THE AmDTuning.com team was left licking its wounds after a challenging weekend at Snetterton saw the battle for the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship resume.
The West Thurrock-based team went into the weekend buoyed by a strong testing performance at the circuit earlier in the summer, where driver Ollie Jackson had put his Audi S3 inside the top ten on the timesheets.
Having qualified just outside the top twenty with a best lap little more than a second off the pace at the longest circuit on the calendar, Ollie went into race day in confident mood and a solid 19th place in race one left him well placed going into the second race of the weekend.
A strong start saw Ollie quickly making up places off the line, but his charge towards the points would end in dramatic fashion half way round the opening lap after he was forced wide on the grass heading onto the Bentley Straight.
Contact to the rear of the Audi sent Ollie spinning into the barriers on the inside of the circuit where he was collected by the Chevrolet of Hunter Abbott, who was trying to take avoiding action.
Despite severe damage to the front of the car, hard work from the team allowed Ollie to take his place on the grid for race three, but contact ahead at the start saw him forced to take to the grass to try and avoid a collision.
Unfortunately, Abbott’s Chevrolet was tipped into a roll in front of the Audi and with nowhere to go, contact between the pair again put Ollie into retirement.
The incident also resulted in an ITV camera gantry being knocked over, although the cameraman was able to escape without injury.
"I can’t put into words how disappointed I feel with how this weekend has panned out, and there is no way that the team has deserved what has happened to us on track," Ollie reflected. "We came to Snetterton in confident mood following the test at the end of June, and there was clearly potential in the car that we haven’t been able to realise through no fault of our own.
"Having stayed out of trouble in race one, I got a really good start in race two and was making up places, but going onto the back straight, Dan Welch forced me wide onto the grass when he had room on the inside and we touched. The next thing I know is that I’ve been hit in the rear and the car suddenly turns right. Hunter had nowhere to go but into me, and it did a lot of damage.
"The boys did an outstanding job to get the car fixed for race three so for it to end before we’d even got to the start line was just devastating, although the important thing is that no-one was injured.
"I wouldn’t say this has been my worst weekend in the championship but it’s right up there. We have to just forget it quickly and move on."
Team boss Shaun Hollamby shared in Ollie’s disappointment and vowed that the team would work hard to recover from the toughest weekend of the year to date.
"It’s a clichÃ© to say that motorsport is full of highs and lows, but this weekend was certainly a low," he said. "We’ve seen more glimpses of the potential in the car, which show we are moving in the right direction, but we have paid a heavy price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"After race one, we looked in a good position to challenge for points in race two, especially when Ollie got away so well at the start. What happened next is something I felt was a racing incident that simply had an unfortunate outcome, and it was disappointing that Ollie was deemed to have been at fault, as we don’t feel that to be the case. Having appealed the initial decision, the fine he had been given was halved and a grid penalty was removed, which is some justice.
"The only other comment I want to make on this incident is that there is too much ‘running people off the track’ in the BTCC and if that has become the norm, then these sort of accidents will continue to happen. Giving room to other cars on track almost seems to be going out of fashion.
"In race three, there was nothing Ollie could have done to avoid the incident ahead and it was a real kick in the teeth after the work that had gone in to getting the car repaired – not just for us but for others on the grid as well. These things historically happen on the start-finish straight at Snetterton, but drivers need have better awareness of cars around them to prevent these accidents from taking place. Maybe this type of driving will only be dealt with severely when someone gets hurt, but I very much hope I’m wrong.
"Thankfully the cameraman, and the drivers, had no permanent injuries from what was a particularly nasty incident, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
"We will put this one behind us and make sure we come out fighting at Knockhill."
Photos by Jake Ebrey