Mark Blundell endured a difficult weekend at Snetterton as he battled misfortune and mechanical issues, although showed signs of continued progress. Early incidents in races one and two meant the 53-year-old had to fight his way through the ranks to finish up the order before contact in race three forced an early finish to the former Formula One driver’s weekend.
Heading to his ‘home’ track, Blundell was encouraged by a positive outing at the in-season official tyre test in East Anglia a fortnight earlier, and was looking to continue his recent positive displays. Employing changes to the car’s setup agreed upon at the two-day test, the weekend’s early running would prove to be a fact-finding mission for Blundell and the Trade Price Cars Racing team.
Improvements shown between FP1 and FP2 boded well for the #8 HP car as they found themselves in P20 at the end of the morning’s practice while continuing to cut the deficit to team-mate, Jake Hill.
Encouraged ahead of qualifying, Saturday’s showpiece was to prove to be a session to forget for Mark and his team. Hampered by a mistake in the car’s setup, Mark fought hard to hook a respectable time together but ultimately had to settle for a P26 starting position for Sunday’s first race - a disappointing result after the pace shown earlier on in the day.
Determined to claw back some of the lost ground on Sunday, the decision was taken to get the less favourable harder tyre compound out of the way in race one. Chipping away at competitors in front on the more favourable tyres, Mark managed to claim a few positions and come home in P23 at the end of race one.
Taking the preferred soft tyre option for race two, Mark was charged with making an assault on the grid’s top-twenty in race two. Coming through cleanly at the end of the first lap, Mark made his way up into P21 in the early phase of the race. Then, when making a move down the inside of his fellow competitor, Mark had to contend with debris and sand on his racing line from an earlier incident from the cars further up the grid.
As a result of this, Mark lost out on the progress he had gained by slipping back to P27 briefly. Utilising the softer tyre to his benefit, the 53-year-old performed a couple of great moves as he made his way through to a P21 finish.
Left with the medium compound for the final race of the weekend, the task was set to chip away at those immediately in front on the harder compound. Struggling with an in-car issue from the outset, Mark began to slip back and, just when showing signs of recovery, the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans winner had his race brought to an early conclusion. Again making an impressive move up the inside, Mark’s competitor turned in on him in a fairly substantial contact which resulted in a broken front steering arm.
Blundell reflected on the weekend with frustration, but feels that there are positive signs beyond the results themselves.
“We are leaving Snetterton with a feeling of what might have been. On the surface, it might not look that great but we all know as a team that the performance is improving - we just need to tap into it at the key moments across the weekend which we haven’t been able to do so far this season. This is not for a lack of effort and I’m sure we will all get a slice of luck soon as I genuinely think we deserve it.
“The clutch issue at the start of race three meant I was swallowed up by all those behind. From that point on, you’re in the middle of all the chaos but it was disappointing to finish the weekend with a DNF.
“I am feeling more and more at home in the car and there were plenty of occasions this weekend where the car felt as good as it has done. We need to take the positives from that and build on it. It was a real shame for Jake in race three too as he looked set for another great result. A big well done must go to our sister team at AmD Tuning and Rory for his win.”
Blundell returns to action in a fortnight’s time as the BTCC makes their second trip of the season to Thruxton across the 17th and 18th of August.