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Improved pace for our Infiniti Q50 at Thruxton

We achieved three more solid finishes at the second Thruxton meet of the BTCC calendar as our new Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 continues its development for the 2020 season.

I’ve never driven the car at the UK’s fastest circuit before, so we treated Saturday morning’s two free practice sessions as testing, as race engineer Federico Turrata and the team worked through a raft of changes and improvements on the car. Key was the new front end that allowed better cooling and an increase in horsepower.

Federico said: “When we tested the car initially, we were last in the times but now we regularly have a group of cars behind us and the number in that group is growing as we go faster so we are definitely going in the right direction.”

I qualified 25th fastest meaning that there was work to do in the opening race, but I managed to bring the car up to 18th place and finished second in Dunlop’s Forever Forward contest that rewards drivers for improving on their starting positions.

The car felt good in that race, but I’m still learning rear-wheel drive and we have no experience of it here. We had made big changes to the car over the weekend so far and it is taking us in the right direction.

However, in race two, the car struggled with its tyres: I couldn’t get the tyres to switch on which meant that I didn’t have the grip and the confidence to really push. They did start to work later in the race but, by that stage, I’d lost ground, so we need to work on getting the tyres to spring into life much earlier. We’ll go back and have a look at the data and see what we can do to work around that issue, but it’s all part of developing a new car. We believe rear-wheel drive is the way to go and lots of people are interested in the car and its progress.

Therefore I finished 24th in race two, partly a result of the tyre drama, but also a legacy of an incident with the Subaru of Senna Proctor.
Race three started on a dry road but with grey clouds looming; we looked to see if our efforts on the set-up had worked. The cooler temperatures threw us a curved ball as the Dunlop hard tyre would now work differently from how it had operated in race two when the air temperature was warmer. But I persevered and battled my way to the fringes of the points-scorers, only for the heavens to open five laps from home! With all the cars on slick tyres, designed for a dry track, it was a case of survival rather than any heroics. I brought the Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 home in 21st place, after its first ever wet running.

I was sideways everywhere for the last few laps, and that was really difficult because it was just a case of hanging on and being brave! However the car felt better and we’ll do a test before Knockhill which is where we race next. I really want to do well there as it is my home track, so we will work hard to get on top of the areas that need addressing. The main positive that we take is how much closer to the pack we are getting. This car has now done six races with us and one test, that’s all. When we first drove it, the Infiniti’s best lap was five seconds down on the fastest car. Now, in race three here at Thruxton before the rain, the Laser Tools Racing Infiniti was just over half a second off the fastest car so we have made amazing progress!
And we aren’t done yet, so we are all confident that we will be even more competitive at each round before the end of the season. Our main area is to work on the rear end to increase the grip and get the tyres working — that will make a massive difference. This is a very public programme ready for next season and we are making progress every time the car turns a wheel, so I am much more optimistic heading to Knockhill and to see how we go on a very different circuit with a short, sharp lap.
02 Sep 2019