I think overall you can put it down as frustrating, an up and down weekend where we could have ended up within 10 points of Colin Turkington, my West Surrey Racing team-mate who still sits at the top of the standings. Instead I’m now 17 points back, just one back from Honda’s Dan Cammish, with everything to play for going to Finals Day at Brands Hatch.
The car felt fantastic right from the start – just like at Knockhill where we raced all day with the workshop settings. The key to a great time at Silverstone, however, is the slipstream. Colin was working with Tom Oliphant, who was in the third WSR BMW, while we had a deal to work with Stephen Jelley in one of the privately entered BMW 1 Series.
With the tow from Stephen we managed to finish 5th and 7th in the two practice sessions, and I was really confident going into Qualifying. Unfortunately, an alternator belt went on Stephen’s car right at the beginning of the session, and so he lost his power steering and had to come straight back to the pits. With that I lost the tow that we had planned.
I did manage to get a tow from someone else – I can’t actually remember who – but it was from about six to eight car lengths back, and the data showed there was a huge loss as a result of the lack of slipstream. Had we had the tow we’d have easily been in the top six, but there was nothing we could do, it’s just one of those things.
When race day came, the weather decided to be incredibly indecisive. We had a damp track for the start of race one and we were running the soft tyre, the best compound for the conditions. Going into the race I knew that we were mainly racing Colin, Dan and Josh Cook – in the BTC Racing Honda – in terms of the championship standings.
I passed Colin early, and managed to get by Cammish through Becketts, but the car began to lose pace as the race went on. We crossed the line eighth on the road, but were put back two places for a move on Tom Chilton. I put it down as a touring car move, but the stewards thought otherwise. I wouldn’t mind about the ruling if the decisions were consistent across the season, but they’re not. That said, though, it is what it is and all in all it was still a good points finish.
Cammish and Colin were on softs for race two, while I was back on the normal compound. I was making good progress but then it started to drizzle, which really hurts the rear-wheel-drive cars in comparison to those with front-wheel-drive. I was just playing the percentage game and trying to take as many points as possible.
Then the safety car came. It came out just after Cammish had a strong battle with Jason Plato, and I managed to get through just before the safety car neutralised the field. Cammish thought he had the spot over me, whereas I thought I had the spot. Evidence later proved that it was my spot, but the way Cammish reacted was, quite frankly, embarrassing. He lost his head. I can understand the frustration, but you want to get your head back in it and keep tyre temperatures up.
The race director at this point should have come over the radio and told us where we should be, but they didn’t. In the end the WSR boys just decided to let him through – although we didn’t need to, it was rightfully our position – to stop all the drama, allowing us to get on with keeping the tyres ready for the restart. As he went through, though, there was some fairly hefty contact between the two of our cars. Regardless of how I feel about the situation, that’s just totally unacceptable. I think in any other race series, you do something like that under the safety car, you’re out of the race.
We’re supposed to be the pinnacle of British motorsport, and it’s just not on. There are kids watching at the side of the circuit, and is this the kind of thing we want them to see as the right thing to do?
I think Dan is a really, really good driver, and I’ve loved racing him this year up until this weekend. He’s always said to me “I’ll race you as you race me”, and that will certainly be in my mind going to Brands Hatch.
Putting all of that behind us, race three was totally crazy. We stiffened the car up as we thought it was drying, and then the rain came – we put wets on and frustratingly lost a lot of time in the pits and it became a damage limitation race. I came out of the pits and was racing really well with Colin – he had more pace and it was good, hard, clean fight. Losing the number of points we did across the weekend wasn’t ideal, but we’re still in touching distance going to Finals Day.
A 17-point gap may look huge, but I lost 27 points on Finals Day in 2013, so there is still a very real chance of winning. I’m going in with the attitude of win at any cost. Whatever I need to do to win the title, that’s the plan at Brands Hatch.
I’m also going to Brands knowing that it will potentially be my last race in the BTCC and it will definitely be the last time I race with Pirtek. It will be bittersweet, as I’ve been with Pirtek since 2005 and to race with them for the final time will be incredibly emotional. To end it with a championship win would be the perfect ending.
With all that in mind, I’m incredibly chilled about it. If it does end up being my last BTCC meeting, what a way to go out, fighting for the title. Let’s go get stuck in!