MOTORSPORT: Thurrock's team showed further promise despite a challenging race day as the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season hit the half way stage at Croft.

The West Thurrock-based team made the long trip to the North East seeking to challenge for three points finishes on a weekend when it debuted a revised front end on its Ford Focus, which brought the car up to full 2014-specification for the first time.

The weekend didn’t start in ideal fashion with damp conditions in the first practice session restricting the amount of meaningful running available, while an off-track excursion for Inverness racer Dave Newsham in the second session caused front end damage that the team worked to repair in time for qualifying.

Despite a scare mid-way through qualifying when he failed the ride height test, which resulted in the loss of all his lap times up to that point, Dave qualified 16th on the grid for the opening race and then produced a solid performance on track as he quickly worked his way up into the top ten.

Although Hunter Abbott was able to get ahead in his soft tyre-shod Audi, Dave lapped strongly throughout to take the flag in eleventh spot, picking up more points for his championship tally.

Race two, his 100th in the BTCC, would end in disappointment however when an incident off the start line resulted in race-ending damage to the Focus and left Dave right at the back for race three.

Having been forced to pit early in race three when smoke appeared in the cockpit of his car, Dave found himself trailing the entire field following an early Safety Car period but battled his way forwards to take 16th spot at the flag; just missing out on a second points finish.

He now heads into the summer break sitting 17th in the championship standings.

“Although we didn’t get the results we were hoping for this weekend, I think we’ve taken a step forwards in our performance,” he said. “The opening race was solid and we showed strong pace in the car but race two was a massive disappointment – especially as it was my 100th race in the series.

“That put us on the back foot for race three and early on I could smell burning and there was smoke in the car so I pitted. The guys checked things over and all was okay so I rejoined and managed to get through to 16th, although we were lacking a bit of balance.

“Overall, the first half of the season hasn’t gone as we hoped as we’ve been involved in too many incidents. Some of those have been down to me and some down to others, while it’s also taken me a bit longer to get used to the Ford than I thought it would.

“However, the upgrades we have introduced have improved the car, and I think we can come out fighting and push for a strong second half to the season.”

Team boss Shaun Hollamby agreed that there were positives to take away from the weekend despite the single points finish, although he admitted there were improvements to be made over the course of the summer break before racing resumes at Snetterton in early August.

“The upgrades did what we hoped they would this weekend, and some drastic set-up changes also helped with the performance of the car,” he said. “The first race was what we need to do more. We stayed out of trouble and Dave drove well to bring home points, but then race two was one of those racing incidents that we have got caught up in a few too many times this season and it left us on the back foot.

“This is probably the most competitive season there has been in the BTCC for at least 15 years and its important that we don’t forget that, but at the same time, we were hoping for more in terms of results at this stage of the year.

“The saying goes that you make your own luck, but I think we deserve a change in ours in the second half of the season. We know we have a strong car and can look forwards to Snetterton as it’s a circuit where the Ford has gone well, and also where Dave has won in the past.”