Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has reached the halfway point in the season after a dramatic weekend at Croft (28/29 June) and after a three week break, Jack Clarke and Crabbie’s Racing returned to action at the Yorkshire venue. It was to be a very positive weekend for the young Surrey driver who took a big step forward in pace and competitiveness.
The weather was unpredictable on Saturday for Free Practice and Qualifying. The low temperatures and sporadic rain showers caused havoc throughout the pit lane as teams tried to find the ideal set-up for the mixed conditions. To add to this Jack was battling food poisoning and trying to re-learn the circuit; he has not raced at Croft since 2007. He was to finish both sessions and qualifying outside the top 20, only four tenths of a second behind his team-mate and double BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi. However, Effingham-based driver Clarke has positive memories of the North Yorkshire circuit after securing victory there in his debut year in the Formula Palmer Audi single-seater championship back in 2007 and was confident the car would have the pace in the races.
In the opening race on Sunday the 26-year old navigated the incident-filled midfield with plenty of door-to-door, elbows-out action, with panels of the Crabbie’s Racing flapping and flailing for most of the 14-lap race. Jack netted 16th from the 31-strong grid, just one place away from securing a championship point.
In race two, the BTCC rookie really had the car hooked up and as the race unfolded he established a good rhythm as he pounded around the 2.1 mile venue, making some fantastic passes in the fast back section of the circuit. He eventually finished in a BTCC career-best 11th, scoring four lucrative championship points in the process.
With great expectation and nothing to lose in the final race of the day, the Crabbie’s backed driver launched the Motorbase Performance prepared Ford Focus ST into what was to be a thrilling finale. Clarke enjoyed a good battle with former British F3 Champion Marc Hynes on the cusp of the top 10 but had to curtail his weekend early on lap 11 after coming into contact with a tyre stack on a chicane, which punctured the left front tyre and took the front wing off the car. The bright green Focus managed to limp back to the pit lane but the team decided to retire. Although disappointing, Jack’s fastest race lap was quicker than five former BTCC Champions and was sixth quickest overall out of 30 drivers.
When the dust and excitement had settled at Croft, Jack was delighted with the turn of pace unlocked at the North Yorkshire venue.
“I felt a bit disappointed with my Saturday performance but knew if I got my head down we could make places come race day.
“I had a really quick car in race trim and the car managed the Dunlop tyres really well throughout the weekend. I love driving here and I was delighted to make progress each race.
“In the final race with the soft tyres I felt even stronger as the car was quick, I was quick and the tyres held up. I made a mistake and hit a tyre stack on the chicane, I hold my hands up, it was a rookie error, I‘m still not used to having a big chassis around me!
“I was chuffed to be fighting towards the front, we weren’t there by default and our times showed that. I am really looking forward to Snetterton and I know we can be quick there as well.”
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will re-adjourn after a five week break for Rounds 16, 17 and 18 which will be held at Snetterton in Norfolk on 2/3 August.