Ok, so I’m going to start this blog by getting ‘Ballgate’ out of the way. For those who don’t know, I finished in 10th place in the second race at Brands Hatch. That meant I had to draw the reverse grid by picking a ball out of a bowl.
This bowl is clear at the bottom and was placed quite high up so whilst stood there talking to Steve Ryder I happened to see the 10 ball through the clear section – the number I needed to be placed on pole position for the final race of the day. So when the time came to draw, knowing where my number was, I just couldn’t resist trying to go for that ball.
The moment I saw that I had grabbed the number I was aiming for I immediately felt uncomfortable and just what my actions meant started to sink in. It was more than me there in that moment and the grid for race 3; I had deceived the millions of people who follow the BTCC. I had damaged the credibility of the championship.
I want to tell you about the pressures I’m under and the fact that I’m not the first to ‘cheat the system’ but deep down I know that is me just wanting to justify what I did. In reality there is no excuse.
So I can assure everyone that I fully understand the consequences of my actions. I am extremely regretful and very, VERY embarrassed. I sincerely apologise to all the fans, the championship, my sponsors and my team.
To make it worse I have gotten off very lightly. I was re-drawn on pole position, I was allowed to race and I have had hundreds and hundreds of people showing their support for me owning up. All things that I don’t feel I deserve and these displays of people’s good nature and forgiveness are incredibly heart-warming but also make me regret my actions further.
The one positive that has come from this is that the system will be changed so it can’t happen again, I’m not sure how they will do it yet but I think there are thousands of deserving fans out there who would like a go at it. I guess we will see this weekend.
Anyway, back to the racing! To recap round one, we were reasonably happy with our day although I felt that we were very close to an awesome day. We made the same mistake most of the rear-wheel-drive cars did and went for the soft tyre in race 1. We didn’t expect it to be quite so bloody cold though and all the RWD cars that chose softs for race 1 succumbed to the same fate. It is a prime example of the FWD advantages that aren’t so obvious – RWD cars can’t work their tyres as hard so were unable to get the tyres to the correct working temperatures on the warm-up lap. When the lights go out you have to push on them and because they are not ready it just rips them apart, so suddenly the quicker tyre becomes the slower tyre.
That set us back in race 1. Race 2 we fought back through to 10th and race 3… well, we thought that we had a golden opportunity, but the safety car coming out at the end of lap one put an end to that. Those five laps allowed Matt Neal to bring his soft tyres up to the proper temperature while also meaning they wouldn’t have to last as long anyway. But still, it has to be said, Matt deserved that win. He just sat there in my slipstream looking after his tyres and not letting himself get rattled by Jack Goff and when my tyres started to fade a couple of laps earlier than his he pretty much just drove past me taking Jack with him. It was a shame about the tangle with Andy Jordan a minute or so later. I’ve now watched the replay and I’m still not sure who was at fault. He clearly was fully alongside me when we made contact but at very different angles, I didn’t give him any extra room (because I wasn’t expecting him there) but then even if I had given him some space, with how hard and late he had gone in to the corner I don’t think contact would have been avoidable anyway. It was a shame anyway; Andy has always been very clean with me and I have always tried to repay that respect so it was an unfortunate incident.
So although we have many positives to take from the weekend, including both my cars in the top 10, I still don’t feel we showed our full hand at Brands. Looking ahead, the next two rounds will be damage limitation exercises I think. We have always struggled with the car at both Donington and Thruxton and whilst I know we have improved the car and I’m very hopeful we will be able to challenge in the top ten I want to try and be realistic. It’s an incredibly competitive grid so if you don’t have the car quite right then you just have to do your best and hope you come away with some points in the bag.