In a crazy weekend for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham, the Northamptonshire circuit experienced bright, warm sunshine,
torrential downpours and even a tornado, plus there was a weekend full of racing too! With Dave Newsham standing in again for Kelvin Fletcher, he took points in 2 out of 3 races with Abbott taking points in the final race of the day.
Both PMR Chevrolet Cruze’s had solid free practice sessions making the necessary set-up changes and getting their cars set for qualifying. There had been talk of rain for qualifying, but nobody could have predicted the biblical weather that saw qualifying stopped half way through to let the weather subside. Newsham was undeterred by the weather and in the early session put the car into 8th, but it was Abbott that was the victor as he emerged as the session restarted to put his #54 Cruze in 10th with Newsham in 13th.
Race one started with the sun high in the sky and temperatures in the low twenties. The lights went green, and both Abbott and Newsham both got cracking starts. Abbott was up to 9th, but an over excited and rather clumsy Jordan hit the rear end of Abbott on the second corner of the first lap.
He hit him so hard that it pushed Abbott into Neal's Honda but not content with shoving from the back Jordan continued to bounce his Ford focus along the side of the Chevrolet, with two wheels on the grass to force his way past. This damage caused the bodywork to foul on the rear tyre and caused a puncture on lap 6 that would see Abbott spin-off effectively ending his race.
Newsham, on the other hand, was on a charge, he let the first few lap craziness die down. With Hunter out of the race, Newsham was behind Hill who in turn was battling Neal. Newsham passed Hill on lap 8 and continues to slide past Morgan 2 laps later for 11th place. Newsham set about battling with Ingram and passed him on lap 16 to get into the top 10. Newsham then closed in on Moffatt to take 9th place at the checkered flag.
The weather held for race 2 with temperatures in the mid-twenties. With both PMR cars on the hard tyre compound, both drivers left the line well, and Newsham got up the inside of Matt Neal into turn 1 to take 8th place. Abbott was experiencing the perils of being further down the field and got entangled with former teammate Rob Austin as he spun in turn 3, the collision causing suspension damage and forcing Abbott into the pits on the first lap, costing him 6 laps.
For the following 5 laps, Newsham struggled with the hard tyre compound and slipped back to 11th with Olly Jackson behind him. Newsham got heat in the tyres and started to close the gap, but he could not get past Shedden in front of him, also on the hard tyre and after trading places, a few times with Jackson Newsham crossed the line just outside the top ten in 11th.
The clouds had rolled in by the final race of the afternoon. With both cars on the softer tyre and Newsham starting 11th and Abbott in 21st, Newsham was also the first car on the grid without ballast and was looking to capitalise.
Both cars made a decent start and Newsham avoided the first lap mayhem. However, Hunter had to take action to avoid Goff and Howard which cost him several places as the safety car was deployed. When racing resumed, Newsham continued on his charge and was closing on on Olly Jackson on lap 4 while defending from Turkington. Newsham succumbed to the pressure from Turkington and slipped back to 13th on lap 5. Lap 6 was a different story as both Newsham and Abbott make it past 2 cars into 11th and 23rd respectively. Both drivers were making progress on the softer compound tyre with Newsham past Moffatt into 10th, and Abbott passed several cars to get to 20th on lap 8. Newsham then lined up the MG of Sutton and got past, but the disgruntled Sutton took a clumsy late lunge at the next corner and fired the Chevy of Newsham into the gravel and deploying the safety car.
With his teammate out and Sutton falling to the back, Abbott was on a charge for the last 6 laps and had a blinding final part of the weekend to get the Cruze up to 14th bagging points from the final race of the day.
Adam Weaver, Team Principal, commented,
“This is the first round in 5 years that I have missed as I was at home suffering from an illness. I’m gutted to have missed such a good weekend for the team and Dave but am proud of all the boys and girls who have made the day run like clockwork; I am chuffed to have such a great team of people and take comfort from the fact that they continued regardless. Roll on Silverstone.”
Dave Newsham commented,
“It has been great to be back in the PMR Chevy, I love Rockingham, being an ex-Speedway rider, the anti-clockwise direction suits me. The hard tyre added a bit of excitement into the mix, and I’m pleased with the weekend, all except being taken out in what could be my final race of the year, shame as I believe we could have done very well in that race, the team had done a great job of improving the car throughout the weekend and we were feeling very confident."
"As I announced in the week, I am entirely focused on a return to the BTCC in 2017 and exploring every avenue to do this."
Hunter Abbott commented,
“I was pleased to qualify in the top 10 in the monsoon conditions as I’ve only had a couple of wet runs in front wheel drive before now. Unfortunately contact in race 1 forced the rear bodywork into the right rear tyre which punctured a few laps later, resulting in a 28th place start for race 2. Further contact in Race 2 forced a long pit stop for repairs, then eventually I got a clean run in race 3 to take 14th. The PMR Chevy is a great car, run by a great team. We have the pace, but the results are not forthcoming at the moment.”
The team will be back in action at Silverstone on the 17th/18th September; full coverage is available on ITV4.