Jack Clarke and Crabbie’s Racing enjoyed a strong weekend in Scotland (23/24 August) for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill. Jack secured his best weekend to date with two points finishes and some fantastic racing in the middle of the pack around the tight and undulating Knockhill track.
Not only is Jack making his first foray into touring cars he is also having to reacclimatise himself to a number of tracks around the UK and Knockhill is no exception, as the Surrey-based driver has only driven the Fife circuit once before, back in 2006 in a Formula BMW single-seater.
The weekend got off to a good start for the Ford Focus driver as he felt at one with the car right from the off posting some positive times during the first session on Saturday morning. Overnight rain had made the circuit damp to begin with, but as the BTCC cars thundered around the 1.3 mile ribbon of tarmac the track dried quickly allowing Clarke to post one of his best Free Practice results of the season with a respectable 14th. The second session was an interrupted affair with two red flag periods and several rain showers.
Qualifying was held in dry conditions and Clarke and the team went into the 30-minute session in optimistic spirits. With 31 cars circulating it was difficult to find that elusive clean lap, and coupled with the fact that Jack struggled to get the tyres up to operating temperature quick enough he was disappointed with his 23rd grid position.
The first race of the day saw a slow start for Clarke as he dropped down the order with a spin early on but he showed his determination, clawing his way back from 29th to 18th.
In the second race of the day Jack had selected the softer Dunlop tyre compound. This was to be a well-calculated decision as an excellent launch off the line saw him leap forward into the points within the first handful of laps. The 26-year-old reveled in the door-to-door action on the cusp of the top ten as he held his own against his more experienced rivals. In the latter stages of the race Jack was involved in many a great battle with a wealth of former BTCC Champions including Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden, Alain Menu and series leader Colin Turkington. Despite being elbowed off the circuit whilst in 12th, Clarke made up places to eventually finish in 13th on the road.
The final race of the day was to be bathed in glorious sunshine as the cars rolled onto the grid and the Crabbie’s driver made an excellent start beating the two most recent BTCC champions Jordan and Shedden into the first corner. It was to be a strong race as Clarke got his head down, punching in consistent lap times as the tyres came on song towards the latter stages. As he crossed the line in 14th to collect another two points he was also the highest placed Motorbase driver in the final Scottish encounter of the year.
As the team left the Fife motor racing amphitheatre, Jack was pleased with his performance despite a troubled Saturday:
“Qualifying is still a struggle for us and the car and I can’t quite create time with new rubber right from the off, so high grip situations like qualifying are proving to be a bit tough.
“The weekend has been a marked improvement and we are going in the right direction. We didn’t luck in to too many positions and our pace on the soft tyre was very competitive and encouraging. We are always consistently quick at the end of a race, whereas tyre degradation seems to be high for a lot of other teams which means we can start to pick off other drivers in the final few laps.
“It was a positive and enjoyable weekend and to be racing literally right in the middle of the pack is great fun. Knockhill is a really cool track and I enjoyed the weekend and atmosphere immensely.”
Upon his Knockhill reflection Clarke looked ahead to the next round:
“I have never been to Rockingham before but the tracks I am unfamiliar with this year have not proved to be to much of a disadvantage in regards to pace or performance, so I plan to make that little next step towards the cusp of the top ten and the shuffle for race three and there is no reason why we can’t achieve that goal next time out at Rockingham”.
The next stop on the BTCC calendar is Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire on September 6/7 where Jack Clarke and Crabbie’s Racing will once again look to continue their progress.