Having regained good front-running pace last time out at Donington in the Club-SEAT Leon, hopes of a solid finish were high for Tom in the final round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent, last weekend.
The weekend started well as he continued his form into Saturday’s two free-practice sessions. But despite being within half a second of pole-position, the incredibly close qualifying times meant he would have to start race one from a disappointing 12th place.
Maintaining position from the start in race one, Tom immediately went on the charge, pushing hard for tenth place in an epic three-car midfield battle. There was an anxious moment though when on lap five, he dived into a gap that opened up on the inside on the run in to Paddock Hill bend. Running wide over the curb the SEAT Leon pitched up precariously, but he skilfully kept it under control and on the track. With two retirements ahead of him he then moved up in to tenth, but had to vigorously defend his place having come under a relentless attack from Steven Kane. Keeping Kane’s BMW behind though, Tom held on for the rest of the race to round out the top-ten.
Speaking afterwards, Tom said: “That was a difficult race. I was having to defend and go off the racing line every lap and because of that I was slowing and losing touch with the group in front. But luckily we stayed in the top ten and I’m really pleased with that,” he continued.
A great start in race two saw Tom instantly challenging for seventh, having moved up two places when championship contender Gordon Shedden turned off into the pit lane before the start of the race and the Chevrolet Cruze of Alex MacDowall spun wide on lap one. But with the Vauxhall Vectra of James Nash ahead holding Tom up, the two BMWs behind soon caught him and a shunt from Mat Jackson then sent him wide at the hairpin of Druids dropping him back to tenth. With damage to the car, the BMW of Ben Collins (Top Gear’s ‘The Stig’) then drew close. And with just four laps to go, Collins recklessly collided with the back of the SEAT coming out of Druids corner, pushing Tom on to the grass and causing huge damage to the rear of the car. This was to cost Tom three places and left him in thirteenth at the end of the race.
In the season’s final race Tom got a fantastic start moving up a place off the line and putting him right in the mix. With the BMW of Andy Neate then sliding wide ahead of him, he saw his chance to squeeze through but Neate closed the gap, unfortunately turning the BMW into the SEAT’s rear wheel, breaking the suspension and ending Tom’s race in the first lap.
Speaking after the race, Tom said: “The car felt great and I was looking forward to the third race hoping to end the season on a high. But then I touched wheels with the BMW and that was it for me, game over.
“It was a really disappointing way to end the race and the season. Over the course of the weekend though we’ve shown some really good competitive pace, so from that point of view it’s been a good weekend, so hopefully we can build on that ready for the next season.” he added.
Tom finished the season ninth in the Independent drivers’ table with the Special Tuning UK team in ninth and seventh respectively in the outright and Independent teams’ championships.