Kwik Fit MSA British Touring Car Championship star Bobby Thompson will begin his 2019 campaign in Britain’s premier domestic race series from 20th on the grid after a cold and damp day at the fabled Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
The 22 year-old Hornchurch based driver slipped and slithered his way through a qualifying session that was punctuated by no less than three red flag stoppages as some of the best touring car drivers in the world struggled to cope with the damp, greasy and bitterly cold 1.21-mile circuit.
Although the 2017 VW Cup Series Champion is a renowned wet weather expert, the loss of the majority of the second of two free practice sessions held ahead of qualifying with a driveshaft failure meant that the driver known throughout the paddock as ‘Bobster’ felt there was plenty more time to come from his distinctive #19 GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct VW CC run by Team HARD.
“Obviously every driver wants to fight for pole position in every session and while we weren’t able to do that, I can feel the benefit of the team’s winter testing programme and I know that if I can settle into a rhythm tomorrow I can move forward,” commented Thompson, who is one of the current crop of BRDC Rising Stars.
“When the track was dry in first free practice we were easily a top 15 car but we lost a driveshaft just at the start of free practice two which cost us a lot of time. Somehow the Team HARD crew got the car fixed during the session so we were at least able to get back out and for me that is the biggest boost because last year it would have meant the end of our session. It just shows how much the team have raised their game over the winter.”
With intermittent rain turning the undulating Kent venue into a greasy nightmare for the 30-minute timed qualifying session, finding the right set-up at the right time and being on the right tyres was always going to be something of a lottery and Thompson’s progress wasn’t helped by a succession of red flags as several cars slithered into the gravel.
“Our first run was really promising and we were inside the top 20 when the first red flag came out, which was a real shame as I was on a quick lap when the session was stopped,” added the fully qualified ARDS Race Instructor, who scored a brace of top ten finishes during his rookie season in 2018. “Unfortunately the second run wasn’t as quick but we made some changes ahead of what we thought was going to be our last run and I was able to get back inside the top 20.”
With track conditions plateauing out despite the lack of further precipitation, Thompson had just set a personal best lap of 54.690-seconds to move into 19th place on the timesheets and was on another personal best lap when the red flags came out again. This left just enough time for one final blast to the chequers and while one or two drivers were able to improve on their times, Thompson narrowly failed to beat his earlier effort with tyres that he felt ‘were another lap or two away from optimum level.’
“We have made lots of progress since last year bit so has everyone else and I know that without a doubt this season is going to every bit as competitive as it was a year ago. But I’ve got more experience now as a team we are way ahead of where we were at the end of 2018 so things are looking up.”
For those unable to make the trip to the 2019 Kwik Fit MSA British Touring Car Championship season opener, all three races will be broadcast LIVE on ITV4 at the following times.
09:00 - 09:30am - Pit lane Walkabout/Drivers Autograph Session
11:30am - BTCC Race 1 (Live on ITV4)
13:05pm – BTCC Drivers Parade
14:15pm - BTCC Race 2 (Live on ITV4)
17:05pm - BTCC Race 3 (Live on ITV4)