What a relief! A win, a third and a fifth is exactly what the doctor ordered after a tough couple of weekends at Donington and Thruxton for BMW Pirtek Racing in the British Touring Car Championship.
MAY 22nd 2017
Andrew Jordan: BTCC 2017, Oulton Park – "Now that’s the sort of weekend I go racing for!"
I was really looking forward to the Oulton Park weekend, the fourth round of the championship; it’s a fabulous track and suits the rear-wheel-drive BMW, too. But I guess that put a bit of extra pressure on me to get the job done as all the ingredients were in place. It was down to me. I wanted to get back to where I think I belong: the front. I go racing to win – sure, I’m not going to win every time, I know that, but it has to be the aim, every time. If there’s the slightest chance…
And things got off to the perfect start in Cheshire when I topped the timesheets in the first free-practice session. The car felt absolutely in the ballpark, as it always does when it’s been prepared by the West Surrey Racing guys, so we had a superb base to work from.
The second session was wet so largely irrelevant. We spent much of it scrubbing tyres in and learning a bit more about the set-up for the wet, just in case. All three BMW drivers – Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and me – were within a tenth of a second or so, so it was all very close.
Come qualifying, which was back to fully dry, I nailed a lap that I was really happy with. Matt [Neal] pipped me by a tenth for pole but it was great to be back on the front row. It was my best session for a couple of years.
For that all-important start, I had to use the rear-wheel-drive and ballast-free advantage and get into Old Hall first. Fortunately, I nailed it, although Matt made a good one, too.
Thereafter it was a case of getting my head down while being mindful of keeping the soft-tyre wear in check. I built a small lead but had to bring it back a bit to save the rubber. And then Matt started pushing, so I had to up my pace again. I had enough in hand though, even when the rears started to drop off with four laps left. You have to be careful with the throttle when the rear rotation increases through tyre wear as you can spin and/or wreck the tyres still further.
I crossed the line to take my second win of the year for BMW, which was a fantastic feeling. It was a vital breakthrough and landed me some decent points. I was super-happy!
Race two was always going to be a damage-limitation exercise, even from pole, as I had to carry the 75kg maximum ballast – the equivalent of a well-built adult passenger. Plus, I was no longer on the soft tyre. A top-six finish, I felt, would be good and bring me more useful points.
I made a good start and hung on out front for the opening lap, but then Ash [Sutton] came at me with soft tyres and less weight in the Subaru. I defended as robustly as possible, but it was inevitable that the top three or four were going to pass me. To finish fifth, right on the tail of the two Dynamics Hondas of Matt and Gordon [Shedden] was OK and got me a chunk of points I needed.
I finally got a bit of luck with the reversed-grid race-three draw, lining up second to Josh Cook’s Ford Focus. I was confident of another win, but wary also of the soft-tyred Hondas right behind me.
I led the race again for the first 14 laps and, once the safety car had bunched us up, Gordon and Matt were able to squeeze past me with three laps to run. It’s tricky to get the balance back with the tyres after the safety-car-induced cooling period and they had it easier with the soft rubber. Still, another podium was a satisfying end to the day.
A haul of 49 points at Oulton was fantastic – my biggest weekend tally for three years. And I’ve moved from 12th to seventh in the championship, too, which is definitely in the right direction. There’s a long way to go – 18 more races – but I’ve got the fight back in me as we head to Croft, another BMW-friendly circuit.
I can’t wait to keep pushing!
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