In the first of an exclusive new column, New Malden’s Tom Onslow-Cole reflects on an eventful first round of the British Touring Car Championship.
“There is always a lot of hype in the build-up to the first round of a new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season and last weekend’s opener at Brands Hatch certainly lived up to that hype. All in all, it was a pretty positive weekend for me personally. Considering my car was only started for the first time on Friday afternoon, qualifying fifth for Sunday’s first race was a good result.
I felt comfortable in the car and that feeling only continued to improve as the weekend progressed.
Being rear-wheel-drive, the BMW has always preserved its tyres better than its front-wheel-driven counterparts.
However, the addition of turbo engines built to the BTCC’s latest Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) specification for the 2012 season has negated this advantage, particularly against full NGTC-spec machines with their 18-inch Dunlop tyres and bigger brakes. My eBay Motors team is working hard to claw back some of that advantage by adjusting the BMW’s balance and set-up and I know there’s a lot more time to come from me as a driver, especially away from the start line – I didn’t realise how much I had forgotten about racing rear-wheel-drive. To share the winners’ rostrum with my team-mate Robert Collard in the first race was a dream scenario but I came perilously close to missing out on the podium.
I failed to make use of the BMW’s traction off the line by fluffing my start and an oversteering car left me vulnerable along the straights.
I had the pace to make it an eBay Motors one-two but yellow flags at the first two turns meant the best overtaking opportunities were lost.
This allowed Jason Plato to close on me and we were side-by-side as we exited the final turn. Thankfully, the BMW’s mega traction gave me a slight edge and I crossed the line to take a very satisfying third. While a drive-through penalty for jumping the start and damage sustained from a tap on lap two meant I could not challenge for another podium in race two, I was pleased to salvage points for 10th place. My third race lasted until lap four when Mat Jackson’s Ford Focus dumped a load of oil on the track causing a seven-car pile-up in the Druids hairpin gravel.
Unfortunately, it’s just one of those unavoidable things that happen in motorsport from time to time – you don’t get any warning and there’s not a lot you can do when the wheels lock and the engine stalls. I tried to keep the car out of the wall but I was a passenger.
Considering we hadn’t completed a race run with the turbocharged BMW, last weekend’s results are highly encouraging and are testament to the hard work put in by my team on the car’s chassis.
Next up are two of my most favourite circuits – Donington Park (April 14-15) followed by the ultra-high speed Thruxton circuit (April 28-29). I’m really excited about where the team’s taking the car and I’m confident it will suit Donington’s fast, flowing nature. I’ve achieved pole position there, I’ve won races and I’m well placed to achieve more big results this time.”