Putting behind us the engine IDU failures of Snetterton and Knockhill, Cosworth had rectified the problem, and the disappointment of missing the last Rockingham round, Dan and the team put in every effort preparing the Proton. We were hoping this would be the first ever meeting that we would have full power from the engine. Dan’s boost had been reduced by toca, based over the preceding meetings in very intricate calculations that are very fair and open to keep parity between different engine manufactures, This helps keep a lid on what could be very expensive and unnecessary engine development programs.
The set-up was altered to represent the smooth wide circuit where maximum braking and turn in would be required as cars charged down the straights in line abreast. We were in the posh end of the paddock and it was interesting to see how the big teams go about their weekends. Our driver was like a Cheshire cat as he proudly showed everybody his new TW Steel Watch our latest company who have come on board helping supporting Dan.
The track was damp and taking a long time to dry out so the team set about bedding in brake discs and pads which is tedious but slightly changing the suspension at each stop. Back on to the old disc and pads to save a few bob and get a few laps in to gauge tyre wear and temperatures. The car set-up did not feel too bad and the weather forecast was dry for the next couple of days so did not bother going for a time until conditions changed. A good spanner checks and pour through the data, with bacon and egg rolls, a priority.
As we were preparing to go out on the virtually dry track it came to our attention that Mg’s Truckee was a lucky guy as during the race meeting he cleaned Jason’s race car. Our Truckee is a very lucky boy as he actually drives the race car! In good spirits Dan set of for exploratory laps as a dry line was appearing, staying on use tyres the car looked good exiting Luffield with pretty good straight line speed, a great relief. Dan knocked off the laps and was soon into a good consistent rhythm circulating a few tenths off the top guy’s. Good to see for the first time Dan overtaking or at least being capable to slipstream on the straights, a few laps in close formation with the BMW of Rob Collard and the Honda’s proved we had pace over a long run. A quick change of tyres and pressure adjustment, and there we were, topping the time sheet which took a lot of finding not usually looking that far up on the monitors! It wins you nothing but what a good feeling and a welcome lift in confidence for all the team and supporters.
With new tyres and qually set-up, Dan was confident to break into the 59’s. Patiently going through the tyre warming routine and then getting on it we were immediately quick but the sequential gear selection was playing up loosing time, we had to stop and carry out a quick adjustment, the slicks were replaced and Dan went again with 6th place but the flag came out a bit early for us, a few tenths off the front row but we were happy enough, the car was quick and consistent. For the techy’s all the times from the meeting can be found at www.timingsolutions.com and provide interesting reading but we did not quite nail it.
Sunday morning, foggy and cold but slowly the sun broke out for the thirty odd thousand spectators’ that on the pit walk seemed to crowd round Dan and our new grid girl Katie, or maybe it was because we were between the feuding camps of Honda and MG. The lights went off and all hell let loose on this short circuit, cars were four abreast slip streaming and trying to claw places back, very ferocious racing. Dan dropped back a couple of places but soon got into his very consistent lapping and was fast enough going forward to get pass Rob Collard in the BMW into 5th, game on! A few laps later KN, sorry Rob had a run with good traction down the wellington strait and was on the inside for Brooklands. Dan knew the NCTC would out brake the S200 car with smaller brakes and tyre width, but as usual Rob just drove into the side of Dan pushing him off track, just plain daft and a repeat of Snetterton that blocked the exhaust. We had lost our chance of a podium and had to work our way back up from the back.
This would be hard as so many other quick cars had also misfortunes, at the back we had all four Honda’s and others that normally featured at the front, this was going to be tough. The Proton was handling very, very well overtaking Sheddon round the outside and Matt Neal who tried to intimidate our intrepid driver, he may have a championship to think about, we did not so possibly that was not a smart move! Dan races very hard and fair with like drivers and nothing in the regulations say we can not overtake, even if we only have the same straight-line speed! A frantic race with good TV coverage to cross the line in 7th, good drive Dan. The Proton with the Swindon Toca engine working correctly was at last showing the form we knew was possible from the start of the season.
Luck of the reverse grid draw put Dan P3, and a podium was definitely on the cards, looking at the consistent lap times from Race 2. A few small adjustments for the rubber laid on the track and dropping temperatures as the shadows lengthened the Proton looked good and Dan felt very comfortable, the plan being to be cautious and get round the first couple of laps as we had good pace with the ability to overtake in unlikely places..
Lights out, and in the mêlée Dan had been fumbled back to around 6 / 7th but was soon back up to the tail of Rob Austin in 3rd, Dan was on a mission. Rob and Dan have raced together in many formula’s and are good friends but as Dan had a good run down the pit strait into Copse and was along side into the very fast blind right hander at Copse, Rob, with my finger pulsating between the K & N keys, just turned in needlessly spinning them both out of contention pointlessly as they both had the speed to run at the front. Very luckily nobody collected them which could have been severe damage.
Getting back up to speed Dan made his way back up picking of cars showing his great overtaking skills making it back into the top ten, a decent result was still on the cards. Again out of the blue the Proton was assaulted from behind by Rob Austin, possibly spelt Rob wrong! Back down to 18th but in a very battered and bruised car made places back up to 14th. Looking at the very consistent lap times Dan ran in the top five fastest all race. Immediately, gentleman that he is out of the car Rob came over and apologized sincerely, saying that from a left hand drive car he just did not see Dan and thought he was in front, but at worst if he had given room they would have both got round the corner as the front wheel drive Proton could turn tighter than the rear wheel drive Audi. Beers on Rob at end of season party.
After the race Rob was disqualified, fined and awarded four points on his license, It certainly was not intentional and we are still friends, just another potential podium opportunity that was definitely on the cards.
A slightly disappointed end to a great weekend, great support from the guests who regardless of age had a great time, Carl and the lads had worked their hearts out doing a fabulous job, but overall it was very confidence building for Dan and the Team. Will we be quick at the next round on the Brands GP track, one of Dan’s favorite circuits? Bloody right it is, we will with absolutely nothing to loose mixing it with the quick guy’s. A bit late in the season to gain the expected form but as we know the BTCC is not easy and we can start to look forward to getting organized for 2013 now that the majority of the technical problems have been ironed out and we can go racing.