Triple score for new Mercedes A-Class
The WIX Racing Mercedes A-Class scored points in its first three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship outings. Following some impressive pre-season testing form, Adam Morgan piloted the new car to a best finish of seventh place in race two.
The 30-car field that lined up at Brands Hatch last weekend (29/30 March) was incredibly closely matched, with the top 24 runners in qualifying covered by less than a second. Morgan found himself just three tenths outside the outright pace, leaving him in 14th place for the opening contest of 2014. Moving forward one place in race one, Morgan commented, “We had work to do after qualifying, so to score in the first race was a solid start, especially as the slow puncture in the final laps meant it was a bit lairy going through Paddock Hill Bend!”
With race two came the first top-ten finish for the tri-point starred car, with the 25-year-old driver pleased with the progress being made. He continued, “The team made some big changes to the car for race two to try and improve things and they did a great job; it was transformed. I got a mega start and jumped up the field, and then I was able to stay with the BMWs after the restart. I was quicker than them through part of the lap but they had an advantage on the straights, as straight-line speed is the one thing we’ve lacked.”
While the A-Class is a new model for 2014, the Ciceley Racing-run team has been able to use many of the components from its podium-scoring Toyota Avensis that ran last year. As such the striking yellow and black machine wasn’t a complete unknown for the Lancashire team, but some fundamental differences in chassis set-up left Morgan with a steep learning curve over the weekend.
One area in which the team will be looking to improve is in the use of the softer Dunlop Sport Maxx tyre which it used in the third and final race. While Morgan was able to run as high as fifth place in that final race, the drop-off in performance saw him slip down the order to tenth over the line. Morgan concluded, “It’s been a good weekend for us, and to get three points finishes and be seventh in the championship with a brand new car is good going. I got an excellent start in the final race and the car felt really good. I was keeping pace with the Hondas ahead but after the Safety Car period, the tyres started to lose grip. I tried to hold the guys behind as well as I could, and just made sure I stayed out of trouble.
“We’ve got a lot of data from this weekend and now have experience of running the soft tyre, so we can head back to base and work on improvements in time for Donington Park.”
The team now has three weeks to improve WIX Racing car before battle rejoins at Donington Park. The team is happy with its three points-scoring finishes in its first weekend with the new car, and chief engineer Paul Ridgeway said, “There aren’t many teams that will roll out a new car and run without any real problems and score three points finishes in a series like this. It’s probably gone better than we expected, although it’s a shame that we didn’t quite find the sweet spot in qualifying, as we could have been a bit higher on the grid. With it being so tight on the times, an extra tenth of a second could have made a huge difference.
“We know where we need to improve and we’ll look through the data we’ve collected and then we can aim to make more progress when we get to Donington in a few weeks time.”