No, it’s not an excuse for a jolly-up in the sun! The warm-weather test program is a vital part of our race season; success or failure in these tests can determine what kind of year we’re going to have ahead of us. The fact that we choose to do it at the sun-drenched Algarve International Circuit in Portugal and not a freezing-cold and soaking-wet Brands is just an added bonus!

But all joking aside, these warm-weather tests are a crucial part of our preparations for the 2017 season. And when we’re looking to test specific areas of the car’s performance we need to ensure repeatable, consistent laps – and that’s just not possible with the constantly changing climate in the UK through the winter months.

Photo: Matt Sayle

Dry-running was even more important than usual this year, as one of the main objectives of this test was to gain a greater understanding of the new 2017-spec Dunlop slicks the cars will need to run this year. We also looked at a few suspension changes, some aero alterations, and some engine installation options to aid cooling too.

All three drivers, and most of the crew, were present for the test. Over the three days we clocked up approximately 800km per car, and a grand total of 476 laps! That gave the mechanics and engineers plenty for data to play with, and also proved a valuable experience for the two new drivers, Luke Davenport and Martin Depper, to get to grips with the Focus and start to build working relationships with the rest of the crew.

Photo: Matt Sayle

We’re not going to give away all the results from out tests (you never know if any of the other teams are reading!) but we’re quietly confident, and the tests in Portugal were very positive. We found some things that worked well, and just as importantly, some things that didn’t work quite so well. In fact, in many cases we actually learn more about the car from things that don’t work, than we learn from things that do work!

Photo: Matt Sayle

Before the 2017 season kicks off we’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of us. We’ll back out testing at Brands Hatch again (we do need to do some cold weather testing, as it’s not always 20-plus degrees on race day!), then we’ve got the BTCC Media Day at Donington Park, before the flag finally drops on Race 1 on 2nd April!