Drivers prepare for Donington assault
As the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rolls up for the second event of the season at Donington Park, all of the teams have been hard at work to get their cars and drivers prepared for three more adrenaline-filled races.
Here’s what a few of the protagonists have had to say about the weekend in prospect:
Andrew Jordan: “We go to Donington with full weight and I think that’s going to make more of a difference this year for qualifying because there are more people up at the front of the pack. We’ll try and qualify as well as we can with the weight but to get another pole will be very difficult.
“We need to be in championship mode all the time now: consistency will win this championship. It’s not going to be about the number of race wins, it will be about who scores the most consistent points through the season and that’s what we’ll try and do.”
Matt Neal: “I have a lot of special memories of Donington Park. It was where I took my first BTCC win, which really set me on my way, plus of course it’s my local circuit. It invariably attracts huge numbers of fans who all create a great atmosphere, and the racing always seems to be good as well! It’s a circuit like no other to be honest, with very different characteristics, so I’m really looking forward to the weekend.
“I was dead chuffed after Brands Hatch. OK, we didn’t get the win, which would have been the perfect scenario, but to score three podiums as a team was brilliant, particularly when you consider it was the first event for our new Civic Tourer and the level of competition in the field this year.
“We’re still learning the car, of course, and it has taken some adjustment to my driving style, too, as there are a few little tricky things where the Civic Tourer behaves differently from the hatchback. It certainly keeps you on your toes, but it was a really great first weekend and the car will only get better.”
Gordon Shedden: “The key for us at Brands Hatch was to get some solid points on the board, especially given my previous record there. Last year, I left 37 points off the lead of the championship, and the year before, I had been more than 40 points adrift. This year is the closest I’ve ever been to the top of the table after the opening round, which bodes well for the rest of the season.
“The nature of Donington Park and its corners should hopefully suit the Civic Tourer a little bit better than Brands Indy. It’s one of my favourite circuits – quick and flowing, with good undulation. It’s a real old-school track, and one that Honda has performed pretty well at over the past few years – so long may that continue.
“There’s no reason to think qualifying won’t be every bit as close as it was at Brands Hatch, and you could easily find yourself back on the sixth row of the grid rather than the front row without doing very much wrong – but I’m confident we will be up at the sharp end again.”
Jason Plato: “Everyone is motivated after Brands. The team is confident coming into this weekend and the new aero package and dampers will come into effect more here; the faster circuits like Donington and Thruxton should see us get better and better. The championship is looking great this year and I’m looking forward to another competitive weekend.”
Sam Tordoff: “Three points finishes and three good starts were what I took away from Brands. Donington is a very different circuit to Brands and it should suit our car a lot better; we’re heading there with some optimism. I think the field will be spaced out a lot more, but with the field that we have in the series this year, there won’t be any easy weekends. I want to be at the front and regularly on the podium, so Donington is important for us; we need to bag some solid points this weekend to get back in the fight for the championship and take the challenge to the BMWs and Hondas.”
Rob Austin: “It was at Donington I achieved my first race win in British F3 – I did a celebratory donut on the slowing down lap and spun into the gravel trap! There was also a Masters GP historic Formula 1 race when I went from ninth to first on the first lap in my Arrows A4 – everyone raves about Ayrton Senna’s opening lap in the European GP there, but he only went from sixth to first!
“It’s also where I made my BTCC race debut, in 2011. It’s not been the kindest to me in terms of BTCC results yet, but the Audi’s chassis has always been very good there and we had a fantastic pre-season test at Donington when we learnt a lot and seemed to be on the pace of some other very fancied runners. So I’m confident – I know, I’ve said that before! But we showed we had great pace at Brands Hatch and it’s important I score well in all three races this weekend to keep the championship leaders in sight. I’m equal ninth in the standings at the moment and want to be higher than that by Sunday evening.”
Hunter Abbott: “Now I’ve had a taste of the BTCC at Brands Hatch I cannot wait to get back out there. The qualifying times won’t be as close as they were at Brands but my goals are to improve on my qualifying position from Brands and my race starts – they were diabolical! – plus, dare I say it, break into the top ten in a race. That would be fantastic.
