All three Rich Energy BTC Racing drivers have praised the prowess of the squad’s engineering expertise after a weekend of hard-fought battles in the latest rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park last weekend.
Despite struggling with a mysterious lack of straight-line speed, Josh Cook maintained his position at the head of the drivers’ championship with a podium finish in the final race of the meeting, while team-mate Jason Plato picked up more points in the same round and Jade Edwards was a rostrum visitor to collect the Jack Sears Trophy silverware.
Cook, who has already been a four-time race winner in 2022, banked an eighth- and a ninth-place finish in the opening two races in Cheshire before driving intelligently to claim third in the finale. That helped him hold station at the top of the points table.
The 30-year-old Bath racer said he was delighted with the way the weekend had built to its climax despite the tough start. “We have a deficit in a straight line. I know this is something drivers always complain about, but we are quite a long way away from our competition. There is something not right,” he said.
“It is confusing because we have a very intelligent team with a lot of expertise and a lot of data on the car. It is just odd. We had to get through the day, bag as many points as we could and know that it was about focusing on race three. We made that happen and I stuck to my target of earning at least 30 points per race weekend but that is a testament to the way we all worked.”
Plato picked up points for the sixth time this season, but he too was left scratching his head at the Honda’s performance relative to the rival machines.
The double BTCC title winner said: “When I am in clean air, I can do the numbers; I can hit the same lap times as anyone out there. But when we get up behind people, they seem to disappear off the corners under acceleration.
“The good thing is that the team is doing a brilliant job and the chassis is great. I know that the work ethos of everyone here is superb and everyone is pushing to find a way forward. We just need to find some straight-line speed from somewhere.”
Edwards continued her rapid progress in the BTCC and was delighted to have been the top scorer in the Jack Sears Trophy – held for drivers who haven’t had a top three finish at the start of the campaign – over the course of the weekend. That meant she was invited to the rostrum for the final round to collect her first trophy of 2022.
Edwards, who was running among some of the championship’s most prolific names on her way to 18th in race three, said she was pleased her plan had worked out.
“I did an interview at the start of the weekend saying I would have my elbows out but with slightly rounded edges so I could pick through the weekend and go on the attack in race three,” she explained, “and that is exactly what I was able to do.
“To get the call on the pits-to-car radio on my in-lap to tell me I had won the Jack Sears Trophy was amazing. It gave me such a nice feeling because we had worked hard all weekend. To get something like this gives you that extra little boost you need moving on to the next round.”
The next rounds of the championship are at Croft in North Yorkshire and team principal Danny Buxton says the squad will be hard at work back at its Brackley HQ ahead of the fifth meeting of the season.
“Oulton has been a frustrating weekend,” said Buxton. “We think we got a Get Out Of Jail Free card with Josh in race three and by Jason battling his way into the top 10. It felt like a bit of light relief.
“It was also brilliant for Jade to win the Jack Sears Trophy, so that was a major positive to take away: she was running right among some of the championship’s star performers and she was holding her own in that company.
“The frustrations have brought the team back down to earth a bit after the successes we have had in previous rounds. Hopefully that will help us to refocus ahead of the next meeting. We have got to maximise what we can do.
“Oulton Park has tested the engineering team to its limits. We have got some direction now and there is still work to do back at base. We will take the positives from the weekend though and continue to look forward.”
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2022 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship take place on the Croft circuit near Darlington in North Yorkshire on June 25-26.