limp mode', Hughes opting to pull over rather than bring the car back to pits, potentially doing more damage.
The problem brought to an end a learning weekend for the driver, driving the car for the first time since significant changes were made to the car to help improve the handling. In the earlier race Hughes had improved his position to 21st and was on course to move further up the order in second race, in 18th place before the problem struck.