It was another very, very frustrating weekend. I raelly felt like we could come out of that weekend as one of the highest points scorers and certainly challenge for second in the championship.
Unfortunately, the recurring problem I had at Snetterton and that Colin [Turkington, WSR team-mate] had at Brands Hatch at the start of the year meant that I missed out on what was an almost guaranteed podium place.
Going into this weekend I thought we might struggle, particularly with drag as we’re a hatchback as opposed to some of the more slippery-bodied saloons. However, the car felt right on the button as soon as we got it out of the box and, although I tend not to look too much into practice pace, we were fourth in FP1 and second in FP2, so we were in a good place going into qualifying.
I have a great connection with my engineer, John, who knows exactly what I want from a car and can almost know what I’m going to say before I say it – which is fantastic. That’s the real positive of great continuity with WSR year-on-year, and will certainly play a huge part as I start to look towards next year’s race plans.
Qualifying was a bit of an odd one as it was very clearly all about where you could get a good slipstream – the three WSR boys were running together and we then had about seven or eight other cars trying to tag along behind us.
Towards the end of the session everyone else was playing funny buggers to try and find a slipstream and it meant that my last lap of the session was the only proper flying lap I could manage. We still managed to secure fifth on the grid and, when you look where the other drivers with ballast were, I think we could be very happy with that.
None of the top three were inside the top 15 on the grid and, looking at the grid following qualifying, I was fairly certain that coming away from Silverstone with second, or at least a very close third, in the standings was achievable.
I was really comfortable going into race day, and race one started brilliantly. I could see fairly early on that I wasn’t going to catch Tordoff or Chilton in the Motorbase Fords, so I decided to look after the tyres and hold on for a fairly safe-looking third. The throttle body had other ideas however, and meant that the car went into limp home mode. I was having to reboot almost every lap and it was embarrassing…
Having decided to park the car and concentrate on the second race, we started from the back for race two, and having worked up to 14th by the midway point I was feeling pretty good and working towards a potential reverse-grid situation. Unfortunately the power steering then dropped out and I found myself dropping back down the grid, and losing more and more voltage as each lap passed. Holding on for 22nd at the line, it was another case of “what might have been”.
In race three I was expecting to struggle as I was running the harder tyre, while almost everyone ahead of me was on the normal tyre. What ensued was one of the best races I’ve driven all year, pulling off some of the best overtakes of my season – going round the outside etc.
Part of this was down to being livid at the missed opportunities from earlier in the day, desperate to salvage something from the weekend, and partly down to the guys putting together one of the best cars I’ve ever had on the harder tyre. I’m not usually a fan of the harder rubber, but I was loving this and worked my way up to 9th at the line, having started from down in 22nd on the grid.
That raced proved that we really should have been one of the top scorers of the weekend, and that we should have been going into Brands for the finale looking at a potential BMW 1-2 in the standings at the end of the year.
Now the Brands Hatch plan is simple – win races and score podiums. Although I’m 20 points off Chilton, who sits third, I’m aiming for that third spot in the standings. I want to get as high as we can in the standings with three solid results and prove exactly what myself and the car can do.