The second year has been declared a huge success following a great points haul at the final round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Starting the day with both cars in the top ten and that was how the final day of the Championship ended.
2018 was the year that the team and both drivers secured their maiden race wins in the hugely competitive BTCC. Widely considered as one of the most competitive grids in the world, the teams and drivers are challenged on every level.
Following Saturday’s fantastic qualifying by Dan Lloyd and Chris Smiley, the boys lined up 5th and 8th on the grid respectively. Dan struggled with his race start and by the end of lap one had conceded a position to Senna Procter, leaving him P6. He defended the position well, holding off the charging Aiden Moffat and Sam Tordoff, to take the chequered flag in P6. Dan added to his tally of points and ensured another great starting position for race two.
Despite a good start, Chris’ race essentially ended at the second corner on the first lap when contact from a car behind pushed him into Ashley Sutton causing them both to return to the pit lane for repairs. Chris crossed the line in 28th after the team had completed some repair work in the pit lane, ensuring that he would not start from the very back of the grid for race two.
Dan started race two in P6 and after a frantic first lap in which he battled with Andrew Jordan and Aiden Moffat, he completed the lap in P7. The safety car led the pack for two laps after an incident and the race got back underway on lap nine. He held P7 until Sam Tordoff managed to get through on the quicker soft tyre option. Lap 10 saw him lose a couple more places, until he found himself just ahead of Championship Challenger Colin Turkington. An optimistic lunge from Colin saw Dan turned sideways but he demonstrated excellent car control to keep him in the race. He recovered well to finish the race in P13, scoring more points and staying within the top 15 for race three.
Starting 28th meant that Chris had to get straight into action to recover from his earlier race result and by the end of lap one he crossed the line P22. With his heart set on the top ten, he got his head down and by the time the safety car came out he was in P19. Lap 12 saw him pass his teammate and together they cut through the pack with Chris taking the chequered flag in P12. A strong and busy race for Chris, which saw him progress 16 places during the 28 minutes of on track action.
The final race of the season followed the standard race three format with the reverse grid draw and lucky driver Josh Cook being pulled from the draw onto pole position. This meant that Chris and Dan would start the race in their race three finishing positions of P12 and P13. Both drivers had selected to run the softer, quicker tyre option in the final race, joining just four other drivers on the grid with the option tyres.
Both drivers got a great start and managed to escape turn two unscathed, as all 31 drivers looked to end their season on a high. By the end of lap one, Dan had moved ahead of Chris and was running P10, while Chris held his position in P12. Chris found himself behind the Team Dynamics driver Matt Neal and looking for a way around him. On lap five the opportunity presented itself and Chris moved into P11, with teammate Dan ahead. Lap nine saw him pass Dan and on lap 12 he managed to get around Andrew Jordan in the BMW, finishing the final race of the season in P8.
Dan’s race was equally busy and challenging, with concerns over whether his engine was overheating. After his cracking start to the race he held onto P10, taking the final chequered flag of the season in P10.
Whilst the team had hoped to get back on the podium at the final round, a solid performance that showed both drivers have consistent top ten pace and great race craft, ensured that the season ends on a high. Just 18 months since the team made their debut in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, they have solidified their position in the championship as one that will push hard to improve round after round.
It has been an emotional season for Team Boss Bert Taylor and he left Brands Hatch full of excitement for 2019.
“It has been a memorable year for many reasons. To win at both Croft and Rockingham with drivers that had not won in the BTCC before, was just fantastic. I was asked about my highlight of the year earlier and it is hard to pinpoint a specific moment. It could be the first podium of the year at Donington… both the race wins were special to me and we’ve also had some great qualifying results this season too. We achieved what we set out to achieve this year.
“We had limited testing, new cars to the team and still got great results. We have new targets for 2019 and are already busy working to ensure we have all the tools we need to tackle the 2019 season with the same level of determination and passion that we have this year.
“I would like to thank a few people, without whom none of this would have been possible. Team Owners Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington for sharing our passion and determination and getting us to where we are today. What they enabled us to create from scratch has been unbelievable and I am proud to be a part of it. We have an incredible range of sponsors and technical partners and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support. There is no question that without them, none of this would have been possible.
“Finally, the team members. What can I say? They have given everything they have and I am proud of each and every one of them. Motorsport is a tough environment for anyone to work in and the measure of a great team is how they behave when times are tough. As a result, I know I have the best people working with us.
“Watch out for our 2019 announcements that will be made sooner than you might expect, it is going to be a cracker!”
Photography: Phil Laughton