Power Maxed TAG Racing headed north of the border to the delightful setting of Knockhill for Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. BTCC delivers Scotland’s biggest motorsport event of the year, and the organisers’ hopes of a sunny day for Race fans were tempered by a gloomy weather forecast.
The free practice sessions understandably focused on perfecting Qualifying setup, although the perils of not getting a clean run in Qualifying were exposed around the short circuit, where times are traditionally so close. Josh put his Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra in P10, albeit just 4/10ths off pole after having one Lap disallowed for exceeding track limits, whilst Senna had his two best Laps struck off for treading over that fine line to qualify P24, just 3/10ths further back.
Unfortunately, for the organisers and Race fans, the forecasts proved accurate, with the dry conditions of Saturday being replaced with rain, heavy rain and less heavy rain respectively for Sunday’s three Races.
The weather brought another variable into the mix, with the newly resurfaced Race track holding water at various points, most notably at the tight hairpin, where a river formed just as the cars were turning into the apex. This also favoured the rear-wheel-drive cars, and was to play a significant role in Races 1 and 2.
At the start of Race 1, both Power Maxed Racing Astras made the best of the slightly uphill start and headed into turn 1 completely blind in the wall of spray, as they jostled for position.
Josh tried an audacious move around the outside of Collard’s fast-starting BMW as they exited turn 3, and then held on he brought the wet Dunlops in. By Lap 6 he was on the move, passing Morgan’s Mercedes before stretching away to catch the other Merc of Oliphant, passing in quick time to move into P7. By Lap 14 and with slightly better visibility, the Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra #66 was the fastest car on track and catching Championship rival Ingram in his Toyota, the 6th and 7th placed pair joining the lead train by Lap 18.
Just ahead, Turkington then pushed the fellow BMW of Jelley out of 2nd place, the ensuing Safety Car bunching the field up again and giving Josh a chance that he seized superbly with a finely judged move down the inside of the Toyota at the hairpin, to move into P5. Running out of laps, Cook made a last corner pitch for Jordan’s 4th place, running just short as they crossed the finish line.
Sadly, for our other wet-weather ace, a repeat of Senna’s normal wet-weather heroics were on hold as the Lancastrian struggled to make his typical progress, mired in the spray and antics of those around him. Even so, Senna battled his way up to P19 from P24 and survived for Race 2.
Now carrying 39kg success ballast, Josh was again struggling for pace in the early Laps and expertly resisted the determined attentions of Ingram around the first Lap.
Running totally blind, Senna also deftly found his way through turns 1, 2 and 3 before Jackson speared across the track on the approach to the chicane, forcing the #18 Power Maxed TAG Racing Astra across the sodden grass and through the gravel trap before re-joining, amazingly only losing 4 places. The Audi was in the wall and the Safety Car was summoned.
On the Lap 6 restart, the #66 Vauxhall got nudged by the Toyota into the hairpin, losing out on the drag up and over the start / finish straight into turn 1. For the next few Laps Josh hung on, and by Lap 11 was in a position to capitalise as the Honda of erstwhile leader Cammish went sailing down the river at the hairpin.
Senna, meanwhile, was also pushing forward, moving back up to P19 in the soaking conditions.
When Oliphant’s Mercedes beached in the gravel after another river cruise, the ensuing Safety Car period featured the Clerk of the Course canvassing opinion up and down the pit lane before deciding to go ahead with a Lap 18 restart. Of particular concern was the aforementioned river at the hairpin.
This didn’t matter to the two Power Maxed TAG Racing stars as both Josh and Senna went on the attack, Josh in particular catching the attention of the TV cameras with an audacious move on the edge of the grass down the inside of Turkington at the hairpin. To cheers from the massed ranks of umbrellas, the Astra made sure of a good exit to make the move into P4 stick. Just a Lap later, the other Audi of Smelt went straight on at turn 1.
