Mike Bushell back in the JST mix
The AmDTuning.com team enjoyed a return to form with a Jack Sears Trophy-winning performance as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship roared back into life at Snetterton.
The West Thurrock-based team made the trip to Norfolk eager to build on a solid test at the circuit last month, with both Mike Bushell and Nicolas Hamilton seeking to make forward progress up the grid.
For reigning Clio Cup champion Mike, the weekend started well as he finished just shy of the top ten in the opening practice session, although it was to be the highlight of Saturday as a challenging qualifying campaign saw him end up in 22nd place on the grid.
A strong start when the lights went out in race one saw Mike make up four places on the opening lap alone at the wheel of his Ford Focus, and he continued to push hard throughout to cross the line in 16th place – less than half a second away from what would have been a second points finish of the season. It would also have been a victory in the JST as it was his old adversary Josh Cook that collected 15th place.
That result wasn’t long in coming however, with a mature drive in race two seeing Mike rewarded with his best result in the series to date. Sitting eleventh going into the final lap, Mike then took tenth when rival Tom Ingram slowed with a puncture; giving him a first top ten finish in the series.
While an off-track excursion in the final race prevented him from matching that result and instead resulted in a 20th place finish, Mike’s combined results across the three races saw him secure the Jack Sears Trophy as top rookie driver – the first time he has achieved the accolade since the season opener at Brands Hatch.
“I had three targets this weekend which were to score points, finish inside the top ten, and to win the Jack Sears Trophy – and I managed to hit them all,” he said. “We knew we had some decent pace coming into the weekend and showed that in first practice, although the rest of Saturday proved to be more challenging and it meant we had to fight back on race day.
“We came close to scoring in race one and then in race two, it was great to break into the top ten for the first time. That race also showed how much you need luck on your side in this championship, as there was so much happening in the first two laps, it would have been easy to get caught up in the middle of it.
“Race three was a bit disappointing. Despite that, we’ve ended the weekend with the Jack Sears Trophy, which is a big boost for me and the ideal way to start the second half of the year. I always knew the BTCC would be difficult but I’m delighted with a top ten finish, and hopefully this weekend can be a springboard to better things through the rest of the year.”
For team-mate Nicolas, the Snetterton weekend marked only his second outing in the series having enjoyed a solid debut at Croft in his Audi S3.
Nicolas, the first disabled driver to compete in the series, stayed out of trouble at the start of race one and was able to keep pace with the cars ahead until an incident in the closing laps saw him go off into the barriers at Agostini.
Despite the car sustaining heavy damage to the front end, the team worked hard to get Nicolas back on track for race two; with the Audi readied to take part with seconds to spare. Starting from the pit lane, Nicolas brought the car to the flag in 16th place for his best result to date – despite the handling being far from his liking. He added another solid race finish in the final contest, further aiding his development in the BTCC.
“It’s been a mixed weekend and while it hasn’t been ideal, we’ve been on a massive learning curve and there is plenty we can take away from it,” he said. “It started quite strongly on Saturday morning but for some reason, we then went backwards in second practice and qualifying.
“It meant we were on the back foot going into race one but that turned out to be a really positive race until the incident towards the end. I was able to run with the pack quite comfortably and was chasing the guys ahead so it was disappointing that it ended as it did.
“I had faith that the guys would get me out for race two and they did, although it was a close run thing and we didn’t have time to put a set-up on it – it was literally a case of off the jacks and out we went. It was all about just getting back on track and putting more miles under my belt, which is what I did.
“We made changes to the car for race three and there a bit more understeer in it, and we were able to pick up another solid finish. I had hoped for a little more from the weekend but we have a good base to build on and it’s important for me to remember that this is only my second race meeting in the series. We’ll take the extra knowledge we’ve gained here and hopefully we can go better at Rockingham in my next event.”
For team boss Shaun Hollamby, silverware at the end of the weekend was just reward for the hard work put in by everyone involved with the programme – with confidence high that better things now lie ahead after a challenging season to date.
“It’s been an up and down weekend, but we ended it on a high with another trophy,” he said. “It started well in FP1 for both drivers but then we lost pace through second practice and qualifying which meant we had work to do on race day.
“Mike has driven well today, and it was great to see him return to the points after a difficult run of form. He made strong starts in each of the races and drove really well in the first two. It looked good in race three until he made a mistake and went off but was still rewarded with the Jack Sears Trophy which is great for him, and also for the boys in the team for the work they have done all season on the car.
“Nicolas has improved again across the weekend as he gained more experience and he was driving well in race one before the incident. The team did a great job to get him out for race two and the fact he came through to 16th shows how important it is to keep the car on track and just stay out of trouble. He’s learned a lot this weekend from being in the pack, which will benefit him when he returns at Rockingham.
“All said, this has been a good way to start the second half of the year.”