Less than a year before Brands Hatch GP, the team was only in the planning stage with regards to their entry into the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Since purchasing the cars in November so much has been achieved, both on and off the track. The team’s first top five finish at Donington Park in April, two Independent Driver wins, scored points at every round and the first podium at Silverstone last month.
Conditions at the Kent circuit on Sunday morning were very damp and the looming threat of more rain was on everyone’s mind up and down the paddock.
Lining up on the grid with Chris Smiley starting P19 and Dave Newsham starting P11, decisions regarding tyre selection continued until the last minute. Both drivers opting to run their slicks, and with Chris running the option soft tyre, it was going to be a tricky few laps while they sussed out the track and the conditions.
Dave was keen to moving forward, having had his first podium at the previous visit to Silverstone. “The track was damp, but drying. We had opted for slick tyres, which made the early laps tricky, but once we had heat in the tyres, I could start making up places. It ended up being a bit of a lonely race towards the end, but finishing P8 was a great result for the team and I.”
Also on slick, Chris was focused on adding to his collection of recent top ten finishes. “The day started well coming from P19 to P11 with some good passing manoeuvres. The conditions were tough as the track was half wet and half dry, and I was running the soft slick tyre option.”
P8 and P11 finishes in race one, put Dave and Chris in a great place to race towards the front during race two. Dave was running the option soft tyres, and hoped this would help him make great progress. In a cruel twist, which saw Dave abandon his race after losing drive in the BTC Norlin Racing Chevy in the seventh lap, forcing him to park the car out on the circuit. “I made a good start in race two, holding my starting position. However, I was struggling with traction, which got worse and had to pull over. My differential literally exploded!”
It was also a disappointing race for Chris, who was unable to capitalise on his P11 starting place and race into the top ten. “Unfortunately, I got a puncture on lap 11, and had to pit for a change and finished P28 leaving me with quite a challenge for the last race!”
After race two, the team set about getting both cars ready for the final race. It was ‘all hands to the pump’ to get the work completed, so that both cars could take their places in the 28th and 29th slots of the grid. Following an excellent display of team work by all at BTC Norlin Racing, which included changing Dave’s engine in 80 minutes, both cars joined the back of the grid, focused on getting into the points for the final race of the season.
With the Championship Titles still to be decided in the final race of the season, Chris and Dave lined up 28th and 29th on the grid respectively. The weather forecast promised more rain, and again the grid was split on which tyres would be ideal for the conditions.
Absolutely wanting to complete the season on the high, Chris was on great form cutting his way through the pack of cars. “Race three was one of my best drives of the season, coming from almost last on the grid (28th) to finish P11 on what was yet again another challenging race in difficult conditions for my wet tyres. It was just the finish that I needed to keep the team and I in high spirits for next year.
“Thanks to every one of you that has supported me this year, it has been overwhelming. I would like to make a special mention to Bert Taylor, Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington for giving me a chance to compete at this level. I cannot thank them enough, and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have achieved any of these results this year.”
Also determined to progress up the grid, Dave also got set into the race and by lap two was already in 22nd, up seven places from the start. “A wet track greeted us, and I was making up a lot of places. With five laps remaining I attempted to gain P10 on the outside of turn one, there was contact which sent me off the circuit and dropped me back down the field. I finished P17, but it didn’t reflect the pace that we had!”
“It has been a fabulous season, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The team have done a mega job. We are in great shape now and I am excited for what the future holds”
The chequered flag of race three, brought the 2017 season to a close, and opportunity to reflect on what BTC Norlin Racing have achieved this year. When Team Boss Bert Taylor started work putting the team together less than a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine a better first year for the new team.
“Ending the season as regular top ten finishers is a great achievement, as well as the two Independent wins and podium finish at Silverstone. It has been an amazing six months with the team, everything was put together from scratch and I am so proud of everything we have all achieved.
“Chris has also done himself proud this year, showing that he has what it takes to race with the best of BTCC drivers and it is clear he has a great future ahead of him. Dave joining us this year has worked perfectly, he brings so much to the team and to top it off, he is a great guy!
“I would like to thank all of our sponsors, without whom we would not have been able to mount such a successful first year in BTCC. We have also received amazing support from the fans, and as a new team this has meant so much. Our attention is now firmly focused on our 2018 campaign, so watch this space!”
Photography: Jay Adair