Andy Neate was full of praise for both Mike Bushell and his IP Tech Race squad’s Chevrolet Cruze after Knockhill, his rookie replacement shining at the Scottish venue.
Bushell stepped into the car to make his BTCC debut in the Independent team’s NGTC Cruze at the 1.2 mile Fife circuit, and showed flashes of pace as he ran close to the top-10 ultimate pace in Saturday practice before qualifying 17th, only 0.7s away from pole position.
Recovering to 18th in race one after needing a pit stop to tend to a radiator full of grass follwoing a small off-track excursion, 17th place followed in race two before the UK Renault Clio Cup regular was assaulted at Scotsman’s corner by the Airwaves Ford of Aron Smith in the final race of the day.
Team owner and regular driver Neate was encouraged by the performance of both Bushell and the Chevrolet Cruze during the Knockhill meeting, saying: “It’s been another fantastic weekend for us as a team, although it’s a shame it ended as it did.
“Mike has done a really good job behind the wheel and has shown strong pace every time he’s been on track, he just lost out a little bit when it came to working the tyres in qualifying which meant he was in the pack on race day, and that can be where you find trouble.”
“Mechanically, the car has been faultless again and it is only because of another driver that we’re going away from the weekend having picked up our first DNF and having failed to score our first points finish.”
On an exciting debut, Bushell said: “The weekend seemed to have it all. I had a bad start, had a good start, went off myself and got taken off!
“It was never going to be easy given that I’d not spent much time behind the wheel before the event and I’d not been to Knockhill before, but I think I’ve made my mark and shown what I can do.”
“I got quicker throughout the weekend as I got more comfortable in the car and I have no doubt that we could have brought home a top ten finish in the final race had it not been for the incident with Aron. The team has been great this weekend and has given me a great car.”
Confirming that the hunt for a full-time BTCC drive is still in progress, he added: “Having had the chance to race in the BTCC this weekend, I know this is where I want to be in 2014. My focus now is on the final two rounds in the Clio and ending the year well, but I’ll be working hard to put a deal together to make sure this isn’t just a one off.”
Neate, who drove the car for its debut meeting at Snetterton, will now return to the wheel of the Cruze for the next event at Rockingham on September 14/15, and admits that the trip South is one he is looking forward too due to the changes in boost levels to the Cruze.
“While it’s been good to give Mike the chance to race the car this weekend, I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel myself, and having seen how competitive we have been this weekend despite still running on base boost, I’m excited about what we can achieve when the levels are evened out a bit at Rockingham.”