It was another testing visit to Thruxton for Mark Blundell this weekend as the British Touring Car Championship returned to the UK’s fastest circuit for the second time this season. The 53-year-old battled navigated both performance issues and contact within the weekend’s three showpiece events to complete three full race distances.
Blundell and the Trade Price Cars Racing team were treated with drying conditions on Saturday morning as they took to the track for the first running of the weekend. Testing out a few setup changes throughout, the #8 HP and Intel car enjoyed nineteen laps around the Hampshire circuit with a best time of 1:19.513 placing the 53-year-old in P28. Displaying further progress in their one-lap pace in the day’s second practice session closing out with a 1:18.567 to climb one place into P27.
As qualifying rolled around, the former Formula One star was hopeful of making further progress and closing the gap to teammate, Jake Hill. Although the threat of rain loomed throughout, the track remained dry for the duration which helped Blundell find another nine tenths as he closed the session with a 1:17.624 to earn himself a P26 starting position for the weekend’s first race on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the 53-year-old’s session ended early due to contact from one of his competitors.
The first race of the weekend started positively for Blundell as he made a few positions early in the race until he was latterly forced wide by one of his competitors. This dropped the #8 HP and Intel car back to the rear of the field. Gaining a few of these lost positions back through the remainder of the race, Blundell had to settle for a P27 finish.
Race two followed a similar pattern with Blundell nursing a damaged car thanks to contact from a chasing car on the straight early on in the race. Despite this, the 53-year-old was able to keep Nicholas Hamilton at bay for the majority of the race but was unable to make any progress on those in front of him and ultimately brought the Trade Price Cars Racing #8 car home in P26.
With the clouds gathering ahead of race three, Blundell continued to battle with the in-car issues he had been experiencing throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, txhese would rear their head most prominently in the final race of the day as the 53-year-old struggled to make any inroads on those in front once more. Keeping his nose out of trouble, Blundell returned a P27 finish for the final race of the day, completing his third full-race distance by doing so.
“It has been another tough weekend. We knew when coming here that Thruxton is not the most compatible circuit with the package we have with the Audi’s but we can’t hide behind that. There are still some gremlins with the car which we need to overcome and we must all work as hard as possible to deliver some progress on that front for Knockhill.
“Knockhill will be an interesting one next month. I’ve never been there which offers its own challenges but it should be a circuit which is better suited to both our car and my driving style. It would be nice to leave there in a month’s time with a more positive feeling than we all have right now!”
It is a four week break now for the series before the British Touring Car Championship’s annual trip over the border into Scotland takes place over the 14th and 15th September.
Photo credit: AMSoul Images