As the first race meeting of the new 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season gets under way this weekend, you’ll no doubt be excited to see who walks away with the first championship points. For you it’ll be the start of a new motorsport calendar, but for us it’ll be the culmination of months of testing and development.
The winter has passed even faster this year as we’ve fought to get the car ready on time. There’s always a feeling of it being good to get going again, to leave behind the world of lap times and development and focus on what really matters: racing.
The truth is, each year testing gets harder because each season the car keeps improving. When we first started with the Honda Civic we could make big improvements quickly, but now with the car at the level that it is, finding even a tenth of a second can prove difficult. Someone asked me the other day how I’d react if a technician said he wanted to gain an extra second from the car. My reply? He’d be dreaming.
But that’s not to say we stand still for months on end waiting for the new season to start. In reality, preparation for the coming season started as the last race ended. We sat down as a team, set targets on where we wanted to improve, and asked ourselves how we would achieve them.
It all comes down to planning, and that means everything from parts to where we’ll take the car. As strange as it sounds, it’ll be easier for us to find gains on some circuits than it will on others.
Plus, always, there’s the realisation that other teams won’t be standing still. Like us, they’ll be looking to squeeze everything possible from their cars. If you find yourself in a development rut, you can quickly find your times going backwards. You have to re-evaluate where you can be better, both in terms of the team, the car and the driver.
It takes some skill in truth to ignore what others are doing with their testing, because really everyone is always going to say it’s going well. Who would admit to a bad test session, after all? There’s a lot of rubbish talked up until the start of the season, but on the grid, waiting to go, all the BS stops.
So how will the new season pan out, and who will win the first race? It’ll likely be the only time we’re all sitting on the same weight and with the same points standing. Everyone will be looking to score big during the first race, to gain a lead over the rest of the field. It’s important to be consistent over the first weekend, and naturally we’ll be looking to end up on the podium.
With seven former champions competing there’ll be plenty to look out for on the grid, but as a driver I’ll be focused on the job I’m there to do. I reckon Colin Turkington will be particularly strong in his BMW, and the MGs are always contenders at Brand’s Hatch.
It’ll be a challenging weekend, sure, but I’m genuinely excited to get going. Hopefully we’ll put on a decent show for the fans, too.