Support series stars test Motorbase Focus
Three newly crowned TOCA support series champions joined leading Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship squad Motorbase Performance at Snetterton circuit on Wednesday and Thursday this week (October 29/30) as a reward for clinching their respective 2014 series titles.
Thanks to a prize initiative provided by Dunlop Tyres, Provisional Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain title holder Jayde Kruger and Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Champion Mike Bushell got the chance to sample the race winning Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST on Wednesday (October 29) with expert advice on hand from multiple race winning BTCC driver Mat Jackson.
Having made a one-off appearance in the BTCC competing in a Chevrolet Cruze at Knockhill in 2013 and eyeing a return to the championship in 2015; 23 year-old Bushell was keen to see how the Motorbase-built next generation touring car compared on track. “The Focus is very different to the Chevy which was very understeery [sic]” said the Renault Clio Cup Champion. “The Motorbase Focus was much more nimble, especially at slow-mid speeds and with maybe a little too much over-steer for my liking in the high speed!”
“I was surprised at how easy it was to take the life out of the soft tyre in a long run. That was a very valuable lesson learned for me on the test as I may not get the chance to experience this in Winter testing should the BTCC dream become a reality” added Bushell. “It’s definitely the target for 2015 and at moment looking very likely. Watch this space!”
“I’m extremely grateful for getting the experience. Thanks to Motorbase Performance, Dunlop & Renault, it feels like Christmas has come early today!”
26 year-old Kruger was equally excited at the chance to take the next step up in his impressive career and his first foray into tin-top racing in almost ten years, commenting; “It was good, a little difficult, but good. It’s quite different with a change from rear to front wheel drive, and having a roof over my head, but on the whole it was a great experience.”
“It was nice to work with a good team like Motorbase, and I must say a big thank you to Dunlop, Motorbase and Ford for a great opportunity and hopefully something that will stand me in good stead for the future.”
The Dunlop Tyres sponsored test run is part of the tyre manufacturer’s on-going commitment to supporting young drivers’ progress through the BTCC support package and both drivers each got the opportunity to sample 20 laps of the Norfolk circuit with assistance from Mat Jackson, the Motorbase Performance BTCC support crew and Dunlop technicians who were also in attendance.
“The guys did very well over the two days and they each had a very good approach to the test” said Jackson. “Clearly each of the drivers are in different stages of their career but they all came across very well. They all have the natural ability so my input was more based around procedural information.
“The BTCC cars are different to most race cars and have their quirky ways, so they needed a little confidence in understanding how the car moves and behaves, and I obviously helped them when we were going through the data with them between runs” added the Airwaves Racing driver. “I wish them all the best of luck in whatever route they choose to take.”
Following Wednesday’s Dunlop Tyres test, the Motorbase Performance BTCC was back out on the 300 circuit layout on Thursday (October 30) with 16 year-old Ginetta Junior Champion Jack Mitchell behind the wheel of the Focus ST. As part of the Motorbase Performance young driver programme this season, Jack has benefited from additional support both on and off the track from the Wrotham-based outfit.
In recognition of Jack’s outstanding performance throughout the 2014 season, Motorbase Team Boss David Bartrum confirmed the test as a ‘bonus’ reward for Jack’s title success shortly after the local Kent teenager secured his maiden championship title at his home circuit Brands Hatch. Following his first run in the Focus ST, an elated Mitchell said; “Obviously I was nervous getting into the car for the first time but everyone in the team made me feel that bit more confident and having familiar faces around me certainly helped.
“Mat was a big help today as he has been all year. I didn’t really feel under pressure to perform as that wasn’t what the test was about; I wasn’t here to set a really fast time but just to experience the BTCC car at my own pace and improve as the day went on and the team did a great job in helping me to do that.”
Mitchell concluded; “I would like to thank everyone at Motorbase and especially Mat [Jackson] for today. It’s been a fantastic experience, and one which I hope will help me in the future.”
Motorbase Performance has been a long standing advocate of nurturing young talent within British Motorsport with the Kent-based squad running a successful junior programme during the past two seasons alongside the Dunlop Tyres prize initiative. “These test days once again show the fantastic level of support and commitment Dunlop Tyres give to the BTCC package and support series as a whole, and Motorbase Performance is very proud to be a part of it” remarked Team Manager Oly Collins.
“All the drivers approached the test very well. They’re obviously all talented drivers as their Championship successes have shown and the test was a reward for that. So in that respect we knew we had three very competent drivers with us. We threw them in at the deep end in a car and team environment which they’re not used to and they all proved to cope extremely well. Feedback was extremely good and their pace and understanding of the BTCC car was very impressive in such a short amount of time” he added.
“We have to say thanks to Dunlop for supporting a test like this, offering young talented drivers the chance to try a different type of race car and hopefully help them on their way in their careers. We wish the drivers all the best for the future and we’re proud to have played a small part in what they will go on to achieve. Also, full credit must be given to Renault and Ford for backing this initiative by Dunlop and Motorbase Performance.”