Thursday, 29 March 2018

Thompson impresses on first day with BTCC ‘family.’

Bobby Thompson’s 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign moved up a gear at an overcast Donington Park on Tuesday as the UK’s premier race series burst into action at the annual BTCC Media Day.

21 year-old Thompson, the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion, joined a 32 strong capacity grid including no less than 17 former BTCC race winners at the Leicestershire venue. The championship that ranks third in the world behind only Formula One and NASCAR in terms of continuous participation unveiled a history making and potentially record breaking 60th anniversary season and it’s clear that Bobby is revelling in being a part of it.

While the skies overhead remained grey, Thompson’s striking #19 Trade Price Cars Racing with Team HARD VW Passat provided a hugely colourful addition to the spectacular array of machinery that obliterated the wintery calm of the off-season and eschewed away the rain that threatened to disrupt proceedings.

Sporting the distinctive livery of primary supporters GKR Scaffolding mixed with the colourful myriad of his other official sponsors, Thompson’s potently powerful 2018 challenger cut a swathe of sunshine through the frigid gloom as he continued to impress ahead of his maiden voyage into BTCC’s prestigious and intensely competitive waters.

“Today has been a very special day,” said Jack Sears Trophy contender Thompson, who completed nearly 50 trouble-free laps of Donington’s undulating 1.979-mile National Circuit under the watchful eye of his vastly experienced car chief Phil Overall.

“When I first sat down for the driver unveilings I looked around and saw many of my racing heroes but I had to quickly remember that they aren’t my idols this year, they are my rivals,” added Bobby who, in 2018 has been nominated as one of the ‘Rising Stars’ of the British Racing Drivers Club. “That really helped me to focus on my job today and now we have all been out on track together for testing I just feel like part of the BTCC family like everyone else.”

Following the official driver announcements and the public unveiling of the cars, the morning showers dispersed and gave every driver a chance to push the limits of their new charges during the four hour test session on completely dry tarmac.

However despite the temptation to generate headlines, Bobby’s crew stuck to their pre-planned list of system checks and set-up changes, which made Bobby’s 0.9s deficit to the best time of the day extremely encouraging.

“Bobby has been impressive for us since day one,” added Team HARD Principal Tony Gilham, who first signed the driver known throughout the paddock as ‘The Bobster’ in 2015 as part of their VW Cup Junior Driver programme. “We knew at the end of last season that he was ready for the BTCC and he has proved us right every step of the way today.

“We knew where we were at the start of the day and we knew where we wanted to be at the end of the day and we achieved that without any mistakes or putting any unnecessary stress on the equipment. We know where we believe Bobby can be this year and today he did exactly what we wanted. There is no use putting added pressure on him with an artificially fast lap in testing as it is a long season ahead.”

Bobby and the rest of the #19 team don’t have to wait long before they can show how far they have progressed and how much more progression is possible as the opening round of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place on April 8th at Brands Hatch in Kent and will be screened live on ITV4.