THE Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team remains firmly in contention for championship honours in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship despite a challenging weekend on track at Silverstone.
The West Thurrock-based team headed to the Northamptonshire circuit with confidence high after a strong weekend at Knockhill saw home hero Rory Butcher pick up his third win of the campaign, and the returning Mike Bushell secure a new lap record.
The pair worked together in qualifying around the short National circuit, with Rory securing twelfth on the grid for race one and Mike lining up behind in 13th.
Running on the medium compound tyre in race one, and with additional success ballast on his car, Fife ace Rory faced a difficult opening race, not helped by him slipping back to 19th during a hectic opening lap.
From there, the Scot fought back to cross the line in 15th spot to secure a points finish and went into race two keen to try and make forward progress on the soft tyre.
Unfortunately for Rory, the race would come to an early end when contact with Ollie Jackson’s Ford Focus put him into retirement and left him at the back of the grid for race three.
With rain falling as the final race got underway, Rory was one of those drivers to gamble on staying on slicks as others elected to dive into the pits for wet tyres during an early safety car period. Although he would climb as high as tenth, Rory would ultimately just miss out on the points in 16th at the finish, dropping him out of the race for the overall title.
The Scot remains in a two-way fight for the Independents’ title and also heads the Jack Sears Trophy with just the season finale at Brands Hatch still to come.
In his second weekend at the wheel of the sister Honda Civic Type R, Mike produced a strong drive in the opening race – jumping up into the top eight on the opening lap thanks to a storming start and eventually crossing the line in seventh place.
Although he would slip back down to eleventh early on in race two, Mike fought his way back up to ninth place before the race was red-flagged due to worsening track conditions, which left him third on the grid for the final race thanks to the reverse grid draw.
Whilst Mike would run second through the first half of the 25 lap encounter, the decision to remain on slick tyres would ultimately work against him and he slipped back down the order to finish up just behind Rory in 17th.
With one round still to run, the team remains in a hard fight for third in the overall Teams’ Championship, and retains a slender lead in the Independent Teams’ Championship.
Shaun Hollamby, Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team principal, said:
“After the high of Knockhill, this proved to be a much more difficult weekend. The conditions on race day clearly haven’t helped as it made things difficult on track, and we didn’t quite manage to get the kind of front-running results we were hoping for.
“Mike has been able to show his pace with two solid results in the first two races and he did well to hold on for as long as he did on the dry tyres in race three, and has scored some good points for the Independent championship across the weekend.
“It’s a shame for Rory that he is now out of the overall title fight but there are still three championships to fight for when we go to Brands Hatch and we remain confident of pushing for them.
“We know now that we only have to consider the BTC Racing Hondas when it comes to the two Independent titles and that it’s Rory against Tom Oliphant for the Jack Sears Trophy, so those are the people who we need to focus on when we get to the season finale.
“We will be working together with the Trade Price Cars Audi to get as many points as possible over them. It’s elbows out time!”
Rory Butcher, #6 Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Honda Civic Type R, said:
“It’s been the toughest weekend of the year for sure. Being in the midfield was difficult and whilst we had pace in the car, it was hard to pass people and there was a lot of contact in the pack. Mike did a good job, but I just didn’t quite as much from the car as we hoped to.
“What happened in race two wasn’t ideal and we tried to get the most that we could from race three. In hindsight we should have changed to wet tyres but then it got to the stage where we had to stick with slicks and we salvaged some Independents points from it, which was crucial ahead of Brands Hatch.”
Mike Bushell, #21 Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Honda Civic Type R, said:
“I’m over the moon with the weekend. I think I kept calm and got the most I could from the car even though we struggled a little with the handling. Silverstone is a circuit that we need to revisit to try and sort that out, as something wasn’t quite working on the new surface.
“Despite that, I’ve had some good battles on track, kept my nose clean and enjoyed some hard racing with some of the top guys on the grid, which is something I’ve never had chance to do before.
“Two top ten finishes was great and then in race three, it was tough on the slicks but we needed to cover off what our rivals were doing for the Independent Teams’ Championship.
“Whilst it was a shame that we dropped back as the conditions got wetter, we moved back into the points lead so in that respect it was mission accomplished, and I’m already looking forwards to Brands Hatch.”