Mark Blundell endured a testing time at Thruxton this weekend as his maiden British Touring Car Championship campaign continued. A combination of bad luck and mechanical issues plagued the former Formula One driver’s weekend as he could only register one full-race distance across the weekend.
Heading into the third race weekend of the season, the 53-year-old knew that the Hampshire-based track would provide a difficult challenge after experiencing a problematic in-season test at the 2.35-mile circuit just a few weeks earlier.
Saturday provided Mark and the team a day to forget as they experienced a torrid qualifying session for the third race weekend in a row. Uncovering a power steering issue right at the start of the session, the 1992 Le Mans winner was forced to sit in the car in the pits for the first twenty-four minutes of the session while his counterparts made strong progress across the track.
Finally making his way out with just over five minutes of the session remaining, Blundell was forced to try and get sufficient temperature into his tyres as well as setting a flying lap time in no time at all. Faced with a nigh on impossible task, Blundell in the #8 HP car could not pull together a lap time to trouble those further up the grid and had to settle for starting race one of the weekend from the rear of the grid.
Hoping to put their forgettable Saturday behind them, Mark and the Trade Price Cars Racing team lined the grid for the first of Sunday’s three showpiece events from P30. Making a clean start and getting away well, the task was set to complete a solid full-race distance in the car’s first proper running of the weekend. Having made plenty of changes to the car’s setup through Saturday, the race was the first opportunity for the team to evaluate their effect.
With the field spreading as the race progressed, a three-way battle at the rear of the grid ensued between Blundell, Sam Osborne and Carl Boardley. Keeping his nose clean and battling hard, the former Formula One driver brought it home ahead of his two counterparts in P27.
Commencing race two from his race one finishing position, the Trade Price Cars Racing driver set out to continue the solid progress made in the day’s first outing. Utilising the first couple of laps of race two to get his tyres up to optimum temperature, Blundell began to make good progress through the order demonstrating his fastest lap times of the weekend.
Making his way past Michael Crees into P26, Blundell and Crees continued to fight it out for a position as the race continued. With Blundell in front on the racing line, the 53-year-old’s race would end in disappointing fashion as his counterpart made a very ambitious move which ultimately ended in fierce contact forcing the #8 car into early retirement.
The Trade Price Cars Racing team worked hard within the quick turnaround between races two and three to try and repair the damage to Blundell’s car. Although a little bruised and sporting a few battle scars the Audi S3 made its way to the grid for a race three. Unfortunately, though, it soon became clear that all was not well as race three got underway and Blundell was forced to return to the pits with bodywork flailing from the previously affected area. The damage was sufficient to force Blundell to retire from race three to cap off a thoroughly disappointing weekend.
“The car is leaving Thruxton with a few wounds this weekend and it feels like I am doing so too! We are giving it our all to get to grips with all the unique challenges that the BTCC provides but we could just do with a little luck falling our way too.”
“The power steering issue on Saturday put us on the back foot and we’ve never really recovered, unfortunately. To then close out the weekend with two DNF’s that were both out of my control sums up just how this weekend has gone really.”
“It is not for a lack of effort on anyone’s side but we have a little bit of time now to go away, reflect and come back stronger at Croft. I have a huge amount of respect for everything this Championship represents and myself and the whole team are determined to get us moving in the right direction like we know we can.”
Blundell’s next outing sees the British Touring Car Championship make its annual trip to North Yorkshire, as they take on Croft Circuit on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of June.
Image courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography