Following his disappointing weekend at Knockhill two weeks ago, Tom Boardman and the Special Tuning UK team headed to Donington Park in Leicestershire last week for the penultimate round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.
With Tom now back running the standard S2000 SEAT engine, after using the turbocharged petrol engine at Knockhill, he was clearly delighted with the ClubSEAT car after producing his season’s best qualifying to start race one from ninth position on the grid and less than sixth-tenths of a second from pole.
In what was to be a chaotic first race, Tom maintained his impressive run of flying starts moving up into eighth by the first corner and challenging hard against Championship leader Jason Plato for seventh. By lap five however, he began to suffer with a lack of straight-line speed which allowed the BMW of Mat Jackson and the Vauxhall Vectra of James Nash through and the chasing pack to pull alongside. Exiting Coppice corner, it was three cars abreast as the BMW of Steven Kane came through on the inside and Paul O’Neill in the Honda Integra tried to go round the outside. With nowhere to go Tom was sandwiched between the two before O’Neill made contact with the SEAT Leon and spun himself off. This put Tom into 11th and saw the safety car being deployed for six laps. The race then got back underway on lap twelve, but almost immediately after the restart a huge shunt occurred ahead of him and he was incredibly fortunate to avoid the mayhem. Tom was also able to capitalise on the carnage moving up in to seventh place and earning a well-deserved two points.
Starting race two from seventh, Tom got a good opening lap, maintaining position before moving ahead of Alex MacDowall in the Chevrolet Cruze on lap two, though MacDowall squeezed back past on the restart following another safety car period on lap three. Then, on lap four, Tom appeared to carry too much speed heading in to the Old Hairpin corner, running wide in the damp conditions over the grass and collecting a lot of dirt and debris. Unfortunately, this was to clog up the air-filter and severely restricted the car’s performance for the rest of the race and he finished in 13th.
Happy that the issues had been resolved, Tom headed to the grid for race three, but more bad luck was to arise when due a starter-motor problem the car wouldn’t fire up. Luckily, the team got the car going, but it meant Boardman had to start from the pit-lane and at the rear of the pack for the second time this season. However, he was immediately back on the pace and a storming opening lap saw him gain three places. And amazingly, he was a full second faster on his first full flying lap than he had been in race two and fifth fastest overall. Gaining on the pack, disaster was to strike again though for Tom, this time when a wishbone failure at the Craner curves on lap three meant he was unable to continue and had to retire from the race.
Speaking after the third race, Tom said: “This last part of the season has been very difficult for us in terms of the results we’ve been achieving, but I think we have shown this weekend that we’re back on genuine competitive top-ten pace again, less than sixth-tenths from pole in qualifying and just four-tenths off fastest lap in the first race. The car’s back on form, just a couple of minor issues which have pegged us back this weekend.
“Hopefully we’ll go to Brands Hatch for the last three races and show some of the performance we saw earlier on in the season. We had a good result and a strong performance there last time out – and we’re overdue some good results!”
Tom is now ninth in the Independent drivers’ table and Special Tuning UK lies ninth and seventh respectively in the outright and Independent teams’ championships. The last race of the season takes place at Brands Hatch on 10 October.
For more information about Tom Boardman, the Special Tuning UK team and the Club SEAT Leon BTCC car visit www.club-seat.co.uk
To view our gallery from Donington click here.