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Aiden Moffat reflects on an eventful Croft

What a weekend that was! But at least we managed to score valuable championship points across three tricky races at Croft, North Yorkshire, on Sunday June 16.

Our Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class began the weekend with a good set-up, and I was feeling that it was handling better than ever at the former aerodrome. I was confident and went into qualifying in optimistic mood, but the 30-minute session wasn’t an easy one for any driver as five red flags caused constant stoppages.
Basically, whenever I went for a time, someone caused a red flag. The first was because of debris on the road, then there was  a crash, the third was for a barrier that had been bounced onto the track, then another crash and then the last one was for a car stuck on the grass with a puncture. Oh, and it was raining by then….

That meant that qualifying was a lottery and anyone who got a banker lap time in early was well placed. I only managed one lap amidst the stoppages but managed to line up 17th on the grid for the opening race.

After a rain shower before the opening race, I was treating the track surface with respect but still made swift progress from our starting position to battle into the top 15 and the points-scorers. However I soon came under pressure from the BMW 1-Series of Stephen Jelley. The rear-wheel drive BMW, always well suited to Croft, crawled all over my Merc, until contact came at the Hairpin. I was hit by Jelley and that bent a rear wishbone so that made the car difficult to drive. It wanted to turn left all the time and there are plenty of right-handers here…

Race officials handed Jelley a time penalty to drop him behind me and I managed a creditable 13th despite the damage.
Lining up 13th on the grid for race two, I was on my toes as soon as the lights went out and bolted up to 10th place. Then, under pressure from a train of cars, I had to work hard to keep the place as one tiny error would have let the pack wriggle by. By defending, the leaders got away from me, but I managed to hang on to the 10th place much to the delight of the team.

As my race engineer Federico Turata put it, “We won the class for the older cars. All the cars ahead of Aiden were the newer cars, so I am really pleased to see how well he went. I don’t think we could have asked for more against that opposition.”

I was very happy with the top-ten result. It may not sound it, but against this level of competition, it’s a really good finish. More importantly, the car feels better than it has for a while so we are working hard and making progress all the time.

On a wet road for race three, I lined up ninth on the reverse grid and opted to run wet tyres like most of the field. On a slippery track, I normally revel in such conditions, and made a good start to latch on to the tail of the leading pack. However, word soon came through to me on the team radio that I had been hit with a drive-through penalty for being slightly in advance of the grid markers at the start of the race. A double-whammy came as before I could serve the penalty, a safety car period closed the pit lane and meant that when I was eventually able to serve the penalty, I fell to the rear of the field and had to fight hard to battle back up to 18th place, just missing out on points.

It was frustrating because the pace was there but the penalty ruined it for me. Wet tyres was our choice and it was the right one because the road only dried out two laps from the end and the car had good pace so I am sure that we could have had a good result. But it wasn’t to be. If the officials decide that you are out of position, you can’t argue it so we have to accept it and move forward to Oulton Park.

The Laser Tools Racing Mercedes is going better than ever even though it is a relatively old car. Running it ourselves this year is reaping rewards and we have had good pace and good races, but the aim now is to string together one consistent, top-dollar weekend and bring back three good results. We know that the potential is there and we are all working hard to achieve it.

The next races in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship are at Oulton Park, Cheshire, on June 29/30 with qualifying live on itv.com on the Saturday and all Sunday’s race action live on ITV4.
19 Jun 2019