MOTORSPORT: AmDTuning.com enjoyed a points scoring start to its Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season with a top ten finish on home soil at Brands Hatch.
The opening event of the year marked the first outing for the West Thurrock-based team with its new NGTC-specification Ford Focus, with Inverness racer Dave Newsham also making his race debut with the team.
Having worked on the set-up of the car during the two free practice sessions on Saturday, Dave qualified 20th on the grid for his first race with the car, despite setting a best time just seven-tenths of a second off pole – and less than half a second off the top ten.
With work to do when the first race kicked off, Dave made a fine start as he stayed out of trouble, making up four places on the opening lap alone into 16th spot. By the end of lap two, he had managed to work his way into the points scoring positions.
Fighting hard in the midfield, Dave showed the speed within the car to fight his way forwards to twelfth spot before contact from the Mercedes of Adam Morgan saw him run wide at Druids. Struggling with understeer as the race wore on, he slipped back to 17th at the finish, having been the top Ford runner for long spells.
Having elected to run the soft compound Dunlop tyre in race two, Dave was hopeful of pushing forwards into the points, with the team having made a number of aggressive changes to try and resolve the issues encountered in race one.
A solid opening lap saw Dave lift the Ford into 15th spot, and he was able to again show the potential in the new package as he posted a quickest lap comparable with race winner Andrew Jordan. However, further understeer as the race wore on meant Dave was powerless to keep the MG of Jason Plato at bay, leaving him just outside the points scoring positions in 16th.
A series of grid penalties for indiscretions elsewhere meant Dave started the final race of the weekend from 15th, and with the team having worked hard to further improve the performance of the Focus, he enjoyed easily his best race.
Making up two places on the opening lap, Dave worked his forwards into the top ten with a series of impressive overtaking moves and, having matched the pace of the leaders, crossed the line in ninth spot to pick up his first points of the campaign.
“We started the first two races strongly, but in both we were struggling with the balance of the car and I was fighting understeer as they went on,” he said. “It meant it was difficult to try and keep my position and we missed out on the chance to get some points on the board.
“For race three, we went softer on the front end of the car and it was a lot more planted. It wasn’t perfect and there are still more improvements that we can make, but it was the best it has been all weekend. I got a good start and we were able to move forwards, and it was good to get into the top ten and give a taste of what we are capable of.
“It is a bit frustrating that we’ve not been able to get more than one points finish, but we have been able to learn a lot about the car that will benefit us going forwards. We elected to go our own way with the set-up of the car and have been as quick as the other Fords on the grid; it’s just a shame that qualifying left us with work to do.”
Team boss Shaun Hollamby meanwhile said he was pleased to head away from the weekend with the team having got its first points on the board.
“I’m pleased with how we have performed as a team this weekend,” he said. “We faced a balance issue with the car today, but worked hard to resolve it and to give Dave the car he wanted; and he rewarded us with a really strong drive in that final race. He made some good overtaking moves and his lap times were really impressive; to be within a tenth of a second of the quickest guys in this company isn’t easy.
“A top ten finish is a great way to start the season, but we know we have a car and driver that can push for the podium positions, and that remains our aim. If we can get to Donington Park and start the weekend in the same way we have finished here, then we’ll be in a position to show what we can really do. But this has been an encouraging start.”