The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship burst back into life at Snetterton following the series’ five-week summer break. After a strong showing at Croft last time out, Crabbie’s Racing driver Jack Clarke came to Norfolk fully refreshed and brimming with optimism.
The Surrey-based driver achieved his best weekend of the year at Croft in Yorkshire at the end of June. Solid performances included an 11th place finish in race two and a strong top 10 showing in race three before a premature retirement. His pace was unquestionable as the 26-year-old bettered the lap times of five previous BTCC Champions.
Come last weekend (2-3 August), rather than sizzling sunshine it was damp and greasy conditions that welcomed the BTCC drivers for the opening session at Snetterton. Free Practice One was to be a disjointed outing with two red flag periods. This meant there was only a small window of opportunity for Jack and his 30 rivals to try and run through programmes and simulations and set a time around the 2.99 mile venue. As the track dried, Clarke posted some respectable times and ended the session in 14th.
A clear run in Free Practice Two enabled Jack and the Motorbase team to go through the weekend’s set-up objectives on the Ford Focus ST ahead of qualifying later that afternoon and the races the following day. In a dry but cool session the Effingham based driver was 17th fastest with a time only a whisker behind experienced stable-mate and two-time BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi.
In qualifying, Jack struggled with traffic on his flying lap and was disappointed with his 21st place on the grid.
For race day the BTCC paddock was greeted by glorious sunshine and blue skies as tens of thousands of touring car fans flocked into the Norfolk circuit.
The Crabbie’s Ford Focus featured heavily in the race one TV coverage as Jack had a good battle with reigning champion Andrew Jordan, who along with Clarke was trying to fight his way through the field. Jack, however, made contact with Jordan’s team-mate Martin Depper on lap 10 which resulted in both drivers losing time and spoilt what would have been a strong finish. He ultimately crossed the line 19th.
Race two saw a great start by the Crabbie’s driver who managed to avoid the usual first lap chaos and as a result ended up 16th before the safety car sprung into action. Once racing resumed, Jack was poised to take a solid haul of points until lap six when Warren Scott lost control of his VW CC under braking for the Montreal hairpin. Clarke was an innocent party, getting caught up in the accident and forced off the circuit in the process. His race was effectively over but undeterred he managed to limp the car to the pits and he rejoined at the back for the last few laps to shake the car down in preparation for final contest.
Luck was not on the 26-year-old’s side in race three as the Motorbase-run Ford Focus was taken out in the opening lap. Despite yet another set-back, Jack put his head down, and maturely made his way through the pack to finish in 22nd.
It was a weekend to forget in some respects for Clarke and the team, but there were plenty of positives and with the bumper to bumper racing that characterises the BTCC, every driver must expect his fair share of contact. It was just a shame it happened three times for Jack in one weekend!
“I’m obviously very frustrated because I felt like this was the weekend to start translating the pace that we’ve had into results,” said Jack. “If I had not been taken out in race two, I could have been fighting on the cusp of the top-ten which is where I want to be. We had a really strong car and I wouldn’t have been a million miles away from a solid points paying position ¬– so a relatively small turn of events can ruin a weekend.
“We need to sort qualifying out and get away from some of the mid-pack scuffles. I’m a little bit disappointed with the weekend, but our pace gets better and better each race meeting. I’ll come back fighting at Knockhill and we’ll be ready to go once again!”
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will now head to Scotland in three weeks time for Rounds 19, 20 and 21which will be held at Knockhill in Fife on 23/24 August.