Morgan: ‘It took six long years but we got there’
Adam Morgan converted what was his very first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position with a lights-to-flag victory in Round 19 – the highlight of a strong showing at Rockingham this past weekend.
The Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport A-Class showed itself to be the car to beat on Saturday as the Lancashireman steered to P1 on the grid. This proved to be the perfect tonic for a frustrating couple of race weekends which had culminated in a double-DNF at Snetterton.
“It’s been six years but we got there,” said Morgan. “This pole position feels like a win and bearing in mind that we normally race better than we qualify, we knew it’d put us in a great position going into race one.”
Morgan fired off the line well in the opening 16-lap encounter and led the pack through Deene Hairpin for the first time. Scuffling in behind the Mac Tools-backed racer meant Morgan had an opportunity to break away and that he did – building a lead and controlling the pace from the front on the way to victory.
“It’s always a good feeling to get a lights-to-flag victory, and to do it in the BTCC, even more so,” said Morgan. “I made a great start and I knew if I led out of the Deene Hairpin I would be okay.
“I led in, and when I came out I looked in the mirror and saw there had been drama, so I just got my head down and pushed on. After about five laps it became a bit slippery and then it dried up so I just concentrated on maintaining the gap.”
Maximum success ballast was on-board his Mercedes for race two but Morgan coped admirably. Ash Sutton’s fast-starting, lighter, Subaru Levorg blasted clear at the off but Morgan slotted in behind and stayed there until the chequered flag fell. That meant he notched the Independent win in Round 20 and another big haul of points.
“I knew Ash would be strong off the line so I just had to do my best with the weight,” Morgan continued. “There were battles behind me, so I could build a gap over the pack and thankfully the flag dropped before Tom Ingram could catch me. With 75 kilograms in the car, second place was a great result.”
From row five in the Rockingham finale, Morgan charged through the drama at Deene to gain ground and emerge in third place. As Morgan chased the leaders, on a greasy track, he made a small mistake at Yentwood and slithered wide a few laps later.
That left Adam in a race-long duel with Ollie Jackson’s Audi S3. The two cars scrapped for the bulk of the race, chased by Dan Cammish’s Honda but the slippery Volkswagen CC was able to jump ahead, relegating Morgan to eighth place.
“A win and a second was a great effort for the weekend,” said Adam. “For the last race we ran the championship regulation hard tyre and our pace was steady but not great.
“We probably need to be more aggressive on the set-up, but the pole, win and second were fantastic.
“We have had two frustrating weekends, so to come here and rack up the successes is a real boost to us all. We came here ninth in the championship and are now up to sixth and I have had more wins than all bar one driver, so there is a lot to be pleased about.”
Morgan’s efforts over the weekend netted Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport the Teams’ Trophy for the weekend with the most consistent trio of results, the first time the team has scooped the award.
Ciceley Motorsport’s Tom Oliphant qualified his Next Level Motorsport backed A-Class on the 11th row of the grid after a tricky session hampered by a technical issue in free practice. Although diagnosed and resolved by his Ciceley Motorsport engineers and the engine builder as quickly as possible, Oliphant was left fighting an uphill struggle.
He made good progress through the pack until unnecessary and unfortunate contact again, this time with James Cole caused Oliphant to call into the pits. He recovered to a creditable 25th place, making further gains in the second race up to the cusp of the points-paying positions and 17th.
For race three, Oliphant, like Morgan, had chosen to run the Option-Hard compound Dunlop tyre and he made great progress in the early stages, bringing his car home in 13th place and in the points.
“I’ll take a points finish after what was a very difficult weekend,” said Oliphant.
“The time we lost in free practice really hampered us, and then to be taken out in the first race robbed us of any chance to come away with some serious results on race day.
“I knew this would be a tricky meeting as it was my first-time racing at the circuit since 2015 and my first time there in front-wheel drive machinery, and that was intensified by the time we unfortunately lost due to some technical issues.
“It meant I headed into qualifying a bit blind as I didn’t know exactly where the grip levels were, where to push in the braking zones etc, so it was no surprise to come away with a lower result than we wanted, which made our comeback on race day even more pleasing.
“Our pace in the first race was fantastic and I loved being in the thick of the action throughout, attacking and overtaking every lap. The car was an absolute dream to drive, so to have our charge ended in such abrupt fashion was infuriating.
“That left us towards the back of the grid for race two and that was our toughest race, with a drying circuit slightly catching us out with car set-up. We still had some strong pace though and I was able to make some progress up the field.
“We started in contention for the points in the final race and I had some great speed in the early stages, so I could make loads of overtakes and get up to ninth. Unfortunately, we struggled on the Option-Hard tyre from there and it was frustrating to slip back to 13th.
“We have loads of positives to take away from the weekend though and I’m excited to see what we can do at Knockhill. Everyone says the car is a strong package there and I’ve had some great pace in Scotland in the past, so I’m really looking forward to it!”
Ciceley Motorsport’s Commercial Director Norman Burgess added: “What a weekend! Adam excelled himself, starting with that first-ever pole position.
“That was a great start to the weekend, and a race win, a second, two Independent wins and then the Teams’ Trophy success has been outstanding. Now we go to Knockhill and look for more success.
“Tom has been unbelievably unlucky so far in his first year of the BTCC, every time he gets into a good position during a race he just seems to get collected in somebody else’s incident.
“He has everything required to be at the front in the championship, he is a fast, determined and measured racing driver. It’s not even a case of keeping out of trouble, because he does that perfectly but, at the moment, no matter what he does, it seems to find him!”
Morgan is now up to sixth in the Drivers’ standings and fourth in the Independents’ Trophy, with Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport eighth in the Teams’ running and fifth in the Independents’.
Oliphant is 13th in the Independents’ order and sixth in the Jack Sears Trophy.