Saturday morning saw the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship get underway at Rockingham, perhaps for the last weekend.
FP1 kicked off at 9:25am at the bright and breezy circuit, at 1.94 miles and with banking of 7 degrees at turn 1, the circuit has always provided great racing in the BTCC.
With the usual “race admin” to be completed, the team set about working through the run plans for both cars.
Last year saw Chris Smiley achieve his first top ten in BTCC at Rockingham, so has good history with the venue and is determined to build on this over the weekend. He completed the session in P12 with a lap time of 1:23.757, just 5 tenths off Championship Leader Tom Ingram.
The team also worked on a list of changes for Dan Lloyd, who showed great pace at the Northamptonshire circuit, the venue of his first BTCC test in 2010 in the 888 Vauxhall Vectra. He finished the session in P10 with a fastest lap of 1:23.588.
FP1 was a super close session, with just one second covering the fastest 27 cars on the circuit.
FP2 got underway at noon and Dan got straight out to continue working on the setup of the car. He completed 18 laps, improving steadily and on his final lap put in a 1:23.512 putting him 11th fastest of the session.
The other side of the garage had a more disappointing session with Chris suffering from a gear selection issue, which the team spent much of the session troubleshooting to identify the cause. He finished 26th fastest but didn’t really get the time to push the car. Despite the issues, Chris reported that the car felt great and he was really pleased with the balance.
Qualifying provided the usual tense 30 minutes of BTCC action with Chris and Dan getting into their grooves quickly. Dan achieved his best qualifying so far this season with BTC Norlin Racing and starts race one tomorrow from 5th. His fastest lap of 1:23.215 was just three tenths off pole position on a grid in which the first 29 cars were covered by one second.
Chris also had a great session with his fastest lap just 0.006 off Dan’s lap, so joins him on the grid on the third row for the first race. Both happy with the balance of their Honda Civic Type Rs, they are very keen to get stuck in for race one tomorrow. It looks like the weather will become a feature of the races tomorrow, with rain expected tonight and is forecast to continue well into race day.
Photography: Phil Laughton