Britain’s premier motor racing series, The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was greeted with glorious sunshine as it headed to its most southerly location, Thruxton in Hampshire last weekend, (3/4 May). After a step forward in pace and performance at the last round at Donington Park, Jack Clarke returned to the wheel of the bright and distinctive Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus ST to build upon his first point scored at the Leicestershire circuit two weekends ago.
The Surrey-based driver used both free practice sessions to acclimatise himself to the Thruxton aerodrome circuit having never raced a tin-top at the venue. In fact Jack’s last visit to the Andover track was back in 2006, driving a Formula BMW single-seater. The 26-year-old was comfortable in the car, marking a step forward in pace as each session elapsed. He was confident of a mid-grid position but his efforts were hampered by a blockage to the airflow into the engine which reduced its turbo capacity and at this ultra-fast circuit it hampered his qualifying considerably. In spite of this be managed to line-up in 23rd in the ultra-competitive BTCC field.
He managed to climb up to 19th in the first race – getting used to the ‘elbows-out’ style of touring car racing – very different from the single seater-style of driving he has been used to in the past and in the second race a solid performance saw him net 18th as the flag dropped at the end of the race. Jack was happy with his pace, setting respectable times a fraction off his seasoned Motorbase stable-mates, Mat Jackson and double BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi.
The final race of the day was an incident filled one with two safety car periods. Jack was ‘tapped’ by another competitor and lost control of the Crabbie’s Focus at the first complex. A quick pit stop to rectify the damage enabled Jack to re-join at the back of the pack without losing too much time. From 26th Jack used some racing aggression to pass a few cars on the track, salvaging 22nd, a result which was not a true reflection of the pace recently unlocked by Clarke and the team. Despite the incident the BTCC new-comer keeps his 100% finishing record as his education continues in the no hold barred BTCC.
As the sun-set on a challenging weekend for the BTCC rookie, Jack spoke about his Thruxton weekend…
“It was a shame we had problems in the qualifying,” said Jack. “Thruxton is a very difficult circuit for overtaking but I am relatively pleased with my overall performance. We struggled with under-steer in the first race, cured it in the second and found a second on lap time to get us further up the pack. By the third race, the car was set-up perfectly, really on the money and we were at our most competitive this weekend until I was undeservedly ‘taken out’ at the first complex and that sadly ruined our race. We may not have got the result we wanted but we have improved the car.
“I still need more seat time and want to squeeze some testing in before Oulton Park, a circuit where the team have gone well at in the past and I am still driving towards the top 15 which is our target for the upcoming rounds.”
Jack Clarke and Crabbie’s Racing head to the undulating Oulton Park in Cheshire in a month’s time for rounds 10,11 and 12 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (7/8 June)