Andrew Jordan: BTCC 2017, Brands Hatch GP – “Helping BMW to Manufacturers’ title glory”
The final weekend of the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit was all about maximising the chances of BMW winning the coveted Manufacturers’ Championship.
My first season in the BMW Pirtek Racing BMW 125i M Sport produced some extreme highs – wins at Brands Hatch at the opening meeting of the year, from the front row at the majestic Oulton Park in May and from pole position at Rockingham in August – and a few lows when luck and mechanical problems got in the way, but the finale at Brands came down to a nail-biting fight for Manufacturers’ honours.
Colin Turkington, who was going for his third Drivers’ Championship crown, and I were nominated to score points for BMW so it was important to score as many as possible as the BTCC has a habit of throwing up surprises right until the bitter end.
The car felt good in the opening free-practice session and I ended up fastest of the BMWs in 10th. It was difficult to know where that put us in the overall pecking order though, as it was early days.
I was a fraction quicker in the second session but only 15th, albeit still quickest of the three BMWs. I lost a bit of overall balance in the car as we tried a few things on old and new rubber. You have to be able to read into what the new tyres are going to do, and when, and my relative lack of experience of rear-wheel drive probably doesn’t make that any easier. I’ll be all over that next year!
For qualifying, timing was once again everything. It was spitting with rain as we went out and I managed to net fourth place just as the red flag came out. We chose to take some of the camber off the car as it was damp. That proved to be the wrong call as the track quickly dried. By the time I’d come back in and we’d changed the set-up back to how it was I got four more laps in. That meant I was only 18th fastest, just 0.8s adrift of pole.
Race one started wet so we chose to run on wet rubber. Again, though, it soon dried out and we were a sitting duck. I managed to squeeze past Jason Plato in the Subaru while keeping out of the way of the dry-tyre leaders so that helped BMW’s quest to beat Subaru to the makes’ prize. I’ve never worked so hard to finish 27th!
And that, of course, meant race two would need another charge from the back to score more of those all-important points. I ran the soft tyres for this one and enjoyed working my way up to 17th. It’s so easy to get stuck in the pack; you have to pick your moments carefully yet decisively.
The 30th and final race of the year was properly wet and the majority of the field started on wet tyres. I got tapped gently round at Druids on the opening lap which dropped me back a bit, but that spurred me on to fight back up the order. I managed to get to 13th and into the points.
It wasn’t the best way to finish the year from a personal point of view, but the team game is equally as important. BMW scooped the Manufacturers’ title which is fantastic and I’m proud to have played a part in that success in my first season with them.
It’s time for some recharging of the batteries before attention turns to next season when I’ll be going all out to make year two with the champion manufacturer and champion team really count.