Daniel Lloyd reflects on race three heartbreak at Donington Park
A heartbroken Daniel Lloyd (Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils) was left to wonder what might have been after a technical issue stopped him securing a potentially stunning race win, as the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship headed to Donington Park for the eighth event of the season.
The full Grand Prix layout was being used for the first time since 2002, with Huddersfield racer Lloyd hoping to maintain the solid form shown in the previous meeting at Knockhill – where he scored his best result of the season.
Having shown top-ten pace during free practice, Lloyd headed into qualifying seeking to try and put his Team HARD-run Cupra Leon towards the sharp end of the grid, but a tricky session would leave him 17th on the grid for race one.
In wet conditions, Lloyd battled hard on track in the opening race but just missed out on a points finish – not helped by a five-second time penalty for a start infringement.
However, he fought back in a dry race two, battling his way up from 17th on the grid to finish in twelfth place, not only adding to his points tally but also having the added bonus of being drawn on the reverse grid pole for race three.
Lloyd lined up on the front of the grid for the start, well aware of the challenge that lay ahead – not least because of a fast-starting BMW of Adam Morgan being positioned behind him on the grid in P4.
However, when the lights went out, Lloyd made a strong start to head the field into Redgate for the first time and gradually started to ease away from the fight for second place, extending his advantage at the front to nearly two seconds before a debris-induced safety car closed up the field behind.
On the restart, Lloyd found himself under pressure from the Toyota of Rory Butcher (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK) but a determined performance saw him keep his rival at bay as the laps counted down.
With one hand on the race win however, there would be a cruel late twist as – heading into McLeans for the final time – the driveshaft on the Cupra let go, tipping Lloyd into a spin that left him beached in the gravel trap.
It meant a heartbreaking retirement to end a weekend that had looked set to reward both Lloyd and the team for all of the hard work that has gone into developing the Cupra over the season, with four weeks to now prepare for the next event at Silverstone.
“It’s difficult to really find the words to express how I feel after the final race,” Lloyd reflected. “It’s just devastating to be so close to victory and then lose it in that way, and I’m heartbroken for the whole team as that would have been the first victory for the Cupra, and we’d have been the first Independent team to score an overall win this season.
“For once, we actually managed to benefit from the reverse grid but we still had to work hard to make sure we were in a position to make the most of it. As a team, I think we did ourselves proud but with the win on the plate, the driveshaft snapped and it was game over. It’s a tough pill to swallow because even with the pressure Rory [Butcher] was putting me under, I was 110% confident that I’d be able to keep him behind me and bring it home.
“Even with the end result, a performance like that shows the huge progress we have made with the car since we were at Donington Park for round one, and we now just need to pick ourselves up and go again at Silverstone next time out. There are more things we have found this weekend that are going to help us over the final two rounds and we have to take the positives and try – as hard as it is – to forget the obvious negative.
“My phone was going crazy after the race with messages from people so thank you to those who reached out to get in touch, and thank you as well to all the sponsors who came along for the weekend and created such a fantastic atmosphere at the circuit. Even though we didn’t get the final reward, they all benefitted from some fantastic exposure and had an enjoyable time trackside.”