THE AmDTuning.com with Cobra Exhausts team maintained its encouraging start to the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Thruxton, despite seeing a run of points scoring finishes brought to an end.
The West Thurrock-based team went into the third meeting of the year looking to add to its tally after drivers Ollie Jackson and Ant Whorton-Eales both brought home top 15 finishes last time out at Donington Park.
With Tamworth-based Ollie having also scored points at Brands Hatch, the team was keen to impress again as it returned to the venue where it opened its account with the Audi S3 twelve months earlier.
The close nature of the field was reflected in the qualifying times, with Ollie posting a best time just 1.2secs away from pole but that left down in 25th place on the grid for race one.
A strong and consistent run when the lights went out would see him work his forwards to 18th place by the finish, and he then climbed up to 15th in the early stages of race two before an accident at Church forced officials to bring out the red flags.
Just six laps of the restarted race would be possible before an another incident saw the red flags fly again, with Ollie finishing just shy of the points in 16th spot.
It would be a similar story in race three, with Ollie running on the fringes of the points throughout before taking the flag in 17th place; his battled-scarred Audi showing afterwards how frenetic battle had been on track.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t manage to score any points this weekend, but it was unbelievably tight on track,” he said. “Thruxton is a bit of a bogey circuit for me, but we were right in amongst it and with a bit more luck, we could easily have come away from the weekend with a decent result to our name and been celebrating more points on the board.
“We can’t dwell on what might have been however, so it’s time to put Thruxton behind us and focus on what is to come through the remainder of the season.”
Team-mate Ant made an impressive start to the weekend when he broke into the top 20 in qualifying; setting the second fastest time of all through the final sector of the lap en-route to 19th place on the grid.
The Lichfield racer wouldn’t be able to build on that in the opening race however when he was forced wide onto the grass at Noble early on, which resulted in him being forced to pit to allow the team to remove debris from the front of the car.
Rejoining just ahead of the leaders, Ant showed the pace in the Audi by staying ahead for much of the race but would ultimately end up a lap down in 30th place.
The shortened second race would see Ant take the chequered flag in 24th place but battling a mystery electrical problem that the team would then work hard to resolve in time for race three.
Unfortunately for the reigning Clio Cup UK champion, time proved to be against the team and he was forced to take a watching brief and sit out the final race of the weekend.
“It’s been an up and down weekend and obviously it’s disappointing to have picked up the electrical problem that forced us to miss race three,” he said. “We thought we’d managed to find the issue after race two but sadly it wasn’t the case and it prevented us from trying to push forwards towards the top 20.
“It’s a shame that we couldn’t show what we were capable of in terms of the end results, as the pace in the car was clear to see from qualifying and then in the way I was able to run with the leaders without a problem in race one – particularly when you consider it was my first time here in a BTCC car.
“These things happen though, and we’ll come out fighting to score more points next time out.”
Team boss Shaun Hollamby admitted it was unfortunate for the team not to add to its points tally, but insisted there were still positives to take away from the weekend.
“We hoped to maintain our run of points this weekend but sadly it wasn’t to be,” he said. “Ant’s performance in qualifying was encouraging and put him in a good position for race day, and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t build on that in race one.
“Had he not been forced off track then we could easily have scored in that race, and it’s a shame that the electrical gremlins then affected his car in race two and prevented him starting race three. I have to thank the team, and also the guys from Swindon Engines, for their efforts ahead of race three, but time was just against us.
“The fact that Ollie came so close to points in all three races showed we had a strong race car, but it’s the field is so close this season that it isn’t easy to fight through the pack. A few tenths of a second in qualifying would have put him right up with Ant on the grid and I’m sure he’d have been able to then add to his tally.
“Having seen the pace of the car again in race trim, it’s clear to see what we need to work on our one lap pace so that both drivers can try and qualify higher up the grid when we get to Oulton Park and challenge for more points.”