The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) headed north last weekend, (19/20 April) to Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire and after a positive debut at Brands Hatch three weeks earlier, Jack Clarke, the Effingham –based driver, returned to the wheel of the bright and distinctive Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus ST in Britain’s premier motor racing series to score his first championship points.
Every weather condition was thrown at the team and coupled with the fact that Clarke had not raced at the midlands circuit since 2009 it was certainly a baptism of fire for the BTCC rookie.
Saturday saw Jack and his 30 rivals undertake two free practice sessions and a 30 minute qualifying session in late afternoon. Throughout free practice the team worked on set up in preparation for the all-important qualifying which secures the grid position for the first race. It was a difficult start to the weekend as another driver made contact in the early stages of Free Practice One putting out the tracking and effectively making the car un-drivable.
In Free Practice Two the Ford Focus suffered an engine misfire and Jack was in the pits for most of the session. This all hampered the qualifying session and although he managed to ‘find’ a couple of seconds and some respectable times, he had to be satisfied with 26th on the grid. He also had to take a five place grid penalty following a racing incident with Glynn Geddie at Brands Hatch so he had to start from the back!
The first two races were held in very wet conditions and despite some spectacular incidents Jack kept out of trouble, adopting the ‘elbow out’ aggressive form of racing that characterises the British Touring Car Championship and has made it the country’s favourite motorsport spectacle. He survived the midfield scraps and dramas to make up seven places by the end of the second race and put himself 24th on the grid for the only dry race of the weekend. Jack had a strong third race driving to 15th and his first championship point with some exciting door to door racing en route. He outpaced his team mate, double BTCC champion, Fabrizio Giovandardi and finished a difficult weekend with a great deal of experience in mixed conditions and a renewed confidence in the car.
“That was a roller coaster of a weekend,” said Jack after race three. “It was really frustrating to spend so much time in the pits during the free practice sessions. As a rookie to BTCC and the limited testing opportunities, I need as much track time as possible and we were really on the back foot for qualifying. The conditions were really tricky and I can honestly say it was a huge education. It was great to end with a dry race, a competitive car and my first championship point. I learnt a great deal and have emerged from the weekend with plenty of positives.”
The BTCC circus heads to the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton in Hampshire in two week’s time (3/4 May)