When I first sat down and looked at all the courses in the 2015 CFM…
Coming into our first support race for the BTCC, there was no doubt that this weekend would be a big one – for one it would be broadcast LIVE on ITV4. With huge crowds, TV crews all over the paddock and the sun out in full force, the scene was set and we were pretty much guaranteed an action packed few days.
True to form, Thruxton delivered on all fronts, drama, excitement, highs & lows… it was a big one.
Thruxton is unusual in that we have no Friday test, the last time I drove here was about 5 weeks ago, meaning that we go straight into qualifying on Friday morning. When you consider that it’s a very fast track (you only brake twice on a lap…), that can be a little daunting. Luckily Schroth Racing had kindly offered to fit me out with one of their Indi Seat kits, I’d been moving around in the seat and it wasn’t helping me feel what the car was doing, further compounding the sensation that I was hanging on for dear life at times!
It instantly made a big difference, both in terms of lateral movement in the seat and also with my lower back which didn’t have enough lumbar support. Sadly qualifying didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, after running wide at Church and onto the grass I realised pretty quickly that something was up with the brakes. After a couple of tentative laps I came in and the guys confirmed that I’d torn a brake line loose on the underside and was loosing fluid (and pressure). So that was the session over early, I’d not had time to build up to the pace I’d set in testing.
The result? I would start on the back row of the grid.
As my driver coach Abbie Eaton rightly pointed out, there was a positive way to look at it – no one could overtake me and I could only improve my position from here. We went over some data before the race start just before 5pm, this being a BTCC round we would only have the two 25 minute races as opposed to three at 15 minutes. Admittedly I was annoyed about my performance in qualifying, but now I just had to focus on the job ahead of me, and sure enough I got away to a good start early on. The first lap saw a few big crashes and debris being scattered all over the track, which resulted in a safety car and a restart. Once again I managed to launch the GT5 pretty well and was climbing the pack pretty well, within a few laps I was running P3 in class and going strong – I’d also taken 2 secs off my pace in testing to run in the 1:27’s. Coming into Church (renamed nemesis corner) I saw a big dust cloud up ahead and noticed it was Richard Evans #68 running over the grass and recovering from a quite a big moment.
I realised I was now up to P2 in Am, not bad from last on the grid!
Another safety car bunched up the pack, and on the restart I had Gus Bowers #10 looming in my rear view with a few laps to go. With race 1 from Rockingham still at the forefront of my mind, I just got on with driving and coming into the chicane for the final run onto the back straight I just managed to block him out wide to take second place over the finish line. I was absolutely stocked, P2 is my best finish so far this year and in total I’d climbed 13 places to finish 18th overall! My team mate Alex Toth-Jones finished 3rd overall too, so it was a great result for the team to both be on the podium :D
P2 at Thruxton, best result so far & podium hat trick!! :DEPIC P2 IN RACE 1 FROM BACK ROW OF THE GRID!!! ????????♀️???????????????????? #NGK
Huge thanks to Schroth Racing for making a seat insert this morning, no more moving around in high speed corners !! ???????????????????????????????? #schrothracing #indiseat
Posted by Charlie Martin on Saturday, May 19, 2018
Coming into race 2 on the Sunday I was fired up and everything was looking so promising (spoiler alert), now on row 9 of the grid I knew where I could find a couple of seconds without too much drama which would put me right up at the sharp end. Abbie & I were working well together too and my head was in a great place, so I had time to do a quick interview with ITV Sport’s Paul O’Neill.
— ITV Motorsport (@itvmotorsport) 20 May 2018
Moments later I was in the car, the red lights went out and I was charging up the field again, Sami Saarelainen #21 drove into me on the left but I held my position into turn 1 just as I saw contact up ahead… I could see a car spinning and realised I’d have to make a split second call which way to turn.
With cars jammed in on either side I had no room to manoeuvre, and hitting the brakes did little to reduce the impact.
I t-boned Morgan Quinn #12 pretty hard (click for onboard), I was well into 4th gear and there was just nothing I could do about it. I climbed out once the car was on the edge of the track and got out to assess the damage, I was absolutely gutted. With the bonnet nowhere to be seen, it looked like the left hand side had escaped, the right hand corner had taken most of the impact and the wheel was folded in. I was ok, I guess adrenalin takes care of you in these situations, I just felt so sad that my race had ended this way.
Back at the truck the guys started stripping the car back and discovered that a major chassis rail had been bent, meaning the it was likely the whole chassis would need replacing (it does).I went over the onboard with Abbie & Edu which confirmed there was nothing I could have done differently, it was purely a case of wrong time/wrong place.
Right now the mechanics at Richardson Racing are doing a great job, the car is stripped and being rebuilt as speak and all I want is to get back out for Silverstone. We’ll have 2 x 25min races again as the GP circuit is long at well over 2 minutes a lap. I felt good there in testing, and crucially we’ll have the Friday test to build into it. Off the back of race 1 my hopes are high, crash aside (that’s racing) I’m getting quicker at ever race and learning every time – from a psychological point of view I also felt much stronger at Thruxton. There are so many positives to take from the weekend, sure I was frustrated as hell with Sunday’s result so I went for a long run that evening, but everything else felt right & worked well, so it’s onwards & upwards!
Photos: Marc Waller & Jakob Ebrey