Credit: HMS Racing
Dunlop Touring Car Trophy team HMS Racing celebrated an excellent podium finish in the opening round of the new championship’s inaugural season at Oulton Park International Circuit on Saturday, 11th May, after a very strong and impressive performance from Audi A4 racer Alex Day.
Taking a dramatic second place overall in race one at the wheel of the British Touring Car Championship specification ex-Rob Austin ‘Sherman’ Audi, following late contact between rival Henry Neal and TCR UK class driver Ollie Taylor, another trip to the rostrum was on the cards in race two until an excursion and subsequent retirement with three laps to go.
While disappointed with the non-finish, Swindon squad HMS was still very happy to depart Cheshire with a podium under its belt during the squad’s long-awaited return to touring car action and is now looking ahead to challenging for more silverware when the series resumes next month.
“It’s obviously great for the team to be back out on track in touring car action and fantastic to be helping a young driver like Alex to get the most out of a BTCC spec car”, said team principal Simon Belcher, “Race one on Saturday was the first time Alex has done a proper standing start since his time in Ginetta Juniors and he did a really solid job, and raced well too.
“We’re all delighted with the second place in race one, the highest placed BTCC car, and only a small mistake in race two prevented Alex from doubling-up with another podium. It was unfortunate, but just one of those things and something he’ll learn from. It’s been a great start, very good experience, and we’re all looking forward to Donington now.”
Well deserved podium success for Day on Touring Car Trophy bow
Colchester-based Day started out Saturday’s action as the second fastest of the BTCC spec cars, fourth overall, during morning free practice and went on to qualify fifth on the grid for race one with a time of 1m45.784 seconds.
At the start Day did a great job and climbed into fourth place overall, running as the second highest placed BTCC spec car, and remained there for the bulk of the contest until the dramatic turn of events with just a couple of laps to go.
As Neal and Taylor battled fiercely ahead, the scrap reached boiling point as the pair made contact at Old Hall where both ended their respective races in the barriers. Resulting in a red flag stoppage, the chequered flag followed and Day was credited with second place overall. He also took the fastest BTCC spec lap of the race, a time of 1m45.916s (91.49mph).
In race two later in the afternoon, Day rocketed into the outright lead off the start from second on the grid and remained at the front until lap four when edged back a place by TCR UK class runner Taylor in his SEAT Cupra TCR.
Running in second overall as the laps counted down, on the 12th tour a luckless excursion at Island Bend ultimately led to retirement which robbed team and driver of a deserved Oulton Park double podium finish.
Reflecting on the weekend, Day commented: “The step-up in professionalism in the team was even more impressive than I imagined it would be. Being run by a full touring car outfit was unbelievable and working through all the data with Rob Austin and race engineer Matt after every session really helped me to push the car harder. Taking a podium in race one was obviously a fantastic result.
“By the second race, I really felt I was getting on top of the freshly rebuilt ‘Sherman’ and I was able to push the car much closer to its limits. I had a fantastic standing start, taking the lead into the first corner, and held the lead for a number of laps but was under pressure from the leading front-wheel drive cars as their tyres came into play.”
He added: “Unfortunately, while running in second, I left the track at Island Bend and that was the end of our race. It’s disappointing the weekend ended like that but it’s been a fantastic start to the season and what a fantastic team! I’m really looking forward to Donington and continuing my progress with the car.”
Rounds three and four of the inaugural Dunlop Touring Car Trophy will take place on 22nd/23rd June at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit in Leicestershire, where the category will run as support to the high-profile British GT Championship.ee