Scottish saloon car ace Michael Doyle came within just a handful of laps of achieving a dream top 10 result at Rockingham in Northamptonshire yesterday, Sunday, 13th April, during the sixth round of the 2008 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship.Only half a dozen races into his first ever year of touring car competition, the 20-year-old from Gartocharn produced a stunning performance in horrendous conditions and was on the verge of a career-best ninth place overall when an unfortunate excursion seven laps from home brought his race to an untimely end.With numerous front-runners coming to grief on the drenched International Super Sports Car Circuit, the In-Tune Racing ace revelled in the conditions to climb from 20th on the grid to 13th within the space of a couple of laps.Running in the top 12 on lap six, Michael started to reel in 11th-placed Erkut Kizilirmak and before too long he had steered his Honda Civic Type R into the top 10. The Safety Car was deployed on lap nine due to a couple of cars off the circuit and at the re-start on lap 12, Michael looked set to secure by far his best ever BTCC result.Sadly though, as has been the luck since his championship debut at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago, the ELF Renault Clio Cup graduate slid out of contention over the soaked grass of the Rockingham infield, inevitable contact with the barriers bringing the curtain down on a spirited and highly impressive drive. The In-Tune Garage Services and Andrew Watt Car Components backed racer certainly deserved more from round six which, incidentally, was screened live on ITV4, but with such great progress made Michael is full of confidence ahead of the third event of the season at Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire on 3rd/4th May.“It was an unfortunate end to the third race but I really enjoyed myself out there and I think we did a fantastic job in the conditions”, commented Michael, “When I managed to get up to ninth place I really did think we were on for our first ever BTCC points. It was a shame the race ended in the barriers but I think we acquitted ourselves well in difficult conditions.“There are many more positives than negatives to come out of the weekend and the whole team is confident we can move forward again at Donington in three weeks. Whether it rains or it’s dry, I’m really looking forward to it and I feel we’re beginning to really get our teeth into racing in the BTCC.”The start of the weekend on Saturday saw the In-Tune squad hampered by a series of niggling gremlins which persisted throughout both free practice sessions and then resulted in Michael being forced to miss qualifying through a mixture of clutch and gearbox issues.Working hard to prepare the car in time for Sunday’s first race, the team did a great job and after posting a top 20 finish in round four, Michael went on to suffer an unfortunate retirement in round five. The final race proved to be a major turn around though, the young Scotsman’s skill in the pouring rain a treat to watch.
He added: “We cured the gremlins from Brands Hatch and Andy Scott (chief engineer) helped us a lot with the set-up this weekend which made a huge difference. Things were going well initially on Saturday but then the clutch packed in and as soon as we had rectified that problem, then the gearbox started causing us some troubles again.“In the end we got things sorted out and I think we can take a lot of confidence from the way we performed in the third race. The problems were unfortunate and we obviously don’t have the biggest budget out there. We’re doing a good job with what we have though and we’re working hard on trying to secure more sponsors as the weeks go by.”Yesterday was also notable for the visit of several youngsters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Michael welcoming the children prior to the first race where he posed for photos and also signed autographs. Charity work is something he attaches a great deal of importance to and he was also keen to show his respect during a minute’s applause at Rockingham on Sunday morning which was held in memory of late BTCC family members David Leslie and Richard Lloyd, both of whom were killed during a tragic air crash on 30th March.Highlights of Rockingham’s race action will be screened late tonight, Monday, 14th April, on the UK’s leading commercial station ITV1 at 01.05. Freeview, cable and digital satellite channel ITV4, and cable and digital satellite station Men & Motors, will broadcast additional re-runs later in the week – please check TV listings for details.Rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2008 BTCC season will take place at Donington Park National Circuit, Leicestershire, three weeks from now on 3rd/4th May.