“I had my first ever car race there in Formula First in 2000 and put it on pole position! In 2008 I set a new GT4 lap record when I was sharing a Ginetta G50 with Rob in British GTs. Wheel-banging with (former F1 racer) Martin Donnelly in Radical sportscars in 2005 was good fun as well…”
Fabrizio Giovanardi: “This weekend will hopefully be better for us. We had a big analysis of the car after Brands Hatch and with the changes we have made for the set-up we should have a much more balanced car – especially in qualifying where we need to make the biggest improvement. If you can get out in front in qualifying then that is 80% of the work done.
“I am aiming for podiums this weekend and to come away with points. If a win comes then that is great, but if it doesn’t that is also ok. I’m quite far away from the top at the moment but it’s a long championship, we are only in the second weekend – I’m looking for points this weekend and just to be back in the fight.”
Mat Jackson: “Taking the positives away from Brands Hatch; qualifying was a lot better than it has been before. P9 didn’t really tell the whole story – we were only two tenths off pole so I’m confident that with a few tweaks we can extract more time out of the car.
“We’re in good shape. We have a few things to try, but it’s more about building on what we already have this season rather than shooting from hip. The podium should be within reach this weekend, that’s where we need to be and we’re in a lot better position. I’m feeling confident and Donington will hopefully prove to be a good event for us.”
Jack Clarke: “I am very excited for Donington this weekend and can’t wait to get back into the car; at the end of the Brands weekend I wanted to do it all over again!
“We showed a positive rate of improvement during the opening three races and I am looking forward to continue and maintain that into Donington.”
Adam Morgan: “We suffered with a lack of straight line speed at Brands. We took the car to Silverstone last Friday and believe we have now resolved that issue. I am constantly learning things about the new car. My engineer is trying new things and they have an immediate effect on the way the car handles, it’s just getting better and better.
“I really enjoy the fast undulating nature of Donington and with the way the Mercedes A Class handles – I’m really looking forward to the weekend. To leave the first round of the Championship well inside the top ten and with three points finishes is testament to the team and the commitment and dedication they have shown in the preparation and manufacture of the new A Class.”
Dave Newsham: “Brands Hatch was a bit of a trying weekend in a way because we struggled with understeer in the first two races and it was only in race three that we really got the balance sorted and could give an idea of what we can do. We’re going back to a tried and tested set-up for this weekend at Donington which should give us better balance from the outset, and that will hopefully allow us to hit the ground running.
“Donington is a circuit that has never been kind to me in the past, even in my Clio Cup winning season, but I hope that can change this weekend. The main aim is to make sure we pick up three finishes and hopefully if we can start the weekend the way we ended things at Brands Hatch, we’ll be pushing into the top ten again.
“Although we tested at Donington Park on the Media Day, we had a brake issue that meant we didn’t get chance to chase a time before it started to rain. We didn’t show our hand in the dry as a result, but at least we know we’ll have a good car if it turns out to be wet this weekend!”
James Cole: “Qualifying times of the Toyota at Donington last year suggests that the Avensis has pace there. But Brands proved just how competitive the series is this year and so we can’t rely on last year’s times and efforts as every car is pushing to find that last tenth.
“Donington is a lovely flowing circuit, fantastic for racing. I have fond memories of racing there in Formulae Ford and Three – the latter being the last time I raced there.”
Glynn Geddie: “It’s very early days in our BTCC programme. It’s a case of keeping our heads down and pushing forward to make the car and engine perform to its maximum.
“I love Donington and the Toyota should be well suited there. It’s a ‘power’ track so straight line speed is especially important. With each race at Brands Hatch, I became more confident in the Avensis and like myself, with every mile the team learns about the car.”
Watch all of the racing action live and in high definition from 10:30 on Sunday on ITV4. Don’t forget you can also catch qualifying on the ITV BTCC website.