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Local drivers start off on slippery slope in BTCC debut

PUBLISHED: 13:20 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 10 April 2019

Sam Osborne at the wheel of the EXCELR8 Motorsport MG6 in the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC.Net

Sam Osborne at the wheel of the EXCELR8 Motorsport MG6 in the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC.Net

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EXCELR8 Motorsport's debut in the British Touring Car Championship could best be described as character building as the local squad graduated to the country's leading motorsport series.

MG6 racer Rob Smith narrowly missed out on scoring a maiden championship point for the locally-based EXCELR8 Motorsport in the third race of the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC.NetMG6 racer Rob Smith narrowly missed out on scoring a maiden championship point for the locally-based EXCELR8 Motorsport in the third race of the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC.Net

Inclement weather at Brands Hatch added a further dimension to events for the Broome-based team, with qualifying taking part on a wet surface which drivers Sam Osborne and Rob Smith had little experience of.

“Tricky start to our BTCC career today. It was certainly eye-opening to roll out on wets for the first time in quali,” said Smith after claiming 25th on 30-car grid while team-mate Osborne was right behind him.

Fog cleared just in time for the opening race at the Kent circuit with even the most experienced of BTCC racers unsure of which tyre to fit for the race.

“That’s the first round completed,” tweeted Osborne. “Bit of a mixture of experience. Went out on wets but then the track dried up and my tyres went off finishing 24th.”

Peter Challis at full speed in the Arrowpak Porsche 997 in the New Millennium race at Snetterton Picture: Ellen Tunstall Photography.Peter Challis at full speed in the Arrowpak Porsche 997 in the New Millennium race at Snetterton Picture: Ellen Tunstall Photography.

A race two starting infringement resulted in a drive-through penalty for Osborne and left him stranded at the back of the field.

“We had a great start but after the penalty I struggled to make up the gap and finished 28th,” he said.

“Race three was going well until I ran wide at Paddock Hill Bend and ended up going through the gravel. Came out the other side with a puncture which sadly ended my race.”

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Meanwhile, Smith had retired the sister MG6 after completing 17 of the 24 laps in the opening race and finished 24th in the second race.

However, in race three Smith just missed out on scoring a championship point for the local team as he ended up 17th, just two places shy of the points-paying places.

“To finish up just outside the points on our first ever run on soft tyres in race three shows our true potential – roll on Donington Park,” said Smith.

“Snetterton was the only race I didn’t finish last year due to a throttle issue,” said Weybread garage owner and Turbo Tin Tops champion Carl Chambers.

The local racer made hard work of winning on Saturday with a half spin on the opening lap dropping him to sixth place from which he fought back to claim a dominant victory, with Norwich’s Allan Lee a class-winning fourth.

A lightning pit stop elevated Feltwell’s Peter Challis into second place in the New Millennium race, behind the rampant Lotus Exige of Harry Woodhead, with the Arrowpak Porsche racer coming under intense pressure before slipping behind the Dominic Malone BMW.

Norwich’s Malcolm Johnson qualified his Lotus Europa on the front row for the G2 Swinging Sixties race, but failed to complete the opening lap, much to the delight of race winner Ray Barrow.

In the Tin Tops race, Norwich’s Mike Holding came off best in the local squabble by claiming 12th overall and second in Class B with fellow Norwich resident Chris Earle finishing just behind.

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