Power Maxed TAG Racing arrived at Brands Hatch for Rounds 28, 29 and 30 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship right in the mix for Championship honours, sitting in 2nd place overall in the Teams’ Championship.
Saturday’s Free Practice sessions set the trend for the day, with the Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra of Senna Proctor outpacing his Championship-contending teammate, Josh Cook, in both sessions. Josh’s struggles with balance, particularly around the Grand Prix loop, continued into Qualifying with a frustrated Cook languishing down in 21st place, although carrying success ballast was also a significant factor. On the other side of the Power Maxed TAG Racing garage, there were happier faces as the young Yorkshireman set a strong 6th-fastest lap to set him up nicely for Race 1 as the fastest non-Honda.
Qualifying was played out in warm balmy conditions, and although forecasts predicted colder temperatures for Race Day, the reality was another dose of late summer sun, which perhaps suited Senna in Race 1, starting as he was on the softer Option tyre. It certainly seemed so, as the #18 Astra made a great launch off the tricky, sloping grid and set off for Paddock Hill bend, holding onto P6, only to lose out to Tordoff’s pink Ford as they filed into Druids. Showing great speed on the softer Option tyre, Senna immediately fought back, passing decisively into Surtees as the multicoloured chain headed out onto the demanding Grand Prix loop before then making a great move on Lloyd’s Honda for P5.
Further back, and after an overnight engine change, Josh started to move forward, up to P19 and looking to progress further. However, the #66 Astra looked out of sorts and the Bath driver almost immediately dropped back again, losing 19th to the Mercedes of Championship points rival Morgan and then 20th to Simpson’s Honda.
By Lap 7, Senna was firmly on the back of the lead group, with a good gap to Lloyd in P6. By Lap 9, the Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra and the other Honda (there were many) of Goff were the fastest pair on the track, as they looked to get into the podium battle. Unfortunately, the order and gaps remained static as the race reached its 15-lap conclusion, leaving Senna in a very competitive 5th place, and the heavier Josh in a very frustrated 22nd place, having lost out to the BMW of Jelley on the final lap.
By Race 2, temperatures were starting to drop a little, although the tension on track was definitely starting to warm up. Senna, now on the softer Option Dunlop, but with 39kg on board, this time got too much wheelspin on launch and slipped back to 8th on the run to Druids and 9th as he got muscled out exiting Surtees. Not to be outdone, the #18 Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra immediately fought back, diving inside Chilton and closing back up to Lloyd, looking all sides for a way past.
The outgoing Jack Sears Trophy winner then got ambushed by the Toyota of Ingram, being pushed wide through Dingle Dell and dropping behind the psychedelic Fords of Chilton and Tordoff, only again to show his race-craft by dispatching Chilton again in short order and moving back into P9.
From grid 22, Josh again made early moves up to P17 before a mid-race safety car (surprisingly the first and only one of the day) on Lap 6 to recover the expired Honda of Goff bunched the field up. Despite losing a then P18 to Sutton’s Subaru, the #66 Astra continued to make useful progress, moving up to an eventual P11.
On the restart, Senna was repassed by his former teammate, Chilton, and came under intense pressure from Austin’s Alfa Romeo and Turkington’s BMW. It was tense and great racing with both Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra’s performing at the heart of the action. before expertly avoiding the clashing Lloyd and Turkington at Paddock bend, gratefully accepting a well-deserved P7 finish.
Race 3 provided a fitting end to the landmark 60th Anniversary year of this remarkable Championship and once again Power Maxed TAG Racing was a central player in the drama that unfolded.
With both Astra’s on the Prime tyre, hopes were high for Power Maxed TAG Racing to consolidate 2nd overall in the Teams Championship. From Pole, Josh got out-dragged to Paddock by Austin’s fast starting Alfa Romeo, slotting into 2nd as they swept down the hill. The Bath-based driver then applied intense pressure over the next two laps, eager to get past and pull away.
Senna, meanwhile once again struggled to get off the line and slipped from P4 to P8 by the end of the opening lap, once again fighting the pink Ford of Tordoff.
On lap 5 Josh pulled a great move to slide up the inside of the Alfa on the exit of Clearways to claim the inside line into Paddock, immediately lapping 6/10th quicker and pulling away. However, the Alfa found some speed and started to hold the gap, pushed along by the eager Subaru of Sutton. By Lap 7 Sutton had moved into 2nd and thereafter one of the great cat and mouse fights of recent memory ensued.
From Lap 10 to the finish, the two friends and former team-mates showed great race-craft and a healthy does of mutual respect as the cars ran side by side almost constantly. The outgoing Champion was probing left and right, not quick enough to pass but challenging every aspect of Josh’s extensive defensive armoury. It was captivating, edge of the seat stuff.
With Senna firmly slotted into P7 and Josh leading, Power Maxed TAG Racing was on course for a remarkable 2ndoverall in the Teams’ Championship, despite the double one – two of the factory Hondas in Races 1 and 2.
Moving into the final lap, it looked as though Sutton had run out of ideas, with Josh placing his #66 Astra expertly. Coming into Clearways all looked rosy, only for the Subaru to pull out to the left of the Vauxhall Astra on the run to the line, moving ahead to win by just 32/1000ths of a second. Gutting for Josh and Power Maxed Racing, but proud to have performed so well in a race neither driver deserved to lose.
Senna crossed the line in P7 and retained his 12th position overall in the Drivers Championship, whilst the width of a leaf denied Josh P5, dropping to P6 overall by just one point.
Similarly, Power Maxed TAG Racing finished 3rd in the Teams Championship, equal on points with Honda but defeated on count back. Nevertheless, a superb performance against the established giants of BTCC, and one that offers great hope for a Title challenge in 2019.
Vauxhall also finished 3rd in the Manufacturers Championship.
Josh Cook, Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra #66 said: “The weekend started off frustrating, with us just unable to find the pace we’ve proven repeatedly the car has in it. The team worked super hard Saturday night to change the engine and sort a few issues, which paid off come Race 2 and 3 on Sunday. Seeing out the season with Ash was something I’ll never forget; it was clean, respectful and proper racing! Disappointed we missed out on first, obviously, but he drove well and it was well deserved.”
Senna Proctor, Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra #18 “For me this weekend has been brilliant. Consistent Top-10s throughout have given us the points we needed to counteract Dynamics’ two 1 – 2s, and the car and the team have been spot on. I can’t thank my Engineer Rob, Number 1 Mechanic Paul and the rest of the tea, enough for putting together what has been a great car to see out the season in. I’m a little frustrated with a couple of my starts, but Brands is notoriously hard to launch at, and we made up more than enough ground to do the team and my sponsors proud.”
Martin Broadhurst, Technical Director, Power Maxed TAG Racing “It’s a weekend that’ll definitely stick in my memory. Senna was on the pace from the start, as his 3 Top-10 finishes show, and between him and his engineer, Rob Peacey, they put together a storming car this weekend. After an engine swap on Josh’s car last night, we were hoping for more pace in Race 1, but his performance in Race 2 and Race 3 was epic, though it was slightly disappointing to be pipped at the post. It’ll doubtless go down as one of the best races in BTCC history.”
Adam Weaver, Team Principal, Power Maxed TAG Racing “As always, the BTCC never fails to disappoint. We started the season with a ground-breaking race at Brands Hatch, with Senna making up 27 places to take his first win, and ended it with Josh fighting one of the greatest battles of the season with the outgoing champion. I couldn’t be prouder of both of them, along with the whole team.”