Andrew Jordan: BTCC driving standards are not where they should be
Another frustrating weekend of what could have been. We were third in FP1 and showing some good pace, before running old tyres in FP2.
I was the fastest BMW again in qualifying, but we were down in 11th place, which is not where we want to be, which started off the weekend down the pack and on the back foot.
We decided to run the hard tyre in the first race and play the long game. It’s the tactic we ran last year at Rockingham and ultimately paid off in a win in race three, so we thought we’d go back to a winning strategy.
Unfortunately that all went out of the window following a ridiculous incident at the Deene Hairpin on the very first lap. I didn’t see what caused it at the time, all I saw was Sam Tordoff facing the wrong way and then discovering that I had nowhere to go. It put us right down the pack and I ended up managing to claw my way back to 15th by the chequered flag and salvage a point.
Having seen the replay of the lap one crash it frustrated me even more – Dan Cammish came from so far back, it was almost like he was looking in his mirrors and missed his braking point, and Sam had nothing he can do. It was utterly ridiculous – it’s a 16-lap race and people are making crazy lunges like that on the first real corner. It totally ruined our weekend. A dodgy race one puts you on the back foot for the rest of the weekend and it’s a real struggle to come back from.
Race two started damp, which meant we knew we were in for a tough time. The car is so bad in the damp – even Tim Harvey on ITV commentary was pointing out the lack of confidence through the corners. There’s just no progression, and as soon as you lose the rear it’s just one big powerslide until the end of the corner, just haemorrhaging time all the way. The car improved when the track began to dry out and we brought it home in 13th, but I’m not going to say I’m happy with that – I’m never going to be happy with 13th.
In race three, while most were running the harder tyre, we were on the control tyre, so I was confident that we could challenge for a podium and pick our way through. Off the line I was able to make it up to sixth and it looked like things were going to plan. Unfortunately, Tom Chilton ran a bit wide into the dirt coming out of the hairpin, and as he came back on to the circuit the two of us made contact and bent my steering arm. In fairness to Tom, there was nowhere he could go and it was just one of those things.
I was sure we could have challenged for a podium in race three, but the retirement just capped off a pretty crap weekend all round. We haven’t got the attacking pace at all – whether it’s down to this rear-wheel-drive penalty for 2018 or not, we just don’t have the pace. The Subaru is showing that it’s good in the damp conditions, but that could be down to its centre of gravity, which is an entirely different story. Colin [Turkington, WSR team-mate] is leading the standings at the moment, but that’s down to being smart and getting the best out of what he can each weekend, it’s not down to outright pace.
The championship is so close now, all the cars are coming closer together and the driving standards are just not where they should be. When we raced at Croft and Oulton Park, we were up in the top five or six and there wasn’t a scratch on the car. These last two meetings, when we’ve been down in the midfield, the car always comes back with panel damage. Some of these guys are racing for 17th into the final corner like they’re racing for a win in a championship decider. It feels like if they see you getting a run on them in their mirrors, they just push you further and further out wide until you’re off the track.
We should’ve been able to capitalise on our chances this weekend, but we had them all taken away from us, which is the most frustrating thing of all. On the plus side, we’re testing at Goodwood this week for the Revival, which is certainly something to look forward to after such a frustrating weekend.