Saturday – Qualifying
Wow what a weekend for Tom Boardman and the Special Tuning Racing Team. The long drive up to Knockhill Scotland began early Friday morning, with a brief stop off to collect Rosa (Tom’s Girlfriend). We arrived at the circuit in the afternoon to find the whole Team hard at work finishing the cars for Saturdays qualifying. Knockhill was a little like Thruxton where you don’t have garages, so you set up your awning and then have to push the cars down to another awning in the pit lane where the teams work from during the races.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on the Saturday, so there were a fair few cars which went off the track throughout the day. Tom struggled with a misfire problem during the first free practice which was causing the engine to cut out. Even with that problem, the mist descending down the hill and the rain, Tom did a good job and managed to post the 10th quickest lap time. The second free practice was very much like the first, everyone was on wets and Tom quickly posted a p2. Unfortunately soon after, the practice was red flagged so both SEATS came in. Even after the session recommenced Tom stayed in the pits so the team could try and solve the problem with his car. He finally went out with 3 minutes to go and finished in 13th position.
By the time qualifying started the weather had changed and it was brightening up. Tom went out on slicks and promptly came in for a tire change but unfortunately the session was red flagged before he managed to get back out. This meant the tyres then cooled down, so once the session was resumed, Tom came in again after a lap so his tyres could be swapped around but unfortunately just as he headed out again the session was red flagged. With this and his misfire issue, it meant he couldn’t get a clean lap.
Sunday – Race Day
Sunday Race day was upon us…. The weather was looking good and everyone was hoping for a better day than at Snetterton where Tom didn’t make it out again after the 1st race. He was starting at position 13 on the grid, which I was worried might be a bit unlucky but he did a great job in the first race. Tom had a good first few laps and managed to climb up to 10th position. Unfortunately on lap 8 the safety car came out after a collision with Austin and Onslow-Cole. Tom followed behind Collard and Plato and then the race recommenced. Tom tried to overtake Collard but lost a place to Nash. He finished the race in 8th.
Before and between each race I like to hand out posters, stickers and other goodies of Tom and the car, to people as they come past. Soon after the second race though was the autograph signing session in front of the awning by the truck. The sessions were going really well and before we knew it Steve, one of the Marshalls, came round and said we needed to be at the pit lane for the 2nd race…. We must have over run because there was no one to come and clear the pit lane like normal, ready for the race to start!!
Tom started the second race well, managing to pass Nash. It wasn’t long before he was up against Plato. On lap 9, Tom passed Plato on the pit lane straight taking 7th and also setting the 3rd fastest lap of the race. With the pack behind battling, he managed to pull away and catch up with the pack ahead. Unfortunately he was unable to pass Collard and finished in a good position 7.
After the second race the reverse grid was done and number 7 was pulled out. The Line up would be Plato in 1st and Tom in 2nd position. We were really excited to see what would happen in the final race and it started off with Tom getting a quick start off the line, but he was unable to get ahead of Plato. He kept on his tail and was clearly quicker than the reigning champion. Tom made a number of moves to pass but Plato defended very hard. On the 4th lap as they came to the end of the straight, Plato took a tight line through the SEAT curves whilst Tom took the racing line. Tom carried more speed through the corners and although he lifted off, slight contact was made. The safety car came on the track and everyone had to slow down whilst the Chevrolet was removed from the tire wall. As the safety car went to leave the track, Tom could control the speed of the rest of the pack. Coming into the first gear hairpin he slowed to allow the Safety car to clear and also to get a run on Rob Collard. He successfully got the start on Collard though I think some of the chasing pack thought the race was already underway and an incident occurred leading to another safety car deployment. When the race finally recommenced, Tom managed to get a little way ahead of the pack whilst Wrathal, Neal, Sheddon and Chilton battled behind. Collard, however, in 2nd position caught up with Tom and it was a very close race towards the end. Collard tried to get past on a few attempts but Tom managed to hold him off. It was a nerve-racking moment for the Team as we watched the last few laps but were over the moon when we saw him come round the last corner. We ran to the pit lane wall and cheered him over the finish line as he finished in first place. We were all so pleased to see him win and quickly ran down to the end of the pit lane to see him come in. He was then interviewed by ITV4 before heading to the podium where the winners were announced. Seeing him on the podium was extra exciting as it was his first overall win in the BTCC. Once Tom, Collard and Wrathall had finished drenching each other and the crowd with champagne, it was then time for the Team to pack up the truck. After the busy day at Knockhill, the Team and Tom had a very long drive ahead.
Tom always has a bit of a longer drive than most, as he drives the truck home after every meeting. As I arrived at Special Tuning Racing on the Monday he had already done a full days work with his brother Rick on both his and Dave Newsham’s car. I didn’t realise after ever meet they have to strip the car right down, clean everything, and then the parts all get checked for wear and tear before being reassembled.
After seeing all the hard work Tom and the Team put into the car away from the circuit, and at a weekend, it was so great to see Tom take the win in the 3rd race. It was definitely a big thumbs up from Knockhill.