Buoyed by a starring role at the season opener two weeks’ prior, the Bidford-on-Avon-based team made the journey to the iconic 1.2-mile Kent venue looking to extend their advantage atop the Independent Teams and Jack Sears Trophy standings.
After some struggles in practice, the team recovered well and came within 0.090 seconds of making the coveted top-ten shootout in qualifying for the second weekend in a row.
As it was, leading driver Aron Taylor-Smith slotted in P12, with Andrew Watson and Mikey Doble P20 and P22 respectively in a session punctuated by red flag stoppages.
In race trim on Sunday, luck seemingly deserted the Vauxhall Astra trio. Taylor-Smith was able to salvage the team’s only points of the weekend by maintaining 12th in the opening race, but suffered engine problems in the second contest, which in turn side-lined him for the remainder of the day.
Watson was powerless to avoid a multi-car shunt at Clark Curve during the first race. A superb repair job by the team put the Northern Irishman back on the grid just two hours later for race two, in which Watson gave a glimpse of the car’s potential by gaining four places from the back.
But a wide moment at Graham Hill Bend filled his front radiator with grass and necessitated a trip to the pit lane in race three, ending the 28-year-old’s hopes of further forward momentum.
Mikey Doble enjoyed a steady climb through the field across the day, as he continues to acclimatise well to life in the UK’s premier tin-top series. The Brands Hatch local moved forward three spots to P19 in the opener, which he then followed up with P18, then P16 in the second and third contests respectively.
The team slip to third in the Independent Teams Championship leaving Brands Hatch, albeit just nine points off the summit. Watson and Doble are similarly well-placed to bounce back next time out, when the BTCC visits Snetterton on 20-21 May.
Andrew Watson (#11) said:
“This weekend was tough, from start to finish. Conditions on Saturday were tricky, and it was all about timing, which we got wrong in qualifying. But in those scenarios, it’s about luck as much as anything.
“We had a lap that would have put us much further up the grid, but we just missed it with the red flag. Starting down in the pack was always going to be difficult, but we made a good start in race one, before I got caught up in somebody else’s incident.
“There was quite a lot of damage to the car, but the team did an amazing job to turn it around, which was incredible to watch. We got back out, but we didn’t really have enough time to set the car up as we wanted, so we struggled a bit. But we got out and scored some Jack Sears points.
“But it was a weekend to forget, so time for a re-think and then we’ll re-group at Snetterton.”
Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:
“On weekends like this, all we can do is take the positives. We were nine hundredths off making the top-ten shootout, so we can safely say we’ve unlocked a little bit more one-lap pace in the Vauxhall Astra.
“All was going well in the first race, but there was a small component failure on the car – nothing the team could have controlled or foreseen – and that limited how much I could progress from there. Even to come home with the points is something I’m really happy about.
“Race two started quite well, but as early as the opening lap, I could feel something was astray with the engine. From deep-diving into the data, we had two separate issues, both of which unfortunately brought about an untimely end to said engine.
“The team did all they could to get me back out, but with only an hour turnaround, it wasn’t to be. But we have a very fast car, and I know we can build on that. It feels worse when you’re at the back thinking ‘we’re struggling for pace’, but this isn’t that. The stars just didn’t align for us today, and that’s life, but we’ll re-group and come back stronger in two weeks’ time.”
Mikey Doble (#88) said:
“It’s been a tough weekend for the team, but on a personal note for me, there were a lot of good things to take away from it.
“Things didn’t quite go our way in qualifying, which meant I had work to do in the races. We chipped away at the car setup during Races 1 and 2, all whilst moving up through the field.
“Race 3 was the best the Vauxhall Astra had handled all weekend, and we just missed out on points by one place. It was a real pleasure to be right in the thick of the midfield battle, and also to get three finishes under my belt, all of which has helped move me up in the Independent and Jack Sears standings.”
Martin Broadhurst, Team Manager said:
“In general this weekend, we’ve been challenged with a range of issues. A lot of things have come at us from all angles, but I’m really proud of how the team have worked tirelessly to overcome each one.
“There are a lot of positives, both on track – such as Aron’s qualifying performance – and off it, with the whole garage doing a phenomenal job to repair Andrew’s car with only a couple of hours between races.
“We’ll debrief back at HQ and analyse what we can improve upon for Snetterton.”
Adam Weaver, Team Principal said:
“We have to keep days like this in perspective. Of course, it feels a bit deflating, but that’s only because we know what a fantastic package we have underneath us, and the potential it has.
“That feeling of togetherness as a team is only going to be reinforced by some difficult times, and there’s a lot more to be learnt in this sport from the low moments than the high.
“Everybody in the team continued to work and operate at a high standard throughout the weekend, even when things didn’t go our way – case in point was Andrew’s incident in race one and getting him back out on the grid.
“That gives me enormous pride, and I know we’ll be back out fighting at Snetterton.”