Well, a huge improvment all round at Thruxton. After Rock we had a big team meeting and worked out what we thought were the areas where the car was lacking and what we needed to do to get more on terms with Jones and GR set up wise.
Immediately from the first session at Thruxton i knew i had a very different car underneath me and Matt said he felt the same. The changes we made caused the car to feel far more nimble and on the edge. Before the car had basically been too safe and soft which was the reason why we were losing too much pace from midway through the race. We were killing tyres at Brands and Rock, even the Dunlop guys were saying it.
Its not good that its taken this long to find this and improve it but it is difficult when everyone is still learning the car and we have no testing. We will definately be getting out during this break to test more ideas and its great that the team are working so hard to move forwards.
The rough kerbs at Thruxton caused me to go backwards in race one when happily sitting in 7th and catching Turkington after i clipped one too hard at the chicane and it actually flattened off one side on the wheel and caused the tyre to run right down to the canvass and give me enormous amounts of understeer.
Race two could've been so good, i approached the chicance right behind Turner and Matt and after matt had run wide at the previous Church corner we were all extremly close on approach to the chicane. Turner moved to the left as we came up the hill and then (by his own admission) jinked right to have a look at what he thought was a gap up the inside matt.
Unfortunately i had a great toe off of the two of them and by the time he came back accross to the right i had closed the gap and there litterally wasn't the space for him. I was already braking and he came right accross my bonnet and i caught his rear bumper as i in turn couldn't brake any harder than i was or avoid him- this then harpooned Turner into matt who by now was just minding his own business turning into the apex.
It was a big shunt and i felt awful for matt and the boys who had a mammoth task to get the car fit for the 3rd race. However as the video evidence from my car showed Darren came accross and i had nowhere to go. This is why i felt pretty hard done by when it was deemed by the stewards that i had driven in a dangerous manor. Jackson came flying up the inside of loads of us at the start of the first race at the complex, speared into Gordon Sheddan and then caused 3 of us to bounce straight accross the grass, and no action is taken!! As usual consistancy of the stewards leaves alot to be desired.
I had then broken away with Matt neal and the two vauxhalls on the restart and i think a podium was on the cards as Chilly was struggling with tyres alot towards the end of races and i may have been able to have a go. What if's are commonplace in racing though and instead i overheated after a few laps due to radiator damage from the accident.
Race 3 was looking good, i came from the back through to 7th having a good little tustle with Tom but in the last 3rd of the race dropped from the group infront and had a somewhat lonely end to the race- encouraging points though and as i've said i really think we've turned a corner, but we have to improve further still if we're wanting to start achieving those podiums.
Its good the team have alot of time as Matt's car was in a pretty bad way, but it is never fun having so long between races- the season is so spread out this year!!
Sorry i haven't been in touch since Rockingham- there wasn't much to shout shout about really anyway, it was certainly the worst weekend i've had in 7 years of the BTCC! It really was the weekend from hell, and i don't know how many ladders i walked under the week before but with the luck i had i reckon there might of been window cleaners plunging to their death left, right, and centre!!
After a nasty bout of food poisoning all day on the Friday i then struggled again in qualifying only just getting into the top ten! The first race was going ok, i was sitting in 7th an able to keep both RAC's at bay and was just starting to line up a slowing Ioin Murray when a barrier he clipped at the final chicane flicked up and caught my front splitter, causing damage to my rad and consequent overheating.
An exhaust fire filled the car with smoke for the second race leaving me in the med centre and, after the boys worked their arses off to get the car ready for race 3, the airbox blew off as i fired the car, causing us to not start!
I got out of Rockingham as quickly as i could before i fell over and broke my leg or something!! Hopefully that is a good chunk of the seasons bad luck all in one hit though!
Looking forward to Thruxton where the Toledo's strong engine should feature well. We are still lacking corner exit speed though which we have had some serious looking into as a team and have a better idea of the direction we need to head. Adam Jones with GR's 3 years experiance of the car showed how well it should be performing again in practice at Rock, and we're striving to find that speed- i'm confident it will come and know how hard we're all working to get there.
Predictions wise i would be well chuffed if i could qualify in the top 6, and to get 3 strong points finishes would be superb and a great lift for the team. We then have some testing planned before Croft to further extend our knowledge of the car.
All character building stuff as they say!