Power Maxed Racing were back in action this weekend at Snetterton after the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship summer break.
In a weekend of mixed fortunes, the good - Hunter Abbott grabbing his best qualifying position in the BTCC and fastest lap in Race one, the bad - both cars were involved in incidents in all three races, and the ugly, Hunter Abbott was involved in one of the worst accidents in BTCC history.
The Warwickshire based team were last out at Snetterton for the Dunlop Tyre test and made solid progress which carried forward to this weekend. The team took a gradual approach to both free practice sessions shaving seconds off the lap times of both Chevrolet Cruze’s.
Qualifying got underway with both drivers pushing to improve their earlier times and place well for race one. Abbott quickly placed his Chevy in the mid pack with Fletcher also showing real improvement in his pace during his rookie season. With little over a minute left to run, Abbott who was sat in 11th place put in a flyer to push the PMR Chevrolet into 6th place, the teams highest qualifying position this season and a personal best for Hunter. As the checkered flag was raised Fletcher came across in 26th, another solid performance with strong pace on his closing laps.
Abbott lined up in 6th place to start race one on the soft tyre. Unfortunately, he bogged down a little at the start losing a couple of places but with his head down; he kept in contention with the pack. He was battling hard for position heading into Agostini when he received a hefty shunt from the BMW behind forcing him to spin and rejoin at the back. Even more determined Hunter set his sights on a comeback and achieved just that recovering to a staggering 15th place and setting the fastest lap of the race by three-tenths of a second and taking a championship point. Fletcher didn't have the best of starts either however, the car felt good and he was able to push up to 20th and put in some great overtakes and battling for position. Two laps from the end Fletcher experienced what felt like a slow puncture and came in to pit to find a larger mechanical issue with the front left wheel, the result was a DNF.
Abbott started from 15th on the grid with Fletcher in 27th for the second race of the day. As the track, temperates rose both PMR drivers made good starts. The race hadn't even completed one lap before a major incident caused a red flag. Kelvin Fletcher fell victim to a merciless punt from behind from Martin Depper that sent him cascading into the grass. Hunter Abbott found himself behind the Proton of Dan Welch when Welch and the Audi of Ollie Jackson collided in a major accident, taking out Abbott and the MG of Sutton in the process. With debris littering the track and drivers taken to the medical centre, the race was halted.
With all drivers confirmed as injury free, the race restarted without either Power Maxed Racing Cruze as even though Fletcher made it back to the pits; the team could not repair the damage in such a short window of time.
The third and final race of the day will go down in the BTCC history book for all the wrong reasons. Both Power Maxed Racing Chevrolets started from the back of the grid; the cars hadn't even crossed the line before there was an accident. Alex Martin and Mark Howard tangled during the start and as they bounced off the pit wall and back across the track, then collided with Abbott, launching him into the air and sending him rolling multiple times down the track, into the Armco barrier and toppling a manned TV tower. The car came to rest on the barrier; the TV tower fell backwards and fortunately the quick reactions of the camera man saved him from serious injury. Abbott and the cameraman Phil White were both taken to the medical centre and released without major injuries.
The race restarted after extensive cleanup and track repairs completed. Fletcher started in 22nd on the soft tyre and got off the line well. The car felt strong, and he was battling for position. He had made up two places on the first two laps and continued his charge to 17th on the 7th lap but with a slow puncture he couldn't hold off the pressure from Depper and crossed the line in 18th.
Hunter Abbott commented,
"It has been a tough weekend for me, Phil White [cameraman] and the team. The positives are that the team are unreal; they pulled a minor miracle to get the car ready for race three and their support and concern after the accident was fantastic. I am also pleased with my pace, and it's a great feeling to see your name next to the fastest lap of the race! But this leads me to the negatives, namely driving standards. I have been on the sharp end of an accident in every race this weekend, from a minor tap which span me off in lap one of race 1, increasing in severity and ending up rolling down the straight in race 3. When I was rolling, I thought I had gone over the barriers, and I was heading toward the spectators. I was so relieved to see I was still on the barrier when the car stopped, but I was unaware that I'd hit the TV Tower until after I'd been released from the medical centre. My first thought was for the cameraman, I'm so happy he miraculously avoided injury. I hope to speak to him in the next few days. I can't imagine what his family must have gone through seeing it on TV."
Kelvin Fletcher commented,
"This weekend has been a bruiser for sure, having a bad qualifying session has caused me to play catch up all weekend, and when you are in the melee of cars, incidents are inevitable. Taking the positives from this weekend, I have increased my lap time here at Snetterton by several seconds this weekend and made some good overtakes, yet more evidence that I am developing as a driver. All my life I have worked hard to perfect what I do and racing is no different. I am determined to succeed, but I want a good clean reputation rather than being known as heavy handed so I will continue to keep it clean and learn my craft."
Adam Weaver Power Maxed Racing Team Principal commented,
"First and foremost, I'm relieved that nobody has been seriously hurt. All of us who work in motorsport understand that there are risks. However, this doesn't make it easier when a member of the BTCC family is injured. Having said that, it was only luck that prevented a death this weekend. I firmly believe that drivers with consistent infractions and penalty points should be dealt with much more severely, and we should consider bans for drivers who show poor driving standards."
"I consider myself very lucky to have such a strong team that keep sticking the cars back together; they have a tough job to get Hunter's car ready for Knockhill, but they're some of the best in the business, so if it can be done, it will be done."
Power Maxed Racing will return as the championship moves to Scotland in 2 weeks time at Knockhill. Full coverage will be available on ITV4