Morgan and Oliphant shine at a sodden Knockhill
Top Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race ace Adam Morgan celebrated three top 10 finishes in treacherous conditions at Knockhill, Scotland, yesterday, his teammate Tom Oliphant enjoyed his best qualifying since joining the Ciceley Motorsport team at the beginning of this seasons Championship campaign.
With heavy rain falling for the majority of the day, the twisty Scottish circuit was awash for the three 24-lap races with the rain and spray causing visibility problems for the drivers. Despite the awful conditions, Adam bagged a ninth, a fifth and a fourth place finish across the three races. Tom stayed in the top eight in both FP1 and FP2 and qualified on the fourth row in a magnificent seventh, at a track that usually suits rear wheel drive cars.
The Morganator’s Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-Benz A-Class started its weekend well as the team worked on set-up through the two free practice sessions and went into a dry qualifying session with optimism. With 31 cars on the 1.29-mile circuit, finding a clear lap was crucial and the session was stopped almost as soon as it began as a rival car dumped oil all over the road. That meant a lengthy clear-up operation and a slippery surface when the session resumed, but Adam mastered the conditions to put in a solid banker lap. With a new set of tyres, his pace looked good on his second qualifying run, but Adam didn’t improve his lap time, feeling that he was perhaps overdriving at one section of the circuit. Ninth was his reward.
Raceday dawned grey and wet and the rain was relentless. On a treacherous track, Adam slotted into the pack and, barely able to see anything, admitted to making a couple of mistakes as he batted to keep his Mac Tools-backed Mercedes, running with 27 kilos of success ballast, on the track.
“It was so difficult to see,” explained Adam. “It was a case of surviving as you had to judge where to brake off the lights of the car ahead and trying not to make a mistake was really tough. There was standing water at the Hairpin and not much grip, so I am pleased to have made it home without damage. The car felt good considering the conditions.”
Ninth was Adam’s reward and he lined up on the inside of row five of the race two grid with the weather now even worse. As the cars slithered away from the line, Adam struggled for traction and lost a couple of places to his rivals, but was soon on the attack and soon battled his way up into seventh place.
Tom enjoyed a fantastic race one and his fantastic seventh place finish proved that his qualifying was no fluke, despite terrible conditions Tom stayed with the pack and finished comfortably inside the top ten on his first visit in a front wheel drive to the demanding, bumpy and undulating race circuit.
Tom Oliphant: “It’s been an up and down weekend overall, but I come away really pleased with the pace we have shown. To finish both free practice sessions in the top eight without new tyres, and then convert it into a season’s best seventh in qualifying was fantastic.
“The change of weather made the opening race a real challenge, but I was learning the track and conditions with everyone else and our pace was strong. I was able to pull clear of the pack and stay with the top six, which is a great result for us.
Adam Morgan “The car felt better in race two because we had taken some of the weight out of it so we had just 15 kilos, but the conditions were terrible. It was more about surviving than racing, so to get through it and bag more points is good news.”
Better news was to come, as the first two finishers were subsequently excluded for technical infringements, elevating The Morganator to fifth place and winner of the Independents trophy ready for the third race, and the semi-reverse grid draw placed him on the front row of the grid.
Oliphant made the slightest of mistakes in race two, the rain became torrential and standing water formed on the track, this led to some of the team managers and the experienced TV commentators debating as to whether the race should be stopped. After a fantastic start and while holding his position Tom hit a patch of standing water and slid off the track.
“We made some changes to the car for race two and it felt truly fantastic, but unfortunately I locked the rears into turn one, hit the standing water and aquaplaned sideways off track, before doing the same at the final hairpin soon after.
There was no let-up in the weather, however, as the circuit was still wet for race three, with Adam making a good getaway to slot into second place behind race leader Tom Chilton. As the leading Ford Focus extended its advantage, Adam felt that his tyre pressures might not have been perfect, as he soon had to start defending from the advancing pack behind. He was under huge pressure at the Hairpin and didn’t have quite the same drive out of the tight uphill right-hander leaving him prey to a challenge for the next corner. Adam defended as best he could, but dropped to fourth place as he made sure he banked points, rather than become involved in any late-race incidents.
“I am disappointed not to have taken a podium in race three, but to come away with a ninth, fifth and fourth is really good, especially in this weather. It has been horrendous but the car has worked really well on the whole and we go next to two circuits (Silverstone and Brands Hatch) where traditionally the car works better. So, on the whole, I am really happy and it has been a good weekend for points and we will keep fighting in the remaining six races.”
After Tom’s unfortunate race two he found himself at the back of the grid and although making steady progress, overtaking through the field, with the spray thrown up by the cars was bordering on dangerous.
Tom: “I went about picking off people and making progress, but after being left so far behind at the restart, the tyres just weren’t there for me by the time I got onto the back of the train.
“I brought the car home though, got no damage across the three races and come away knowing that we had the pace to finish inside the top ten in all three races. Hopefully luck will finally come my way soon and we can enjoy a great end to the season.”
Ciceley Motorsport Commercial director Norman Burgess said: “Adam has driven magnificently this weekend in probably the worst conditions we have endured for a long, long time in the BTCC. All our Mac Tools guests were impressed with his racecraft in the wet: hardly any grip and little visibility made life so hard for any driver, but Adam wasn’t afraid to overtake and to defend when he needed to, so three top 10 points scores is a really positive weekend for us all.
Burgess continued “We are really happy for Tom, he’s been waiting for a result all year, his commitment and car control in race one was outstanding and affirmed his brilliant qualifying. Tom’s luck ran out yet again in race two but, he can leave Knockhill happy with his overall performance and his car wasn’t damaged in any of the days racing. The atmosphere in the Ciceley Motorsport Hospitality suite was electric with his sponsors from Philips and the Reep Group willing him on to his magnificent seventh.
Adam is now seventh in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport ninth in the Teams’ Championship. Adam is now fourth in the Independents’ Trophy and Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport is now fifth in the Independent Teams’ Championship.
The next rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be at Silverstone, Northamptonshire on September 15/16 and all the raceday action will be shown live on ITV4.
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For more information on Adam Morgan and Ciceley Motorsport, visit www.adammorganracing.co.uk
Contact the teams Commercial & Marketing Director Norman Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Ciceley Motorsport , visit www.adammorganracing.co.uk
The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was formed in 1958 and is Britain's most popular motor racing spectacle. Its race season comprises ten events at top circuits across the UK. It is contested by professional racing drivers in competition versions of every day road cars, giving it tremendous public appeal. Some 325,000 watch the BTCC trackside each year. It is also receives widespread UK TV exposure on the ITV network with all ten race events broadcast live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and www.itv.com