Epps: ‘We’re punching above our weight’
Following the two-day Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship tyre test at Snetterton, RCIB Insurance Racing man Michael Epps left Norfolk encouraged by what was a positive exercise for the Team HARD-backed squad.
Driver and outfit each learnt a great deal about both car and setup with the luxury of an extended period of time to work through, approve or dismiss a whole host of ideas heading into the second half of the campaign.
“For me it’s been a case of learning really and actually getting back to basics,” Epps said. “You forget I haven’t actually done a test session since the start of the season so this is the first time I’ve been able to in the car and not have anything to do other than look at video and focus.”
“To be able to actually make a change in pit lane that takes ten minutes, then go out and you’ve still got another hour of testing to do – it’s just great. We’ve been able to throw lots of things into the bowl, leave some things in there and take out what didn’t work for us in the end.”
“We’re looking positive and the car seems strong. These two test days we’re getting more running than we have for the whole half season so far, because of the intense running you can do all the time.
“We’ve had five weekends of practice and qualifying setup then you’re busy deciding when you’re using your other tyre and the like so you never really get a chance to try things. For me, it’s been heaven really just being out there and figuring out exactly how the car is. You also improve yourself because I’ve put in twice the hours in the car today than I’ve probably done over the rest of the season as well. Six hours of pure testing over two days – you can’t really beat it.”
On his season so far, the Hertfordshire driver hopes there is a little more to come having seen signs of improvement with a season-best triple points haul with 10th, 11th and 14th at Thruxton only to have been knocked back by a couple of minor issues in recent rounds.
“I’d say I wanted a little more from the season so far,” he continued. “We went in a good direction with Thruxton, it was a nice result there and we wanted to keep going.
“We had some hiccups that have held us back at the last couple with the alternator failure and the puncture at Oulton Park.
“It’s just about making sure we get back on that incline again because we’ve dipped a little bit. Now we hope to come back here to Snetterton and have a good showing. The next few are tracks we’re more confident at and I think we’ve got every chance to shine.”
Despite a lack of real success at Snetterton, by his own admission besting in the VW Cup with a third, it is a circuit Epps does enjoy racing at. Thursday afternoon’s wet conditions served as further encouragement of what could be, given the efforts of his good friend Ash Sutton last time out, with a win in the wet at Croft.
“I’ve been to Snetterton a lot. I’ve never had amazing results there. It’s actually got quite a nice flow to it. Lots of people say ‘it’s just flat’ but there are a lot of very slight inclines and dips around the circuit that make it a nice place.
“There are a lot of cool corners – Coram and Bombhole is a really cool part of the track, and it was particularly in the wet. I found a new way around Coram and it’s one of those circuits that really gives back to the driver.
“We generally know what will work in terms of a wet setup and we sort of tried that and we were missing a couple of things that we improved on. We went out and found the lines and put it all together.
“We know there’s a bit more in the bag and I think if it were a wet race at Snetterton I’d be looking for a first podium or a decent result. a bit of an Ash Sutton, just throw it in and get it done. I know Ash well and to be up there against him would be nice.”
The plan for the second half of the campaign for Epps is to achieve some immediate goals in terms of race results for himself and his hard-working team but also to start thinking about tackling a potential second season in the BTCC.
“I’d like to get a few more of those ‘firsts’ out of the way in the second half of the season. So, a first podium would be cool. It’d be amazing for the Team HARD boys, they’d be so happy with it, because really we’re punching above our weight. To get that would be fantastic.
“The other aim would be to beat the other guys (Chris Smiley and Jake Hill) in the championship standings so that’s another plan. Generally, I’m wanting to just keep enjoying it, keep doing what I’m doing and working towards a plan for next season.
“I’ve really got to work hard in this second half of the campaign on the future, while still maintaining what I’m doing on track. So, there’s lots to do but I’m really looking forward to it.”