Team GardX Racing with Motorbase opened its points-scoring tally during the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season opener at Brands Hatch this weekend (April 7/8).
Unfortunately in-spite of a spirited performance and impressive pace, an incredible run of bad lack left the team ruing what might have been.
It looked to be a dream return to the BTCC grid for Sam Tordoff on Saturday with a front row start for the opening race of the 2018. Setting a promising pace during the morning’s free practice sessions, the Yorkshireman stamped on his mark the title bid with a 48.131 second lap on the Indy circuit during qualifying to take P2 – just 0.093s off pole position.
Making the call to switch from the soft-option Dunlop’s to the Blue Response wet tyre as the cars lined up on the grid for the start of race 1, the risky strategy didn’t deliver the hoped-for results. Unavoidable contact on the opening lap sadly forced Tordoff onto the wet grass with damage to the Focus resulting in a puncture. The #600 Focus managed to re-join the race at the back of the grid, albeit briefly, before a second puncture forced return to the pits. With the two unscheduled pit-stops ruling him out of the running, he eventually crossed the line in P26.
With a damp and greasy, but drying track for race 2 the grid was a mix of slick and wet tyres and the team opted to run on the Blue Response wets again. A strong start saw the #600 Focus RS charge through to P20 on the opening lap before an early safety car appearance stalled proceedings. Tyre choice looked sure to see Tordoff challenging for a reversed grid draw place in race 3 as the laps unfolded, with the GardX-backed focus running as high as 12th by lap 17. Regrettably a combination of the added laps and drying track conditions played to the characteristics of the slick tyre, and the wet tyre runners quickly dropped down the order in the closing laps, and he ended the race in P18.
The final race of the day proved more fruitful with Tordoff picking up his only points from the opening weekend. Piloting the #600 Focus RS through the manufacturer-packed midfield, the Leeds-based driver managed to avoid any major on-track incidents to claim P13 at the flag, opening his points-scoring account for the season.
Although the weekend failed to deliver on a promising start, Team GardX Racing with Motorbase heads to Leicestershire’s Donington Park circuit in three weeks’ time confident in the race-winning pace of the Focus RS and with more all-important new learnings of the new charge.
Sam Tordoff #600; “This weekend was just a shame really. I’ve never worked so hard on a BTCC weekend and got so little from it.
“We were consistently fast, but sadly it’s just not happened for us. We made the wrong tyre choice in race 1 and that ended up biting us and then races 2 and 3 just didn’t go our way. We deserved to finish a lot higher up the order. We’ve just not had that right bit of luck on our side and this track is chaos when you are three quarters of the way down the grid!
“We’ll keep our heads up though. There are 27 races still to go and the positives are that we’re super-fast heading to Donington, and with zero weight on-board.”
David Bartrum, Team Principal:
“I feel gutted for Sam. The team and Sam did such a good job on Saturday getting onto the front row in qualifying and he deserved so much more this weekend. Race one was an unfortunate incident which saw his weekend basically finished by lap 2.
“On the plus side, the pace of the RS is good and the work the whole team have put in over the winter looks to be paying off. It just didn’t work out for us this weekend.”
Rounds 4, 5 & 6 of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at Donington Park on April 28/29.