Following an edge-of-seat kind of weekend at Knockhill for the previous races, it was great to return to the Midlands this weekend for yet another adrenalin-filled race day.
With a NASCAR-like high-speed corner which raises the drivers’ heart rates higher than that of a caffeine addict, with perfect visibility from the stands all the way along, Rockingham makes for a very interesting circuit, famous for making tyre choices one of the most critical decisions of each race.
The Free Practice sessions on Saturday 26th August went relatively smoothly. Several changes were made to the fundamental setup of Chilton’s Astra throughout the two sessions in order to get the front-wheel-drive race vehicle to behave on the hair-raising track, followed by a few tweaks to Proctor’s Astra too. The race team were kept pretty busy.
The Qualifying went well on the dry track, with Chilton 5th and Proctor 11th at the 15 minute mark, finishing 9th and 22nd respectively.
With a cold but sunny start to the morning on Sunday, the team prepared for a hot day by starting Race 1 on hard tyres, with both Proctor and Chilton playing intelligently with their competition. Chilton prevented Morgan from overtaking throughout laps two and three until eventually, heading into Turn 1 neck and neck, Morgan pulled ahead, leaving Josh Price behind Chilton to battle for 9th place in lap 7. Chilton focussed on holding his position in order to finish the race the first of the hard tyres, ultimately finishing 11th.
Proctor dropped to 24th initially, having been nudged in the first few laps which had allowed 6 cars to overtake. Proctor climbed to 21st in lap 9 after fighting Jelley, who spun and promoted young Senna up a couple of places. Proctor moved up again to 20th when Shedden was put out of action thanks to a puncture.
“Front-end damage affected my straight-line speed throughout the race, but it’s onwards and upwards for the next round,” commented Senna. He finished the race 21st.
Chilton reports ”With Adam [Morgan] behind me, I imagined the gap would only increase, as the harder tyres would begin to pull. They warmed up throughout the race, but unfortunately didn’t reach their peak in terms of performance, and instead created a lot of understeer through the corners.”
The track much hotter and both Power Maxed Race vehicles running the standard tyre, Race Two kicked off at 2pm, the team having made another fundamental setup change on Chilton’s Astra further to the FP2 session the day prior. Unfortunately, involved in contact at turn 2, he dropped down to 30th having had to take evasive action across the grass to avoid race-ending damage. But by the time the safety car was out in lap 3 as a result of a puncture on Shedden’s Honda, Chilton had climbed to 26th. By lap 12, he was in 18th, the adjustments to the setup helping him recover from the unfortunate start. Tom finished the race in 16th. He reported that he enjoyed the race, “I was pushed to one side near the beginning, filling my radiator with dirt so I was running 10-12 degrees above my optimal temperature, which affected my straight line speed and general performance, but other than that, the car was awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed the race.” Ever the optimist.
For Proctor, Race Two was a series of successes, with his Astra pulling away easily into 16th place by lap two on the softer tyre, sitting behind Newsham and Smiley whilst the safety car was out. Newsham later dropped down the pack putting Proctor in 14th, which he worked his magic with to be in 12th place by lap 10. By lap 12, Ingram overtook Proctor putting him back to 13th. Jackson and Proctor battled throughout lap 13 for 12th place, and by lap 15 the number 18 Astra was in 11th place, constantly chasing Ingram for 10th but not quite making it in time for the end of the race. Senna Proctor was pleased with “strong results after a weak Race 1, and the softer tyres were definitely better for performance”.
After a very hot afternoon, the track even hotter than during Race Two, both PMR drivers set out onto the grid once again for the final race of the day at 4.40pm.
The flags went down, and by lap two Proctor had achieved 9th place and Chilton 15th, climbing another place by lap four. Proctor climbed to 8th place when Jackson’s Ford dropped back, and proceeded to push hard, though he fell back to 9th as the Subaru of Sutton appeared from the back during lap nine. By lap fourteen, Collard’s BMW (which had been nicely in the lead) made contact with Goff after a tap from Plato, resulting in a safety car and 8th place for Proctor. The penultimate lap was an intense one as Proctor made a bold move on Ingram round the outside for 7th place, where he crossed the line and increased his lead in the Jack Sears trophy, being 109 points ahead of his nearest rival. Senna gives us an insight into how he did it: “It was a matter of climbing places and then conserving my tyres.” Very sensible, Proctor.
Things weren’t so good in the final race for Chilton. The race started well with his Vauxhall Astra comfortably climbing from 16th to 14th, until in lap seven debris on the track caused a slow puncture which was then accentuated under hard braking for the Deene hairpin, causing a flat tyre which was changed by the team in seconds, ready for Chilton to rejoin and enjoy the race from the rear. “It’s a little annoying but there’s nothing anyone could have done differently; there was debris on the track which caused the initial problem, and was not a tyre or driver fault. I was just pleased the team had me back out there so I could continue to enjoy the race,” states the ever-optimistic Tom.
Adam Weaver shared his thoughts on the weekend: “The loss of places and the ease with which they have been regained just goes to show the alignment between our drivers and their cars. It’s also worth noting that Senna is the only driver who has been on that podium at every single race weekend. Well done to them both.”
The BTCC will return in three weeks’ time as Power Maxed Racing stay local, heading to Silverstone on the 16th and 17th September for the penultimate BTCC race weekend of 2017.
Photo © Jakob Ebrey
For press enquiries, please contact:
Plan B Racing
Tel - 0788 980 4226