Andrew Jordan: BTCC 2017, Silverstone – “I proved you can pass without firing people off!”
The penultimate round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship again took place on the Silverstone National circuit, which has a habit of making the racing incredibly close while also creating a lot of argy-bargy.
I was full of confidence heading into the weekend after sealing my third win of the season in the final race at Rockingham a few weeks ago aboard the BMW Pirtek Racing BMW 125i M Sport. I was fired up to maximise my performance, even though the circuit has favoured front-wheel-drive cars over the past 10 years.
The opening free-practice session was unrepresentative as it was a drying session so anyone who went out late found themselves at the top of the timesheets. Still, it clarified that the weekend was going to be incredibly close, especially in qualifying, as I was only 0.5s adrift but down in 15th.
I was pretty happy with my increased pace in free practice 2 – on used tyres I was eighth fastest with a time only 0.4s off the benchmark.
This all meant, of course, that qualifying was going to be crucial. I tried slipstreaming tactics with my West Surrey Racing BMW team-mates Colin Turkington and Rob Collard so we could ‘tow’ each other round in turn to get quick times. People soon got wise to it so it didn’t really have the desired effect – Colin was P8, I took P16 and Rob was P22.
BTCC history was then made in the dash for grid positions thanks to all 32 cars qualifying within 0.9 seconds. That just shows how competitive this series is. You always know, too, that it’s going to be busy from mid-grid, but I was determined to get stuck in for the opening race.
It soon turned into a demolition derby with people firing each other off – even on the straights. The racing just doesn’t need to be like that. Look at historic racing, particularly the Goodwood Revival – cars with lots of powere and not much grip are inches apart at all sorts of slip angles, yet there’s hardly any contact. There’s mutual respect there. Sadly, the same can’t be said of much of the driving in the BTCC and something needs to be done really.
I got up to about 12th before the first contact, at Luffield, dropped me back five places. I got hit again soon after, which dropped me outside the top 20. From there, it was pretty hopeless really. My misery was compounded by getting caught up in another mess with about four laps to go. An innocent Rob Collard was hit and sent into the car in front of me. There was nowhere to go. The damage was too much to continue so that was that.
The West Surrey boys did a great job to get the car ready for race two, although I was starting from my race-one position: 26th. I made a good start but immediately got bashed around a bit. You’re a sitting duck in a rear-wheel-drive car as the tyres come up to pressure and temperature. It’s also part and parcel of being at the back where, frankly, the driving standards are not as good!
My race was eventually ruined by a puncture. There were none of the usual warnings; often you can smell the rubber or feel the vibration. The tyre just went pop into Luffield, probably as a result of contact somewhere.
I pitted for a new tyre and got back out there. I set the second-fastest lap of the race, so the pace was good, but finished last and a lap down. So frustrating!
For race three I had nothing to lose from 26th on the grid. My mindset was to see how many cars I could pass without any contact. Turns out it was a good game!
I was plotting my routes past people before making them stick. Nine times out of 10 it works, but there are always those occasions when it doesn’t so you still have to be careful.
I was chuffed with eighth at the end of the race, which gave me eight points, but it was another weekend of what could’ve been. Silverstone was the only time this year that I’ve failed to score in two of the three races.
I’m not sitting around licking my wounds, though, as there is the season finale – three races on the fabulous Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch – to look forward to. I love the place having won the title there in 2013, so it’s a happy hunting ground for me.
If people could just stop smashing into each other it will be an even more enjoyable way to head into the winter before recharging and reprogramming for 2018.