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Proud and very satisfied to take third touring car career win

Sunday at Silverstone. Well, what a day! Scoring a win with the Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the day’s final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at the Northamptonshire circuit has been a major boost after a difficult season. But it was definitely my most satisfying race win, the third of my BTCC career.

The weekend started well with achieving the eighth fastest time in qualifying around the 1.6-mile Silverstone National circuit, my time just 0.177s away from the fastest time in what was an ultra-competitive session. That was really important as we have struggled of late in qualifying. Me, Alain Menu (my driver coach), and my engineers Federico Turata and Chaz Cleland, have all being working hard and going through everything to try to find that extra something! I have worked on my mental approach, on my driving and tried things that we have never tried before. I always race well, so to qualify well was crucial as this sets us up for the weekend.

The regulations in the BTCC stipulate that a driver must use the “option” tyre in one of the three races and for Silverstone it was the harder compound Dunlop, which was slower than the prime tyre. We elected to use it in the opening race (you have to choose before qualifying!) and get the pain out of the way, but the tyre did its job of shuffling the order as I had to settle for 14th place, however still the best of those drivers running the hard-compound option rubber. The hard-compound tyre doesn’t go off, it just never switches on in the same way that the prime tyre does. But we got it out of the way in Race 1 and that let me go into Race 2 intending to make progress.

I started the second race from 13th on the grid and soon carved my way into contention, getting past the drivers who were now on the less-effective option tyre and moving into seventh place by the end of the race. The car felt really good. We made some minor adjustments and it worked well, so that was a really positive race. No damage, good pace — excellent!

Reverse-grid draw: we were all watching intently as Le Mans winner David Brabham pulled the number seven out of the hat for the reverse grid draw for pole position for Race 3. That meant that we would start the last race from pole with just 27 kilos of success ballast on board.

Race 3: I got a really good start from the grid to lead the pack into the first corner, the Laser Tools Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class building a small lead early in the race. However, as Tom Ingram’s Toyota Avensis carved through the pack, it reached second place and started to chase the Mercedes, the gap between the two cars coming down. We struggle at Silverstone for pace because of the shape of our car — it’s like a brick in a straight line and the Toyota is more slippery so he was closing. And then the safety car came out, just what you don’t want when you’re in the lead.

This interruption to the race bunched up the field and left me in full-on defensive mode right up to the chequered flag. Behind were were Ingram and his title rival Colin Turkington, with a further three cars glued to their tails. I stayed focused, never putting a wheel wrong as I fended off the pack behind. What a relief to get past that chequered flag! It was my third career win in the BTCC and the sweetest yet.

I knew that I had a good chance in that race but it is never easy defending and having Ingram and Turkington behind made it worse! They are two of the drivers that you definitely don’t want behind you, as they are so good! I told myself I could win and I just had to make sure that I didn’t make a mistake, and with those two fighting for the championship and needing points I knew that they weren’t going t do anything silly. That was the hardest race of my life and the most special win, more than my first one because it was so tough.

The next rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be at Brands Hatch, Kent on September 29/30 and all the raceday action will be shown live on ITV4.
18 Sep 2018