Team BMR left Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on a high with the results gained placing us second in the Manufacturers Championship after the first round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on Sunday (8 April).
The Adrian Flux Subaru Racing drivers both enjoyed a positive weekend in the opening rounds with reigning BTCC Champion Ash Sutton producing an outstanding performance in Subaru Levorg Sports Tourer. The 24-year-old was satisfied with a trio of strong finishes and scored a great haul of points to start the season with which places him fifth in the Drivers Championship.
Jason Plato ended the opening weekend in a positive frame of mind after a mixed bag of results but confident of the progress that he made over the course of the weekend. With the team having made numerous setup changes to his Subaru Levorg during Sunday’s three races he is content with things moving in the right direction and is very much looking forward to Donington Park.
In the Autoglym Academy Levorg Josh Price endured a tough weekend but made great progress and enjoyed great battles showing good pace and gaining numerous positions as he worked his way up through the field.
Qualifying was closer than ever round the short 1.2 mile Indy circuit with 30 cars separated by less than a second, proving that although not commonly regarded as a power circuit, you only need to be a little bit off in straight line performance to find yourself at the wrong end of the grid on a Saturday afternoon.
Our grid positions for the opening race of the weekend on Sunday morning were Ash Sutton 18th, Jason Plato 29th and Josh Price 31st.
A wet race one with a very slippery track saw all three drivers get away off the line without any dramas. The conditions showed the promising pace of the Subaru Levorg with the trio moving through the pack to achieve decent finishes from their starting positions. Ash had a strong race and moved up an impressive eleven places on the grid from 18th to cross the line in 7th. Jason also moved up the order from 29th to finish 20th as did Josh who moved up from 31st to finish 23rd. A very good start made and 28 places made up between them!
Weather conditions for race two meant that all the front wheel drive cars had the opportunity to start on slicks in the hope of a drying track and strong performance in the second half of the race. For us, in real wheel drive it was a concern that too much ground would have been lost in the early stages of the race on slicks in those conditions and with a greasy track, we may not have even got round the first lap! It was a case of making as much ground as possible early on knowing we would be sitting ducks in the in the closing laps.
Ash made a great start and was immediately up to 5th as did Jason and Josh who both made up positions. Jason was then caught up in an incident that dropped him back down the order whilst Josh meanwhile was up to a very comfortable 16th place. All three drivers made tremendous progress during the race which saw Ash move up to 3rd and Jason was soon back up to 17th. As we predicted, a dry line soon appeared and the tyres soon started to struggle resulting in the Levorgs then dropping down the order allowing those on slicks to take advantage of the situation and move up front and take the race lead.
Ash eventually took the checkered flag in a point scoring 12th position with Jason in 22nd and Josh in 23rd.
Race three and all change as it became the first race of the day to be dry at the start and all three drivers starting on the soft option tyre. With Ash showing he’d lost none of his race craft over the winter, once again moved through the field to an impressive 4th place. Jason made up ground after many setup changes with the race which was also doubling up as a dry test session and ended the race in 19th. Josh, in a similar way and pace, was making ground and getting to grips with a new set up and dry running. His race was hampered in the closing stages as he was collected by an out of position Tom Chilton resulting in a visit to the pits to assess the damage and get him back on track to ensure a classified finish in 28th place.
The BTCC returns in three weeks’ time at Donington Park on the 28th and 29th April.
BMR Team Manager Micky Sergeant commented: “Reflecting on the weekend overall, I would firstly like to thank each and every one of the team for all their hard work over the proceeding months in the build-up to Brands. It’s always nice to get the first event of the season done, and to have 100% reliability on all cars in all 3 races with relatively little damage is testament to all the crew and credit to the drivers.
“All in all, massively happy to have nine classified results and 100% reliability. Great racecraft by Ash, Jason & Josh to bring the car home in every race and achieve the results they all did. We are clearly working on setups to extract every tenth out of the chassis and to move forward with Swindon Powertrain in the hope to be more competitive in the speed traps and make the most of what we are given. On paper, not the results I’d normally be singing about but optimistic of the potential and happy to still be in the hunt.”
Ash Sutton commented: “Overall we were punching above our weight this weekend. We went in with expectations of a top fifteen but to come away with a 7th, 12th and 4th we definitely overachieved. With the amount of testing we’ve had we’ve certainly got a lot of work to do but I’m confident that the boys back at BMR Headquarters will be doing their bit behind the scenes to get us to where we need to be.
“It’s a good start to my campaign to defend the title to be 5th in the Championship and 26 more points ahead of where we were at this stage last season.”
Jason Plato commented: “The most important thing is that I leave here after race three in a positive frame of mind. It’s the first time in all honesty, in eighteen months, or since the beginning of 2017, where I’ve got a car where I can feel the front. In all the practice we did here I couldn’t feel the front and we’ve made some huge set-up changes and I think now, analysing what’s happened to date, and what happened last year, some of the problems we had were from the shunt, but underneath all that the problem stemmed from not doing enough work on the new tyre at the beginning of last year. I think our cars baseline setups weren’t in the right area and we made some huge changes to race one, two and three. We are going in the right sort of direction so I’m positive that we are making progress and it feels like it’s my car again. We’ve got lots of work to do on the engine but I’m going home with a smile on my face.”
Josh Price commented: “I knew it would be tough but not that tough but pleased to finish all three races and race two showed that we definitely had the pace. It’s a very competitive field this year but I am feeling positive about the season ahead. Roll on Donington Park.”
Paul Tunnicliffe, Automotive Development Director of Subaru UK commented: “The first race weekend is always an important learning curve each season, as you truly get to see what your competitors have brought to the track. We were pretty much where we expected to be, although the conditions caused us problems, especially in Race Two. That said, Ash showed why he is a worthy champion, with a stunning display of committed driving in all three races. Jason and Josh also showed real promise. We have taken some good learning from this round and can’t wait for Donington”.
Gerry Bucke, General Manager of Adrian Flux commented: “For round one this was a very positive result for the team, especially when you consider that last year the team banked zero and still went onto win the championship. To come away with 81 manufacturers points and for Ash Sutton to come away with 26 points is a great start. It’s looking very positive for Donington, where we hope to see both Jason Plato and Ash Sutton up on the podium.”
Paul Caller, Chief Executive Officer of Autoglym commented: “Well the BTCC season is well and truly underway and it was great to see such great results from the opening rounds at Brands Hatch. A very positive start for the team and it was good to see Josh Price in the thick of things in race two. We are very much looking forward to watching the 2018 BTCC season evolve and can’t wait for Donington.”