The Rich Energy BTC Racing Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship team kicked off its 2022 campaign with a podium finish at Donington Park last weekend – and has promised there is much more to come.
Racer Josh Cook rounded off the weekend’s three races with a third-placed finish as the leading Independents’ Trophy runner to reward the hard work that the team had put in across the two-day curtain raiser, while Jason Plato was only thwarted from three points-paying rounds by a cruel puncture in the opening race. Jade Edwards saw the chequered flag in all three of the battles at Donington Park to complete a hectic weekend for the Honda Civic Type R crew.
With a fresh M-Sport-derived two-litre turbocharged powerplant and the new hybrid systems bolted to the cars for the 2022 campaign, the opening meeting of Britain’s highest profile championship was a journey into the unknown for the squad despite meticulous preparations.
After the question marks that were thrown at the team and its drivers, team principal Danny Buxton paid tribute to the work ethic of the squad and has promised a flat-out approach to further refine the race cars ahead of the next round of the championship at Brands Hatch on May 14-15.
Buxton said: “It’s been one of the most challenging off-season’s that I’ve seen any team endure, but we came to Donington knowing that every single one of us has done all we can to deliver three cars to give the drivers the best chance to start their season well.
“I’m not going to pretend that everything is right; it’s clear that once the car gets on the straights, it’s lacking against the works outfits, but this is a long season of 30 races and we’re already working with M-Sport to focus on the issues that have stopped us from gaining the results the drivers and crew worked for.”
The drivers all felt that the struggle for straight-line pace had hindered their weekends, but Cook’s Independents’ Trophy victory was a boost for the whole outfit. He sits fourth in the drivers’ standings after the opening salvo.
Bath racer Cook said: “I really had to dig deep for that podium. Whatever I tried as I attacked into and out of every corner, I just couldn’t get the speed out of the car on the straights. Of course, a podium in race three helped to keep me at the right end of the points table and I know that everyone within the team and at M-Sport will do what is needed to help us extract the pace from the car that we all know is there.”
Plato, who has joined the team as he chases his landmark 100th win in the category, said he was pleased with the way the chassis had performed and was desperate to take a step forward in terms of power.
“It’s clear that we have a really good car, but we just don’t have any grunt,” he reflected. “We know what’s lacking, and we know who’s lacking. I don’t then expect to see everyone’s hard work undone by the absence of boost. I’ve been doing this long enough now to know how to win and I also know that you sometimes need a bit of luck. Today, the luck didn’t come our way but it will and, when it does, I’ll be there ready to make the most of it.”
Now in her second season with BTC Racing, Edwards, the BTCC’s only female driver, remained upbeat, despite not yet being able to show the improvements to her consistency and pace that she’s worked so hard to achieve.
“I came here knowing that this was going to be a difficult weekend and I leave knowing that I couldn’t really have done any more. I found myself in battles that weren’t mine to fight but that’s racing. The team have done a brilliant job to get all three cars as competitive as they are and whilst it’s clearly frustrating that I haven’t been able to open my points-scoring account, I’m ready to build on what we’ve learned. Bring on Brands Hatch.”
For team owner Steve Dudman, there was a mix of pride at how everyone had performed, and resilience to dig yet deeper in the push to challenge the manufacturer-backed squads.
“I’ve got very mixed emotions right now. I know the demands that everyone has had to meet, and the crew and drivers have met every challenge superbly. However, we’re not where we want to be. We’re not here to take part, we’re here to win. Josh, Jason and Jade have probably had to work harder than ever out on track, simply to hold position and yet a quick look at the data tells us that each would have returned much stronger finishes had their engines given what was expected.
“Looking ahead, I know that Danny will lead the team and our partners forward. He’s already made such a positive impact and with him by my side, I’ll be able to focus ever more on building our commercial presence, starting at Brands Hatch where we’ll be introducing our new, state-of-art hospitality unit. We’re here to win off the track as well as on it.”
The next rounds of the British Touring Car Championship will take place across the iconic Brands Hatch Indy circuit on the weekend of 14-15 May. In an exciting new broadcast agreement, each of Sunday’s three races will be shown on ITV, alongside the traditional extensive coverage on ITV4.