Maximum making moves
It was a positive weekend north of the border for Maximum Motorsport as Stewart Lines achieved the team’s best result in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with 17th in round 20 from Fife’s Knockhill circuit.
The green-and-black liveried Ford Focus qualified 29th on Saturday, leaving Lines with a quite the task on his hands at what is a notoriously tight and tricky circuit to make progress on. Despite this, the Midlander did manage to move forward.
In race one, Lines held station as Ollie Jackson in the AmD Tuning.com looked to make a move after the S3 had dispatched Mark Howards VW CC off the line.
The Focus was demoted by Jackson after a four-lap battle before contact for Aron Smith handed a spot back and Lines jumped Matt Simpson on lap five to find his eventual finishing spot – 25th for race one.
Further progress came in race two with the Sutton Coldfield outfit electing to use the soft compound tyre. Contact with Jeff Smith into turn one demoted the Maximum machine down to 28th, sparking a spirited fightback.
Lines took advantage of scuffling up ahead as Martin Depper and Warren Scott tripped and found themselves in the gravel in two separate incidents before the safety car was deployed.
On the restart, Howard was caught napping by Lines with a well-timed move and defended the BKR man’s advances as he tried to retaliate. With a near full race distance still to come, Lines got his head down and focussed on the cars ahead. Ash Sutton, Ollie Jackson, Matt Simpson, Hunter Abbott and Alex Martin were reeled in and eventually in his sights. By lap twenty, he’d passed all but the latter.
In the closing stages, Lines did make it past the Dextra Racing man and ended a strong showing 17th – passing Dan Welch on track and making up more places through drama for Tom Ingram and a pair of cars in contact up ahead.
Race three, and a P17 grid slot, offered up the opportunity of maiden points but contact with Alex Martin put pay to those hopes, a recovery drive to 22nd was scant consolation.
Lines was pleased with steps made over the Knockhill weekend, and is aiming to score points over the final three events of the season in what is an improving Ford Focus.
“I do like Knockhill and the linkup with Welch Motorsport and a new number one mechanic coming in, in Les White, it’s been a breath of fresh air recently,” said Lines.
“I’ve felt like I’ve driven well at Croft and Snetterton and I was on it all weekend barring qualifying – I felt quite racy.
“I was up there on pace with a fair few guys who have normally been just a little bit ahead of us, like Team HARD and the couple of Subarus in and around us, so that was a big plus and I was pleased with that. We think we’ve got the car working a bit better in the past few.
“Race two was fantastic for us and heading into race three, but for contact with Alex Martin, we were looking like we had a chance of points and that was definitely our aim.
“The signs are good. We’re getting towards the edge of what this kit can do ahead of us switching to the new RML parts for next season. We’re not looking at finding big chunks of time anymore, it’s just little bits that we can try and look for that can hopefully add up.
“I like Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP. The’re all places I’ve been to and won at each in club racing. Hopefully over those last three weekends we can get a few points on the board.
“For the size of operation we’re running we’re happy. We’ve had success in the VW Cup and we feel we can bring some of knowhow into the BTCC effort. People underestimate the challenge and the balance you need to have in terms of quick machinery as well as a quick driver but we’re improving.
“It was a three-year deal for us so we’re making progress that I’m happy with and we’re getting better every week.”