Welch Motorsport recorded its first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship point of the season at Cheshire’s Oulton Park, as driver Daniel Welch brought his Proton Gen-2 home in 15th position in the weekend’s third and final race (6-7 June).
Opening the weekend’s proceedings during Saturday (6 June) morning’s free practice session, Dan Welch and Andy Wilmot circulated the Cheshire circuit to fettle the setup on their Proton Gen-2s, where, seeking to get as much track time as possible, Welch completed the most amount of laps of any driver during the 40-minute session.
With unknown mechanical problems having curtailed the team’s progress this season, Welch’s Proton run faultlessly throughout and was able to complete a race distance simulation on the new Dunlop Sport Maxx BTCC Medium tyre compound introduced for this weekend’s meeting.
Oulton Park continued to bask under clear blue skies, as Welch Motorsport’s two drivers once again took to the 2.26mile circuit for the day’s second free practice session, where instead of chasing lap times, it focused entirely on reliability.
Welch once again topped the table in terms of laps completed, but a cracked oil cylinder for Wilmot brought his session to a premature close during the dying embers, and would once again rear its ugly head during qualifying, limiting the Dartford, Kent-based driver to just five laps and subsequently starting the weekend’s opening race from the rear of the field.
Welch on the other hand set several personal best lap times in the latter half of the session, improving with each passing lap to line-up 21st, where he jostled for position on the opening lap being careful not to inflict any damage to his Proton in the knowledge of two further races to contest later in the day.
Running on the softer Dunlop compound tyre, Welch maintained his starting position throughout the 13 lap contest, which would later be red flagged due to the Toyota Avensis of Stuart Lines colliding with the tyre wall at the entrance to the pitlane.
Starting from the brow of the Deer Leap hill, a demon start for Welch saw him propel his Proton up two places before the 28-car entry had reached Old Hall Corner and would later become part of a five-car train – headed by the Ford Focus of Mike Bushell – all vying for 17th position.
With several retirements ahead of him, Welch slowly crept up the leaderboard whilst having to defend vigorously from the Focus of Alex Martin, before crossing the line 17th, narrowly missing out on recording Welch Motorsport’s first points of the season, as Wilmot was able to complete another trouble free race distance to further his knowledge and experience within what is perhaps Britain’s most competitive motor racing championship.
It was in Race 3 that marked a huge step forward for the family-run team in terms of mechanical reliability, as Welch held his nerve throughout the 15-lap contest despite being under intense pressure from AmDTuning.com’s Bushell to finish inside the points.
A points finish looked to have escaped the team’s grasp in the final few laps when BMW driver, Rob Collard, slipped past, thus demoting Welch to 16th and out of the points, but the 32-year old negotiated his way through other driver’s errors to greet the chequered flag in the last points’ paying position, finish over a second ahead of the Audi A4 of Hunter Abbott.
“We’ve made progress, which is the main thing, and it’s always good to end the weekend with two healthy cars,” said Welch. “The engines are improving with each session, which was the main aim this weekend, as we’ve not been able to do so far this season. The pace is also getting better and we now have a platform to move forward and start working on the pace. Good to get three race finishes for once and get back into the mix and start racing again. It will also be the first time in 18 months where we haven’t had to take the engines out after a race weekend, which is nice.
“During practice on Saturday, it was a case of revolutionising the wheel and building it up bit-by-bit and not doing anything silly. With every session we have done, the engine has changed. You look at the data, make positive adjustments here and there and continue to progress. Overall, it was a good day. We shouldn’t be happy with finishing 15th and getting a point, but over the last 18 months, it has made a huge difference. We can only look higher up the grid now.”