BTC Norlin Racing leave Knockhill, the Scottish Round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on a high, having secured their first Independent win of the 2017 season.
As the brand-new team to the grid for 2017, the focus of the team has been on conquering top 15 running, but still with hopes of getting the team onto the podium as soon as possible. This was achieved this weekend, with Dave Newsham taking the Independents Trophy in Race 2 at Knockhill.
The action kicked off on Saturday, with Dave Newsham putting his BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet P8 on the grid in qualifying and Chris Smiley qualifying 24th in a fraught session that was complicated by changing track conditions following heavy rainfall and the track subsequently drying out.
Sunday’s first race of the day saw almost half of the grid selecting to run the soft tyre option, although neither of the BTC Norlin Racing Cars would be running them, having opted to run these later in the day.
Dave made a great start to the race, making up a position in the first lap to put him 7th. However, it became clear that the soft tyre option was working well for those around him, when he had to concede a place to Senna Proctor on lap 8.
Contact from Adam Morgan resulted in a further lost position and Matt Neal also managed to capitalise on this incident. An apology was forthcoming from Adam Morgan and he received an official warning. Dave finished the race in P10, a great result considering that he was not running the soft tyres unlike 8 of the top 10.
Chris Smiley’s first race was focused on making places up the grid, an objective he got straight onto in the first lap, gaining two places. The Carrickfergus driver set his sights on those ahead, Rob Austin, Mike Simpson and Stephen Jelley.
His patience and determination paid off, and he finished the race in P19. A great result considered that he too was not running the soft tyre, which had performed so well in the conditions on the track.
Race 2 started with Dave in P10 and Chris in P19, Dave was running the soft tyre option and was keen to optimise the opportunity that it presented. After a first lap incident causing a red flag, the cars took to the grid once again.
“I couldn’t avoid a spinning Andrew Jordan” said Newsham. “The collision sent us both off the track, then I got hit again in the rear by Josh Cook’s MG. I thought my race was over right there, however the race was stopped and I managed to get the car back onto the grid where my guys worked miracles repairing the car for the re-start. It wasn’t pretty, but it still drove ok!”
Following a 20 minute delay, the second race of the day got underway and Dave set about getting the most from his soft tyres.
Making a better start this time Dave completed the first lap in P9. “On lap three I pulled off one of my finest overtakes of my career, heading to the hairpin behind Matt Neal and Tom Ingram.
“I braked very late and passed them both down the outside, even getting alongside Gordon Shedden, this helped me fend off any challenge from Tom on the exit of the corner.
“The next 19 laps were the longest of my life, defending the whole way to finish P7 and first of the Independent Drivers, what a result!
“This has been our first trophy of the season and it was so nice to stand on the podium and see the look of delight on the faces of this great team… I’m sure I saw a tear roll down the face of Bert Taylor!”
Chris also made great progress in the race, getting his Chevy into 14th place at two points in the race before settling in 15th and getting another points finish under his belt.
The day concluded with Race 3, with Dave starting from P4 following the reverse grid draw, and Chris starting P14. Unfortunately, a puncture on the first lap, saw Chris pit for a replacement, which ultimately left him chasing down the pack for the remainder of the race.
Dave pushed hard and got himself into P2 by lap 2, but unfortunately he was not able to hold off the advancing rear wheel drives of the BMWs and Subarus. Dave held on hard, and crossed the line in 10th, completing the set of top 10 finishes in all three races of the day.
An upbeat Smiley said “This was another weekend where I’ve learnt more and we’ve now got a clearer direction on where we are going with the setup of the car. The next three races suit the Chevrolet a lot better than Snetterton and Knockhill so we are very optimistic about Rockingham.”
“We’ve have had the best weekend so far of the 2017 season” said Bert Taylor. “I am so proud of what the team have achieved. We set out on this journey less than a year ago, and to be where we are now is amazing.
“Dave drove an incredible set of races, getting three top 10 finishes and our first Independent win as well. A lot of credit must go to Chris, he is doing a great job in his first full season, he’s working very hard and is showing great pace each weekend.”
Next the team head to Rockingham on 26-27th August for the next rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, where you can be sure that they will be on the hunt for more points and silverware.
Photography: Jay Adair.