This was too much and the Race was immediately red-flagged and a result called. The 77% Race distance reached ensured full points were awarded and the subsequent disqualifications of first and second place finishers for ride height infringements gave Josh a P2 finish and Senna a P16 finish – both well-deserved in very challenging conditions.
Although still wet, the conditions in Race 3 were much improved, with Josh starting P5 and Senna P16, looking to get into the top 10 and salvage a frustrating weekend.
Both Power Maxed TAG Racing drivers survived the opening Laps, Josh defending robustly from the VW of local driver, Butcher, and Senna resisting a heavy hit from the Honda of Simpson. Both were okay in P6 and P17 respectively only for the Safety Car to make another appearance as Simpson was turned around by the fellow Honda of Smith. After all it was Race 3, it was Knockhill and it was wet!
On the Lap 7 restart Josh, challenging Jordan’s BMW, slid wide exiting the chicane losing a place to Butcher, only to regain it at his favourite overtaking spot, the hairpin.
By mid-Race Senna was now battling hard with Neal’s works Honda and Josh was similarly engaged with the sister car of Cammish, sliding past at the, yes you’ve guessed it, hairpin into P5.
Unfortunately, Butcher tried an overly ambitious move inside turn 3, ramming the side of Josh’s Astra and pushing him into the gravel. The Bath ace kept the car going and managed to re-join, behind Tordoff’s pink Ford, and losing all hope of a late podium challenge.
Sadly, by Lap 20, Senna’s Race had run its course, only for insult to be added to injury when he was punted into the barriers by Smith’s Honda as he came into the pit lane.
As the Race entered its last Lap a small sense of justice prevailed, as a mistake by Butcher allowed Josh into a final P6 and back into 5th in the Championship.
Despite a poor weekend, Senna slips just one place to 13th whilst Power Maxed TAG Racing are 3rd in the Teams’ Championship (tied on points with P2). Vauxhall remain 3rd in the Manufacturers’.
Next stop is Silverstone and the start of the Championship run-in for Power Maxed TAG Racing.
Josh Cook, Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra #66 said: “Ultimately a good weekend I think. Race 1 I think we had the pace to go further, but it’s a tricky circuit to pass on when people are defending. Same for Race 2, though I think the decision to end it early was the correct one, but had we had more time I’m confident I would’ve been further up the board. Race 3 was frustrating after the incident with Butcher, but I took the place back a few laps after anyway. It’s been a good weekend for the team with the points brought in, and sets us up well for Silverstone. It was nice to see so many fans donning the bright orange Euro Repar Car Service ponchos in an effort to stay dry!”
Senna Proctor, Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra #18 said: “My weekend in one word? Frustrating. The car was right on the pace Saturday during Qualifying, but I just couldn’t get a clear run in, helped in no small part by the session being red flagged. I fought hard and made up places throughout Sunday, but ultimately when you’re in traffic on a circuit like Knockhill, the opportunities to get through are few and far between. It’s a shame the day ended on a low note, but I’m looking forward to getting back in the points at Silverstone. We’ll come back stronger than ever!”
Martin Broadhurst, Technical Director, Power Maxed TAG Racing “Unless you’re winning all 3 races and coming away with the fastest laps in every session, you can always do better, but I’m ultimately happy with the results this weekend. It’s unfortunate that Senna couldn’t have had a clear run during Qualifying, which I think would’ve yielded higher places today, keeping him in the points, but he was on the pace and drove well. If the incident in Race 3 hadn’t cost Josh places, I’m confident he would’ve been on the podium again.”
Adam Weaver, Team Principal, Power Maxed TAG Racing “Definitely a positive weekend. Josh has come away with a decent haul of points, and at the end of the day that’s what we’re here for. It’s unfortunate that Senna just couldn’t quite get the clear run he needed, but overall it was a good weekend for the team. The fact that we haven’t dropped out of the Top 3 this year, and are now joint second with a team that has been in the championship much longer than us is a real boost for all of us.”