After a double points finish at Rockingham last time out, Crabbie’s Racing driver Jack Clarke went one better at Silverstone last weekend (27/28 September) as he recorded three superb points scoring finishes, when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship visited the ‘Home of British Motor Sport’ for rounds 25, 26 and 27.
The penultimate round of the BTCC was to see a marked improved for Jack Clarke as he continues his touring car education in Britain’s premier motor racing series. Two 13th place finishes and a top ten result put Clarke right into the racing mix at the sharp end of the 31-car field.
On Saturday the traditional Free Practice and Qualifying sessions saw a positive start to the weekend for the tin-top debutant. Traditionally the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST goes well at the Northamptonshire venue and 2014 was to be no different with the Crabbie’s car looking quick right from the outset. After the double points scoring success at Rockingham, Clarke went to Silverstone full of confidence as he has driven the National configuration several times in his single-seater career.
Free Practice one and two saw Clarke refine and finalise the settings on his striking green Ford Focus ahead of the all-important qualifying session that afternoon. Claiming a good qualifying position is always vital, even-more so on shorter circuits such as the flat National layout which is mere 1.64 miles. Finding space amongst the other 30 flame-spitting touring cars to perform a hot lap is crucial. The 26-year-old carried forward his free practice form and found gaps in the traffic to put him into the top 10 for most of the session. As the clock hit zero the Crabbie’s backed-driver recorded 12th, his best result of the season and in doing so put himself ahead of four former BTCC champions.
Race one saw a great start off the line as the Focus positively launched into the action. The Surrey driver was on the standard tyre while most of his rivals opted for the preferred softer option. Clarke enjoyed dices with reining champion Andrew Jordan as well as stable-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi. The Ford Focus manages its tyres extremely well, which meant he could scalp positions in the latter stages of the race under the spotlight of live ITV4 television coverage. And scalp he did, as he passed both works Honda’s to finally take a credible 13th.
With a soft tyre shod Focus, the Effingham based-driver got stuck into the second race of the day as he took on the established BTCC front-runners, giving no quarters as he went door to door with previous champions and race winners. Making some excellent passes and having some luck as he avoided collisions in front of him, the 26-year-old maturely made his way into the top 10 in front of a 32,000 strong crowd. Not content, the BTCC rookie went after more positions in the closing stages. Jack was dicing with 2012 Champion Gordon Shedden and Knockhill race winner Rob Collard at the back end of the top 10 when contact with the Honda driver put Jack into a slide and as he tried to bring the car back onto the circuit, Collard clipped the front of the Ford Focus which sent the BMW driver into a roll. Thankfully both drivers were unhurt as Collard was cleared from hospital a few hours later. The unfortunate racing incident overshadowed a fine 10th place, Jack’s first top ten and importantly he got to draw the reverse grid live on television in front of millions of viewers. He couldn’t quite manage to draw his own number out of the hat but he did select the number of stable-mate Giovanardi instead.
The final race of the day at Silverstone was to be a disjointed affair with a delayed start due to an oil slick and a safety car period early on to clear up a collision further down the field. Still a little shaken up after the race two incident, Clarke was determined to put in another good performance and a good getaway enabled Jack to be in the thick of the action straight away. With the field so tightly packed a slight mistake or problem with the car will send you back down the order and unfortunately, the Crabbie’s car struggled with understeer which dropped him down to 13th as the flag fell. Jack was disappointed with 13th but that just shows how far he has come in his short BTCC career as further top 10s are certainly achievable.
Jack reflected on a great weekend at Silverstone:
“It was a massive improvement in qualifying, the team really gave me quality machinery this weekend. It was a team effort and I felt I was driving really well and to start further up the grid meant I could Focus on getting the best out of the car come race day.
“We were punching above our weight – it was good to be taking on previous champions on merit and I am now setting my sights further up the grid. I may sound like a broken record but in my first year it is all about making those improvements throughout the season and I am enjoying the rewards from all the hard work.
“We didn’t quite get it the car hooked up in the final race and we struggled with understeer which was a bit of a shame, but as we look at the bigger picture it a was great weekend as a whole. If I start getting disappointed with 13th it shows how far we have come.
“Our hope for Brands Hatch is to do it all again and maybe take a step further and get into the single figures. The target now is the top five.”
The final round of the championship heads back to Brands Hatch, where it all began back in March. This time, rounds 28, 29 and 30 will take place on the iconic Grand Prix layout. Jack will look to continue his impressive form as he heads to his home circuit next month.