Morgans mighty charge ends BTCC season in seventh
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship racer Adam Morgan rounded out his 2018 season with a stirring drive from 23rdto eleventh in his Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-Benz A-Class after a weekend of challenges. Tom Oliphant in his Phillips backed Mercedes set the fastest lap of the race in race 2 when yet more rotten luck, robbed him of a possible top 10 finish.
Adam, at a circuit at which he has won races before, was looking forward to the final three races of the season, but the Mercedes struggled in qualifying an was no better than 22ndfastest, just eight-tenths of a second off pole. Adam was carrying 39 kilos of success ballast and that, coupled with an engine that felt like it didn’t seem to have quite the straight-line speed required, meant that Adam ended the session with a lot of work to do come race one. Tom had the exact same complaint as his team mate and felt that his car was lacking in straight line speed. Tom also struggled to find his cars sweet spot during qualifying but still managed to qualify in 20th.
Tom “We tried something different with the set-up in free practice and it didn’t really work, so we reverted back to what we know for qualifying and the car felt much stronger, but the session didn’t come to me as hoped and I finished lower than I should have done.
As the lights went out, Adam blasted away and gained ground on the way to the first corner, picking up places as he turned through the opening right-hander. However, at the third corner, Adam was clobbered by an errant rival and the impact left the car with a handling defect as well as Adam having lost four places. He set off in pursuit of the opposition but his task was made more difficult by many of the cars he was chasing running on the softer, option, tyre. That was the quicker tyre – being used by a driver in just one of the three races – so Adam battled into 19thplace, looking forward to race two. Tom had a similar race to Silverstone and was involved in a fantastic ‘elbows out’ race long battle with a gang of other drivers when he could gain or lose 3 places in a single lap. Again, Tom showed his class, intelligent, measured driving coupled with his race craft saw him bring his Reep supported car home in a splendid 13thplace.
Tom “Qualifying put us right into the midfield battles for the races and with other cars having more grunt than us down the straights, it was difficult to go on the attack too much but I was able to pull off some good manoeuvres and the close racing was really enjoyable.
Adam “That was frustrating. I made a good start and then Mike Bushell collected me at Graham Hill Bend and that meant that I lost places and then with the other cars ahead being lighter and on the quicker tyre, it all became a big battle. However, the positives are that we have got the weight out of the car and I can push forward in race two.”
Adam’s Mac Tools-backed Mercedes-Benz A-Class started race two from 19thon the grid and was on the attack straight from the start. As the Ribchester rocket blasted through the field, the lighter Mercedes was taking full advantage of the softer tyre and The Morganator hustled his way up into ninth place. All was looking good for a top 10 finish and a chance of a good grid position for race three when disaster struck.
“I had a puncture,” explained Adam. There were only two laps to go and suddenly the tyre went down and I don’t really know why. We haven’t had many punctures before so it was a big surprise, but the real sadness is that the non-finish has cost us a chance of a top five finish in the championship.”
Tom also enjoyed a great start gunning his Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-Benz A-Class off the line he began to move easily through the pack setting the fastest lap of the race, when he also suffered a puncture. There had been lots of collisions during both the BTCC race and support races and it’s possible that both cars picked up debris as a result. The puncture was yet another unfortunate occurrence for Tom that almost certainly robbed him of a top ten finish.
“Sadly the puncture in race two cost us what I thought could have been a hat-trick of points finishes across the day, but I gave it everything I had in all three races and I’m pleased that we proved our pace with our first ever fastest lap in the series.
Adam started race three from 23rdon the grid, but if anyone needed a reminder of Adam’s race craft, they were treated to another fine example as the black and red Fuchs Oil, Lunar Caravans sponsored Mercedes rocketed up to 11thplace!
“I just decided to go for it, stick out my elbows and enjoy the last race of the season. I was on the prime tyre and the car felt mega, really good. I was able to get through the traffic and get 11thbut then there wasn’t enough time to go for one more place.
“I look back on the season with a few ‘what ifs’. What if we hadn't had a couple of DNFs at two events, what if we hadn’t had that puncture. The car has felt better than ever and I have taken three wins, which makes me the second-best in terms of races won this year – more than the champion even! What the season has proved is how competitive the championship is these days and how you need to keep banking points, so we have to ensure that we score as often as possible next season.
“However, we can look back on the season with a lot of pride. Three wins, seventh in the championship and being a regular front-runner is fantastic and we will come back bigger and better next year. The team, Mac Tools and all our sponsors and supporters have all been fantastic and I owe a big vote of thanks to them for this season.”
Adam ends the season with three wins and three second places to finish seventh in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Adam finished fourth in the Independents’ Trophy with five wins, while Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport ended the year eighth in the BTCC Teams Championship and fifth in the Independent Teams Championship.
Tom finished the season in 20thplace, in a season that has seen 41 drivers compete in the Championship, he finished 12thin the independent Driver Standings and 6thin the Jack Sears Trophy.
Tom “Overall, I’m very pleased with our first season in the BTCC. It’s been very tough, with plenty of highs and lows along the way, but it’s been the most enjoyable season of racing I’ve had for a long time and I feel I’ve developed well as a touring car driver.”
Ciceley Motorsport’s Commercial Director Norman Burgess was delighted with the season. “To have three wins in a year which has had 17 different winners is a really good result and Adam has been a regular front-runner all season. All our team has risen to the challenge and Adam’s front-running pace and their commitment and professionalism has raised the team to a new level. Mac Tools has been a great sponsor, fully supportive and energetic and has made a great fit with Ciceley Motorsport. All the team’s sponsors play a massive part in the teams continuing improvement and success, we simply wouldn’t be able to compete at the highest of levels without them, we really appreciate everything that they and the army of Ciceley Motorsport staff do for the team.
“This has been an amazing season, I think we have stood on the Podium 13 times this year and to look at the silverware we have won makes it even more special. Roll on 2019!”
The 2019 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch on April 6/7.