It was glorious sunshine at Knockhill in Scotland for the latest round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, but it wasn’t only the temperatures off the track that were soaring, with Tom and the Special Tuning UK team grappling with overheating issues throughout the weekend.
Due to his car still being in the body shop following a collision in the last Championship meeting at Silverstone, Tom, whose Club SEAT Leon car is usually powered by a normally-aspirated Super 2000 petrol engine had to switch to the team’s second car with its turbocharged petrol engine, which had only one previous outing this season.
The weekend’s Free Practice sessions allowed the team to focus on the set-up of the car and Tom was quietly confident in the car’s abilities, finishing the first session third fastest through the speed-traps, and just a few tenths of a second off top-spot. But water temperature issues were to play havoc during Qualifying, causing the engine to misfire and leaving Tom down in fifteenth place for the start of race one.
The temperature troubles continued into the first race and on lap 22 Tom having progressed up to thirteenth, suffered a lack of power, sending him onto the grass at Butchers corner and unable to pull out of it before crashing through one of the cardboard advertising hoardings on the side of the track. The impact left part of the board stuck in the radiator and the SEAT’s engine was soon overheating. Tom was forced to pull into the pits with the car enveloped in a cloud of steam. And when the marshalls’ thinking the car was on fire, opened the bonnet and showered the engine, it was race over.
Starting race two from fifteenth again, and with a new radiator, Tom got a really good start, getting alongside and rubbing door handles with the two Vauxhall Vectras ahead of him. But the overheating issue was to emerge again, significantly affecting the car’s performance. Tom was unable to maintain his pace and despite a valiant battle for a large part of the race to keep the chasing Honda Integra at bay, he could only bring the car home in fourteenth.
In the final race Tom capitalised on the scuffles in front of him, climbing two places. But once more, the drive was hindered by overheating problems and he was struggling for speed. So following the appearance of the safety car after an earlier incident, it was decided to bring the SEAT Leon back to the pits as a precaution to prevent any further damage to the car.
Speaking after the third race, Tom said: “I was just fighting with the car all the time because I didn’t have the power and all the cars behind were straight on to me so I was having to brake later and then overdriving it. It was the same as race two, overheating, backing off and no power. So we decided we had to call it a day and not to do any more damage.
“It’s been a very difficult weekend but we’ve learnt and got information about the turbocharged engine that we can use going forward. The team have worked really hard all weekend but we’ve got to now think about the next race at Donington Park in two weeks time. I’m confident that we can deliver a good performance there and I’m looking forward to it.”
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 next race takes place at the newly renovated Donington Park on 19 September.
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