The first weekend of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park threw all curveballs possible at the One Motorsport with Starline Racing team in treacherous conditions throughout race day.
Josh Cook took his Honda Civic Type R to two top 10 finishes amid the highly variable weather which shrouded the East Midlands venue throughout Sunday, while team-mate Aiden Moffat was also in the points on two occasions on his debut with the squad. Will Powell was encouraged with his pace with the team and saw the chequered flag in 18th spot in the weekend’s opening encounter.
Cook qualified on the fourth row of the grid for the opening 21-lapper, which was held just after a significant rain shower. The reigning Independents Trophy holder held his hand up to being caught out on the slippery Tarmac and he took a wild ride through the outskirts of the circuit on lap three while he was running in seventh place.
“I made a little mistake and I locked up and went through the gravel. That was on me, I should have done better, and I am pretty annoyed with myself,” he admits. “But the guys at One Motorsport with Starline Racing had given me such a strong car that I was able to climb back up to ninth place. That was a good rescue job.”
Race two was struck by a downpour just as the field took to the grid to start the event and it left all the runners in a dilemma. Cook – along with most of the frontrunners – opted to stay on the dry weather Goodyear tyres and hope conditions improved but, once the heavens opened again, he dropped down the order.
“We were in the lead pack and I knew that if we pitted for wet tyres, we would have lost a bunch of time and track position but staying on slicks also made it a struggle,” adds Cook. “It was annoying, but that is the way those races pan out sometimes.
“It meant I started race three in 21st place, but I was able to battle my way up the pack to seventh place and the car I had under me was amazing, so thanks to the team for that. We need to go away and regroup, take what we have learned from Donington and come back stronger at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time.”
Moffat lined up on the ninth row of the grid for the season’s curtain-raiser and made steady progress through the pack on the slippery track to land a solid points-paying finish in 13th position at the flag. He splashed through the wet race after a mid-event halt for wet tyres, and then bounced back into the points positions with 15th place in the finale.
“It was a challenging first weekend for us with a new chassis and a new engine and it is going to take us a bit of time to get to where we need to be,” says the Scotsman. “Nevertheless, we made progress across the weekend and we were trying some new things in each of the races to learn as much about the set-up as we could. This is all part of the process.
“We know that we are going to unlock the secrets of the Honda, it is just going to take us a little bit of time” he adds. “The team has worked so well this weekend and there are lots of positives to take with us.”
Powell was also looking to build on his knowledge bank in a car that is new to him despite the trying conditions. He lined up on the 12th row of the grid and improved his pace throughout the weekend. He was on the cusp of the top 15 in race one before dramas prevented him from seeing the finish in the remaining rounds. However, the Birmingham racer said he had learned more tricks each time he took to the cockpit.
“There were lots of positives from the weekend but just not quite the results we were hoping for,” says Powell. “We made some solid progress with the car, and I feel I made improvements as a driver too through every session.
“While the races were torrid, there are plenty of steps forward we have made over the course of the weekend. We will come back stronger for Brands Hatch.”
Danny Buxton is the team principal of the squad, which is owned by Steve Dudman. He says the weekend: “Obviously disappointed to come away with little to show from the weekend, especially after such a committed few weeks back at HQ; it would’ve been special to reward the crew for all their hard work and dedication.
“However, plenty of positives to take away – two new drivers in Aiden and Will who have seriously impressed me throughout, a superb comeback drive from Josh in race one and much more information and knowledge gained with the new Neil Brown power unit. It was also our first race event with new partners LKQ Starline, which was great to see. Bring on Brands Hatch.”
The next rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship take place on the Brands Hath Indy Circuit in Kent on May 6-7.