The Team GardX Racing with Motorbase squad’s hopes of claiming its first podium of the season at Rockingham were cruelly dashed over the weekend, with contact on the opening lap of the first race ruling Sam Tordoff out of front-running contention during rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (August 11/12).
Having once again out-qualified the majority of the field during Saturday’s afternoon session, Tordoff consolidated his untouchable qualifying record with a front row start in the Team GardX Racing with Motorbase Ford Focus RS – claiming his P2 spot on the grid.
With minimal weight on-board the striking pink Focus, Tordoff got off to a flying start heading down into the first hairpin, keeping pace with race-leader Morgan as they charged down the banking. A reckless late lunge however from Cammish tipped the #600 Focus RS into a double spin as they raced into the turn, leaving him stranded in the middle of the circuit and facing the charging pack where he was hit by a number of unsighted drivers.
Remarkably, Tordoff escaped the incident uninjured, managing to get the stricken and heavily damaged Focus back to the pits for the Motorbase crew to commence repairs to get him back out on track for race 2.
Having been taken out of a strong podium challenge, the team’s strategy become one of damage limitation as the Yorkshireman tried to salvage points from his derailed opening race efforts. Running on the less favourable hard-compound option tyre for race 2, the GardX-backed racer made excellent headway from the back of the grid to take P18 at the flag.
Weight-free and back onto the prime tyre for race 3, Tordoff finally got the chance to show his true pace charging off the line and up into 7th by the first tour of the circuit, whilst avoiding a huge melee at the first hairpin which brought out the safety car. Setting his sights on the lead pack after the restart, the Motorbase man poured all over the back of Turkington’s BMW as he challenged for 4th place with the pair battling side by side for a number of laps.
With the duo closing down the gap to Simpson in third, a mistake on the final corner of the final lap allowed Turkington through. Surviving contact from a desperate Simpson as he battled to stay on track, Tordoff pulled out an incredible comeback to charge the Honda down for a three-way sprint across the line between with Simpson and Ingram – eventually crossing the line in 4th – just 0.031 seconds away from his first podium finish of the season.
“It’s a bittersweet end to the day to be honest;” commented Tordoff. “We consolidated our position as the best qualifiers on the grid, got onto the front row and we should have a great halt of points this weekend. Yet again though, factors outside our control have ruined it.
“Race 1 was gutting. To be taken out on the 2nd corner like that. From something that wasn’t even my accident – I was just collected – it just killed our weekend. Starting dead last on the hard tyre in race 2 was always going to be a nightmare but we still managed to make up 10 places.
“Race 3 was a great race. Back on the medium tyre again and we had the fortune of not being on the hard that most people chose to run on. We paid the price in race 2 but reaped the rewards in race 3 and got another 4th. We got a bit closer to third this time but that podium still eludes us – not through lack of trying!
“We’ve been robbed this weekend though. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. And yet again, we’re left licking our wounds thinking what might have been.”
Team Principal David Bartrum added; “Another tough weekend for the team. A fantastic effort again from Sam and the team to get onto the front row in qualifying. We genuinely thought we had pole, so to lose it just 4 minutes from the end of the session was difficult. Sam is the best qualifier on the grid this year, no questions.
“Cammish’s move on Sam in race 1 blew all of that hard work apart. It would have been easy to almost give up at that point, but we didn’t and Sam fought back in race 2. Sam drove an absolute stormer in race 3 from 18th to 4th. He just came up against Turkington at an unfortunate time but did an excellent job to pull it back from where we started.
“We keep talking about luck and it sounds like an excuse, but it’s not. We’re doing everything right, Sam’s doing everything right. Yet again, things out of our control mean we haven’t had the results we deserve. It’s very frustrating.”
Tordoff’s valiant efforts to rescue a result from a difficult start to the weekend were rewarded with a strong points finish in the final race of the day and the 29-year-old heads to Knockhill in two weeks’ time in 6thplace in the Independent Drivers’ Championship and 12th overall.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship roars back into action in Scotland, for rounds 22, 23 and 24 at Knockhill Racing circuit in Fife on August 25/26.