Morgan moves up in BTCC title battle
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship racer Adam Morgan enjoyed a positive weekend at Silverstone, Northamptonshire, on Sunday as he took a second place finish as his best result of the weekend. Adam also moved into joint fourth in the championship and third in the Independents’ competition. Adam’s Ciceley Motorsport teammate Tom Oliphant enjoyed an equally successful weekend topping the times in Saturday mornings Free Practice one.
Adam’s weekend started on the back foot as his Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-Benz A-Class struggled in free practice as the team worked on set-up with a view to the qualifying session. As the team explored different tweaks, the car made progress and come qualifying was a very competitive proposition. Adam battled to ninth fastest with 27 kilos of success ballast on board for his seventh place in the championship. Adam was just two-tenths of a second off pole position around the 1.6-mile circuit. “The car was much improved for qualifying,” Adam explained. “We worked hard on the set-up of the car and I think there might have been a bit more time in me. The aim now is to push and gain points and places.” Tom’s weekend couldn’t have begun any better. Tom topped the leader board in Free Practice one. Unfortunately, Tom’s all-important tyre strategy didn’t work out as planned in qualifying but he still managed to put the car on row 6 only 0.291 off pole. “Overall, I’m really pleased with the weekend. To top the timesheets in FP1 was a brilliant feeling, and we showed some great race pace in FP2 as well. A change of tyre strategy in qualifying turned out to be a wrong call and that cost us the chance of a top result, but twelfth was still a strong positon to start race day from.”
Adam made a good start to the opening race and battled his way up to sixth place, the Mac Tools-backed Mercedes-Benz A-Class using its braking and cornering abilities to make up for its lack of straight line speed, an effect of the car’s boxy shape. That top six place, coupled with problems for some of his rivals, allowed The Morganator to take a solid haul of points after an early battle with the sister car of Aiden Moffat. Tom was stuck in the pack which became a very fast and sometimes out of control ‘freight train’ for the majority of the race and at one time was shuffled back to 18th but his determined and smart race craft got him over the line in a fantastic 9th
From sixth on the grid in race two, Adam made even better progress. He was up to fifth by the end of lap two and then set off in pursuit of the leading pack, hustling the Mercedes-Benz A-Class into the top three and then passing race one winner Sam Tordoff whose Ford Focus was laden with 75 kilos of success ballast against the 33 kilos of the Mercedes. Adam nipped ahead on lap 14 of 22, but the ballast-free Toyota of Tom Ingram was too far up the road. Adam’s second place was a welcome one after a troubled start to the weekend and it moved him to third in the championship.
“That was a good race. The car felt great, the pace was good with the weight and that was a good bag of points. Really pleased!”
Tom was again racing bumper to bumper in race two in what was a fantastic spectacle for the massive trackside crowds and the 20 million people watching live on ITV4. Tom brought his car home just outside the top ten in a points scoring eleventh position.
However, the BTCC regulations stipulate drivers use an option tyre once in one of the three races over a weekend and Adam had elected to use the harder compound in race three. The aim of the option tyre is to spice up the races and shuffle the order and it did that as the tyre never works as well as the prime tyre: it is the slower of the two, deliberately. For Adam, there was pain as he, and the others on the harder tyre, struggled for pace and Adam finished 17th.
“We suffered with the hard tyre, basically,” said Adam. “On the primes it felt really good but it doesn’t go as well on the harder tyre and everyone was in the same boat, but I also got hit by Mike Bushell (Volkswagen CC) and that didn’t help. However, we have ended the day up to fifth in the championship and to do that at a circuit that doesn’t suit our car, we are really pleased.”
Oliphant also struggled with the hard option tyre in race 3 along with the rest of the field. In his Phillips backed Mercedes A-Class. However, he lost only 5 places in the race and brought his car home in sixteenth, capping off a brilliant weekend which displayed the class of the entire BTCC field.
“I loved the three races. I was in the thick of the action throughout and made sure I raced smart and clean. To fightback from 18th to 9th in race one was particularly pleasing, and I was also happy with race three and how I only lost five places on the slower hard tyres.
“I feel like I’m proving that I’m a regular top ten contender now. That’s the minimum we want heading into each session and were it not for some contact in the races and a bit of bad luck, we would have taken more than one I’m sure.
“I’ve never been in love with Brands Hatch, but I’ve been told the car goes well there and I’m confident that we can excel around the high-speed sections. I’m looking forward to it.”
Ciceley Motorsport’s Commercial Director Norman Burgess said: “That has been a really positive weekend for us and for the team as a whole with all three Ciceley-built Mercedes-Benz A-Classes going well. Adam’s pace in races one and two was excellent given that this is a circuit where you need a slippery-shaped car and ours is a bit more boxy than others, so to gain a sixth and a second was fantastic. The harder tyre showed what an effect it can have and it is a shame that Adam missed out on points in the third race. All our Mac Tools guests were thrilled to see Adam move up to third in the championship after race two and although we go to Brands Hatch joint fourth, third is our realistic target and so too is second in the Independents’ Championship so we will be there determined for more good results at a track here we have won before.”
Burgess continued “Tom had another solid weekend and really did as he claimed prove himself to be a regular top ten driver. Tom’s weekend points haul lifts him to 5thin The Jack Sears Rookie trophy out of its 22 runners. After some really unlucky incidents early in the race season, the racing at Silverstone was clean and Tom was able to display his undoubted natural talent.”
Adam is now up to fifth in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport seventh in the Teams’ Championship. Adam is now third in the Independents’ Trophy and Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport is now also third in the Independent Teams’ Championship.
The final rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be at Brands Hatch, Kent on September 29/30 and all the raceday action will be shown live on ITV4.