After a month away from competition, the three Avensis-driving independents of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship restart their seasons next weekend (9/10 June) at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
It’s a home match for all three Toyota men: Garstang-based Frank Wrathall and the Dynojet Racing team, as well as Ribchester’s Adam Morgan and Alderley Edge driver Tony Hughes, both of whom drive for Stockport’s Speedworks Motorsport.
Racing in front of a large contingent of friends, family and sponsors brings a special kind of pressure, says 25-year-old Wrathall, the BTCC’s top rookie of 2011: “There is extra pressure, of course: you always want to do well in front of your local crowd. It’s one of the most important races of the year. We didn’t have a great weekend at Oulton last year, but that was more to do with the Toyota being in its early stages of development. Another factor is that Oulton Park is the only major circuit in the UK where I have not won a race, and I want to change that.”
Wrathall is edging closer to his first BTCC win. Last time out, in the torrential rain at Thruxton, Frank bagged his first podium finish of the season, claiming an impressively consistent fifth, fourth and then third in the Thruxton races.
Since then the Dynojet squad has undertaken an extensive testing programme, including a visit to a computerised test rig which mimics in minutes the stresses imposed by many hours of circuit work. Earlier this week Frank and his Mac Tools-backed Avensis were in action at the Anglesey circuit.
“We had a great day; it was productive and we covered a lot of laps and the weather was great. We achieved everything we set out to do, which is quite hard to do at a test - you tend to set out with a number of objectives and get only half-way through the list. But we went through everything and couldn’t have asked for much more; it was pretty much perfect.”
For BTCC rookie and Ciceley Racing driver Adam Morgan, Oulton Park provides the opportunity for him to add to the points he scored in April at Donington, and to expunge the memory of a torrid Thruxton outing during which overheating, electrical and fuel pressure problems contrived to ruin his day.
“Oulton has been good for me,” said 23-year-old Adam. “It’s my local track, and I know it reasonably well. I have not scored my best results there but I do enjoy driving it; it’s a great driver’s track. All my family will be there, people from work, friends and rugby club mates. It will be a busy day. I am going in with an open mind and will give it my best.”
The ‘spec’ TOCA engine of Morgan’s Ginetta-backed Avensis has been rebuilt since Thruxton, and Adam and the Speedworks crew will be at Brands Hatch tomorrow to put everything through its paces. “We wanted to test at a track for which we have data, and to check things over after Thruxton to make sure everything is all right.”
Tony Hughes has been hard at work banging the drum for his local BTCC races, signing autographs alongside a Speedworks Avensis last weekend at Stockport’s Peel shopping centre to promote the Oulton Park rounds and to help publicise the opening of a new Currys/PCWorld store.
“Being a Stockport lad myself it was nice to be able to support the opening of a store that employs so many people locally,” said Hughes. Tony’s own business, Hughes Safety Showers, employs 80 in the borough. “With Oulton Park just round the corner it was a good time for us to push the event and let people see the cars up close.”
Tony cut the ribbon for the official opening of the store, assisted by players and mascot from Stockport County football club and cheerleaders from The Wildcat Dolls.
“I’m buzzing about being back at Oulton for the next rounds of the championship. It is a fantastic circuit to have on my doorstep and it will be great having so many friends and family there to see the British Touring Car Championship up close.”
Next Saturday’s BTCC qualifying action will be live on itv.com at 1450, and all three of Sunday’s races will be screened live in HD on ITV4, and via the web; the race action starts at 1220.