Epps heads Team HARD trio
Michael Epps notched his best performance to date in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, as he spearheaded the return of Team HARD’s potent Volkswagen CCs with a trio of top ten finishes around Brands Hatch Indy this past weekend.
The Autoaid/RCIB Insurance man left the Kent venue fourth in the Independent Drivers’ standings, twelve months on from his debut in the championship.
Epps secured a personal best 13th in qualifying, despite being one of those caught out by rain showers and red flag stoppages. Come race day, the Hemel Hempstead racer went toe-to-toe with some of the front-runners – outmanoeuvring Tom Ingram with an audacious pass in race three was a contender for pass of the weekend.
Ninth in the opener was his highest-placed finish in Britain’s premier motor racing championship. A net 10th in race two – narrowly missing out in a drag to the line with Colin Turkington’s Team BMW 125i M Sport – bolstered that. Race three’s ninth was the icing on the cake.
“I’m incredibly happy with how this weekend has gone, but I’m focused now. We’re climbing the mountain of the BTCC and I want to keep going,” said Epps.
“We’ve got things to work on with the handling of the car and our soft tyre performance especially but this is a fantastic foundation for the season.
“We made lots of changes to the car set-up across the weekend, but the car was strong every time we went out on track. We didn’t get to show our true potential in qualifying, but we were able to really battle hard in the races and take the results we deserved.
“We’ve got a hat-trick of top ten finishes under our belt, but now we want to push for more next time out. I don’t feel like this track suited our car that much, so we’re confident that we could be even stronger at Donington Park in two weeks time.”
Epps’ stablemate, TAG Racing’s Jake Hill, enjoyed a similarly positive start to the season given the context of his weekend.
Ninth in a tricky qualifying session tempered by rain and stoppages was an inkling as to Hill’s promise. Were it not for contact in race one, the Kent racer was looking at a top ten finish and strong points. A lengthy pit-stop for repairs ensued and put pay to those chances.
Starting 28th for race two, on Option rubber, Hill and his crew enacted major set-up changes, yielding a nine-place gain and 19th.
Opportunist driving on an aggressive opening lap of the third encounter saw Hill on the edge of the points-paying positions by the start of the second tour.
Up as far as 11th place, Hill closed on team-mate Epps, the pair moving in on race-one winner Ingram. In a spectacular move that started at Druids Hairpin, Epps and Hill passed either side on back straight, taking them up to 9th and 10th places respectively.
“The car was much, much nicer in race three,” said Hill. “The tyres worked well until the last few laps, and the move Mike and me pulled off on Ingram was mega!
“I can’t thank my team enough for all their efforts, and to the team’s and my fantastic partners for their support.
“We had a great qualifying and a great final race – it is important to get points on the board at every opportunity.”
The new-boy in the Team HARD triumvirate, Will Burns, endured a testing introduction to Britain’s premier motor sport championship, with a best result of 22nd position in race two.
“My first weekend in the BTCC was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” said Burns. “It was immensely challenging, coming up against some of the best touring car drivers in the world, but we always knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“I definitely have the pace within both me and the car to be higher up the grid. We showed that in practice, but I was unlucky in qualifying and that ultimately put me in a difficult position for race day. I finished all three races though and that was our only objective heading into the meeting.
“I’ve learnt an awful lot this weekend, about how to approach the whole meeting, how to maximise practice and qualifying, and how to make my mark in the races. I’m going to take everything I’ve learnt and continue to improve next time out at Donington Park.”