BTCC Crazy

Matt Hamilton’s Blog - Thruxton, Round One

Hi everyone, and welcome to my first blog for BTCC Crazy.

My first 2010 BTCC weekend really began early on Thursday morning, as I arrived at the TH Motorsport workshop to put in a full day’s work helping prepare the car, and loading up the truck. Although I left the workshop at 7.00pm to get an early night, I know that the team were still working at the workshop at gone 1.00am. That’s dedication.

I arrived at Thruxton early on Friday morning with my dad to meet the TH Motorsport boys and help to set up for the race weekend ahead. With a strong wind and lashing rain it was not ideal to be readying the garage and putting the final preparations to the car for the weekend ahead. After I had spent the afternoon irritating the team, (well mainly my dad), with my dance music playlists in the garage, it was time to call it a day and head back to the hotel for a nice meal with the family, and an early night to prepare myself for the busy day that lay ahead.

Saturday brought nicer weather and the start to the 2010 BTCC season. Free practice one did not quite go to plan as with only four full and one timed lap completed a bolt holding the gearstick in place unexpectedly snapped on the entry to the first complex leaving my car un-driveable. This was an unfortunate end to the first session and cost me valuable track time. However with the small problem fixed, free practice two ran trouble free, allowing me to really get to grips with the car and the circuit. After making various setup changed to the car, I embarked upon my first new tyre run of the 2010 season, ending the session with an encouraging 16th place. I knew there were plenty of areas where I could improve on this, especially after making some small errors in the faster corners of the track on my one flying lap. The TH boys and myself were in high spirits and eagerly anticipating the first qualifying session of the season.

Unfortunately, our qualifying session failed to dodge the heavy April showers that had been threatening all day long, and after all of the hard work the team and I had put in finding an optimum dry setup, the first qualifying session of the season would take place on a wet track.

Being my first proper wet run in a touring car, I was always going to be on the back foot and with the session fast approaching the track showed hints of drying, this led us to gamble with some worn wet tyres. However, as the session started the rain began to fall heavier and heavier, resulting in our tyre choice not paying off the way we had all hoped. I would therefore be lining up for the first of Sundays three races in 19th position.

Sunday was a frustrating day for the whole team. After battling from 19th to 11th in race one, I suffered a high-speed puncture at the 125mph Goodwood corner with just four laps remaining. It was a gutting end to the race that would have certainly seen my first points scoring finish of my short BTCC career. It was evident from the damaged tyre that the sidewall had cracked and the tyre burst under high load… a product of too much kerb, too early in the race. A punishing lesson that I would have to quickly learn from.

The second race of the day was hindered by fuel pump problems. With my car at full throttle I was receiving fuel starvation, and as a result had the engine cutting in and out, particularly in the high-speed corners. After some lengthy discussions over the team radio I was told to stay out and hope to pick up places through others mistakes and retirements, which is exactly what I did, finally bringing the car back in 13th place.

In the limited time that was available to them, my TH Motorsport team had the fuel tank out and did their best to repair the issue between races 2 and 3. However, despite their hard work, 3 laps into the day’s final race, it was evident that the problem had not been cured. Once again, as in race two, we agreed over the team radio that I would stay out and hope to collect some points if there were any retirements ahead. This did not, however, mean that I would enjoy a trouble free race. Contact with the Chevy of MacDowall on the opening lap damaged the front left wheel arch and resulted in heavy tyre rub. A lap later I would be tipped into a spin at the chicane by my old team mate John George. The incident was just one of those first lap rushes into a heavy braking zone and John was very apologetic after the race but this did mean that my poor car was looking rather beaten up by the end of the race.

I finally brought the car back in 12th position and it was not until I was out of the car and looking at some of the damage inflicted early in the race that I realised how lucky I was to finish. My front left tyre had been rubbed down to the canvas after the contact with MacDowall.

As I helped the team pack up, we all reflected on what had been a very tough weekend with a few problems, but at the same time, two solid finishes and some valuable experience gained. I will be in the TH workshop before Rockingham helping to get the car ready and to get the chance to really evaluate the weekend just gone with my team boss and engineers. In fact, I’m helping the team run a Sportmax Focus for Tim Saunders at Rockingham this weekend, so we should get plenty of time to reflect then.

I would finally like to say a huge thank you to my team for all of their efforts on the weekend. They had a fair bit to work on after the damage picked up from the puncture and the fuel issue and I am very appreciative of what they did over their Easter weekend!

On a more positive note, I succeeded in my aim to gain exposure for the ‘Help For Heroes’ charity, and was bowled over by the generosity of the public at the official autograph session, where we managed to raise £237 for the cause. Thanks for your generosity everyone! I also think that everyone enjoyed the 200 easter eggs that I gave out. They certainly ran out quickly!

See you all at Rockingham in a fortnight, where I will be hoping for a couple of solid points finishes to pay the team back for all their hard work over the winter and in particular the past few weeks!

Matt Hamilton

Article originally written on Wednesday, 7 April 2010. Read more articles from the BTCC Crazy Archive.