After a superb start to the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, where I scored a win in my debut weekend with the West Surrey Racing BMW, the second round at Donington brought me back down to earth with a bit of a bang.
APR 19th 2017
Andrew Jordan: BTCC 2017, Donington – "Plenty of pace, with very little to show for it"
It was one of those weekends when things mostly contrived against me; gaps closed up on me, set-up tweaks didn’t work, safety cars appeared at inopportune moments and unnecessary contact landed me with a puncture.
Despite all that, though, I was very happy with my pace in the car – it’s just that my results didn’t in any way reflect that!
This is my 10th year in the BTCC and I’ve never known it so competitive as it is now. After qualifying, the top 25 cars were within a second of each other, which is extraordinary, especially when you remember there are 10 different marques out there. I was only 0.5 second adrift of pole but only 14th on the grid. Fourteenth doesn’t sound very convincing, but with 57kg of weight to carry as a result of my Brands success, it compared pretty well with my BMW team-mates – I had 30kg more than Colin [Turkington] and 19kg more than Rob [Collard]
Knowing how comfortable I already feel in the 125i M Sport, and with the guys at West Surrey Racing, I was sure I could make progress up the order in race one. There was an easy top-10 result to have from there, but unfortunately, we chose a wet set-up as rain was forecast. With no rain materialising, the car was too soft in the dry. I took a knock or three in the early running too, so I had to make do with 15th.
That was so annoying, but the beauty of the BTCC’s three-race format is that you get two other chances during the day. Sure, you start race two where you finish race one, so that meant a mid-grid 15th place again, but as ever I was up for the fight.
I made a cracking start, desperate to get out of the mid-grid danger zone, and was into the top 10 before the opening lap had ended. The car was really up on its toes without the success ballast in it and raring to go. Sadly, contact with my old team-mate Mat Jackson meant we both went off, although I was able to continue, albeit down in 31st place.
It was then that I realised just how good the BMW is, especially at a circuit that’s historically favoured front-wheel-drive cars. We were flying and I charged from 31st to 15th, setting the fastest lap in the process. The point for finishing 15th and the point for taking fastest lap could be crucial come the end of the season – remember that the title was won by a two-point margin in the final race of last season. You never know when you might need them.
Race three was another missed opportunity. The conditions were horrendous at the start, there was so much standing water. I got a good start, but in my opinion the race should never have got under way in those conditions. It was impossible to see anything – even leader Matt Neal, the only guy with no spray to contend with, went off on standing water at relatively slow speed. The aquaplaning was horrendous – we were just passengers, even on part-throttle.
Fortunately, it stopped raining soon enough and were able to get going. I got another good start but was then cannoned into from a long way back by Jeff Smith’s Honda at Redgate. It punctured my front-right and meant a lengthy dribble back to the pits. The safety car had come out while I was taking on a new front-right in the pits, but it only stayed out for a lap so I couldn’t quite get round onto the back of the pack before the race went green again.
Just like in race two, the car was mega for the rest of the race and I set the third fastest lap, which gave the confidence a bit of a boost.
It’s early days in the championship of course – there are still 24 races left – so it’s important to remember the long game. A blip this early on is not unusual in the BTCC. Many a champion has started slowly before it all gels as the season progresses.
As I said earlier, I’m in a very happy place – in terms of my pace, the car and the team – and believe, given a decent rub of the green, that I can win anywhere. I honestly felt more comfortable in the car at Donington than I did at Brands, it’s just a shame that it wasn’t backed up by a decent points haul.
It’s Thruxton next – the fastest track on the calendar and my favourite. I love the place and usually go well. We’re testing there later this week so let’s see what happens during my first experience of rear-wheel-drive at Thruxton. Bring it on, I say!
Finally, I’d like to offer my very best wishes, along with those of the whole BTCC, TOCA and British motorsport family, to Billy Monger who suffered that horrific accident in the final F4 British Championship race on Sunday. He was well looked after by the medical team and marshals – the best in the business, as we all know – and I sincerely hope he makes a strong recovery.
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