BTC Norlin Racing have now returned from Rockingham which has been their most successful weekend to date of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Qualifying in 17th and 25th, Dave Newsham and Chris Smiley were prepared for a busy race day at Rockingham.
Dave Newsham led the BTC Norlin Chevrolets in a super competitive qualifying session, in which one second covered the first 27 cars.
“Qualifying was so close” said Newsham.”P17 was as good as we could manage, however we were just half a second off pole position, which shows how close it was.”
It was decided that the team would run both cars on the Option ‘hard’ tyre in race one. Generally regarded as the slowest tyre, it was felt this was a good plan to get this out of the way early. Starting P17, Dave Newsham had his sights set on progressing up the grid as quickly as possible, gaining five places on the first lap.
“It was a great race, we made several places up and finished P13, which was P3 on the Option tyre, and on the rear bumper of Tom Chilton and Andrew Jordan, who were also on the Option tyre. This was a great result and put us in a great position for the rest of the day.”
Starting P25 for Race One, Chris Smiley had a lot of work to do, also whilst running the Option tyre.
“Race one saw me starting from P25 on the hard tyre. Progress was always going to be hard but I made the most of the race and battled cleanly up to 20th. The car felt great and I knew that race two would be better with the preferred medium compound tyre.”
In race two Dave was focused on getting himself into the top ten to ensure he had a shot at the reverse grid pole position. “It was pretty frustrating” said Newsham. “I got caught up in some bumping and barging on lap one, which damaged my suspension.
As a result, the car didn’t feel good, however we were still running strong, until my engine cut out on lap 9 and after around 10 seconds it restarted. We still had cars behind us and managed to salvage a P23 finish.”
Chris started race two in P20, and was eager to get the car into the points as soon as possible, which he managed to do in the first lap.
“Starting P20 I passed five cars on the opening lap finding myself in a points position with only one lap completed. The race turned out to be one of the most thrilling of the year, battling myself up to 8th position and at one point I passed the BMW of Rob Collard, and had a very clean dice with Tom Ingram until the final laps which saw me cross the line with my best BTCC finish in P10.”
Concerned with the issues that Dave had encountered with his engine in race two, the team at Swindon were on hand to ensure that this was resolved for race three. Starting P23, Dave was on a mission.
“…Making a decent start I soon realised I had a great car underneath me, as we were picking cars off at will. By lap 13 I was in P10 and was chasing down the leading group and lapping considerably quicker.
“After an incident, the safety car was deployed bunching us all up. I found myself right behind my teammate Chris, who was having another great drive. With two laps to go, rather than have a go at passing Chris, I decided both of us inside the top ten was a great result for the team, so unless Chris made a mistake, I held station to finish off a great weekend for the team.
“Once again, the Chevy was flying, the team is in great shape right now and we can only get better. The final two rounds of the BTCC calendar are two of my favourites, so Silverstone in a fortnight can’t come soon enough.”
Still buzzing from his first top ten finish, Chris was focused on remaining within the top ten whilst also carrying 9kg of success ballast from race two.
“After getting a good start, I maintained 10th position for the majority of the race running with the lead group throughout. After an incident in front of me between Jack Goff and Rob Collard that removed Rob from the race, I was promoted to P9.
I crossed the line to my new best finishing position of 9th and my team mate Dave Newsham finishing behind me was the result of a fantastic team effort from all the guys and girls at BTC Norlin Racing!”
Team Boss, Bert Taylor was delighted with the results, even though our qualifying performance meant that we had more progress to make on the Sunday. “The Saturday started off how we were hoping on the #22 car. We were right up there again and Dave was also looking quick, which put both cars in the top 15.
“We were disappointed with qualifying, as so much promise had been shown in the morning, but we hadn’t managed to translate this to qualifying. However, our disappointment was short-lived, as Sunday saw our hard work pay off, and the team was rewarded with more great results.
“Chris achieved his first top ten finish in BTCC in the second race, and the third race of the day, saw both cars finish within the top ten, with Dave having a great drive from 23rd to 10th.”
Next the team heads to Silverstone, the home of British Motor Racing, on 16th and 17th September for the penultimate round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Photography: Jay Adair