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Andrew Watson battles back from misfortune at Thruxton.




TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK battled hard in the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton last weekend (8-9 June), as Andrew gritted his teeth for a solid points haul around the fastest circuit in the country. Behind the wheel of the Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Toyota Corolla GR Sport, Watson was a consistent front-runner during free practice, but an off-track excursion in Q1 after hitting oil on his first ‘flying’ lap necessitated an unscheduled pit-stop for grass to be removed from his radiator. That left the Northern Irishman under pressure to deliver as the clock ticked down, and he responded in fine style to haul himself into Q2, going on to qualify ninth.


Unfortunately, Watson’s fortunes did not improve much on race day, as the 29-year-old was forced into a tyre stack at the chicane on the first lap of race one, sending him tumbling down the order from where he recovered to finish 13th, engaging in a close battle with fellow Toyota driver Aiden Moffat on his way back through. 


The series’ reigning Jack Sears Trophy winner was subsequently bundled off-track and into retirement following contact from behind on only the second lap of race two, before rolling up his sleeves to scythe from the tail-end of the 20-strong grid up to 12th place in front of the live ITV4 television cameras in race three.


The Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit will travel next to its home circuit of Oulton Park on 22-23 June, for the final event ahead of the BTCC’s traditional mid-season break.


Christian Dick, Team Principal, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

 

“There’s no question that Thruxton was a tough weekend, but we’re continuing to chip away and even if the results sheets don’t necessarily show it, we made further encouraging progress in terms of understanding how to optimise the Corolla for Rob and Andrew so they can really feel comfortable in the car and race consistently up towards the sharp end.

 

“Qualifying was a tricky session, and with the BTCC being about such fine margins at the moment, when you start a little bit further back in the pack, it’s difficult to come through and you’re also at the mercy of first lap incidents – both of which were elements that affected our ability to secure stronger results on Sunday.

 

“Despite those challenges, Rob and Andrew raced well as always to achieve five points finishes out of six, showcasing some great racecraft along the way – and now, our sights turn to our home event at Oulton Park, where everybody inside the team will be doubly determined to scoop some silverware again.”


Andrew Watson, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

 

“It’s always a thrill driving a touring car around Thruxton – your eyes are truly out on stalks. Free practice went according to plan, but in Q1, there was some oil down at Allard from a previous race that caught me out. We recovered pretty well to get through to Q2, but we were a bit out of the window and consequently struggled for speed. Ninth on the grid wasn’t a disaster obviously, but we had been hoping for a bit better.

 

“We were just unlucky in race one. Three-abreast into the chicane simply doesn’t work; the tyre stacks there are so difficult on the first lap and I got shoved into one of them. That cost us any chance of a decent result, although we at least came back through to score a few points. I then got shunted from behind exiting Turn One early on in race two, which sent me into the barriers. There was nothing I could do to avoid it.

 

“The team was very busy repairing the car during the tight turnaround before race three and did a great job to get me back out again, and it was nice to pull off some passes – we were just lacking a little bit of outright pace still. That made it a damage limitation weekend in many respects, but we are continuing to work hard and I have absolutely no doubt the results will come.”


Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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