Plenty of pace but little luck for Wrathall at Croft
Frank Wrathall and the Dynojet Racing team once again showed strong pace yesterday when they tackled the latest rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, and were unlucky to come away from North Yorkshire's Croft circuit with only a single points-scoring finish. Twice Frank's Toyota Avensis was assaulted by a rival's car, and on both occasions the 26-year-old Lancashire driver paid a heavy penalty.
Dynojet Racing's Frank posted the best time of the four Toyota runners, putting his Avensis on the fourth row of the grid alongside the works MG of Sam Tordoff. His best time was just six-tenths of a second away from pole and came after the team was able to find more front-end grip following a tough opening practice session. "Seventh is a good place to start and I'm pleased with that," Frank said. "I don't think I could really have got more from the Avensis than I did, and we have a few things we'll look at to try to improve it. We had a pretty major handling issue in the first practice session and then didn't get a run in the second session because it was stopped. It's a bit of an unknown for raceday."
Race 1: 20th
It was another tough day at the office for Frank in the first of Croft's three BTCC races. He made an encouragingly quick start to maintain his seventh-place start slot in the first few corners but, entering the left-right Complex for the first time towards the end of the opening lap, his Toyota was hit from behind and sent spinning across the infield. "I was half-way around the left-hander, everything normal, and then someone drove into me and I went right around," said a dejected Frank, who rejoined the race 25th and made good progress thereafter, battling through to 20th by the chequered flag.
Race 2: 13th
Between-race adjustments having enormously improved the feel of his Avensis, Frank was soon making up ground from his 20th position on the grid. Wrathall was through to 15th by one-third distance once a light shower had passed and the track started to dry, and he claimed a further two places by the end. "It was a bit tricky early on because of the rain. We improved the Toyota a lot, definitely: the tyres were lasting a lot better. But I just didn't get a clean enough race - I got stuck behind a few people and that made it hard work. But to come through from the back and gain as many places as we did is a good result."
Race 3: did not finish
Shortly before the finale the heavens opened and Frank was looking forward to a good result, thanks to the superior handling of his Toyota on a wet circuit. But his race was to last only four corners - as he rounded Tower Bend on the opening lap, the Dynojet Toyota was cannoned into by an out-of-control rival, breaking its rear suspension. "Someone ran straight into my right rear wheel, leaving it pointing inwards," said a disappointed Frank. "I was half-way round the corner and someone just crashed straight into me. The Toyota felt great for the first half a lap! It's such a shame. I had been praying for rain all day because it offered a great opportunity for us and when we did get it, this happens."
There's now a six-week break before the second half of the BTCC season gets underway at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk in early August. Frank will be keeping busy, however: in mid-July he and his Avensis will take pride of place on the Toyota display at the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed, and at the end of July, Wrathall will step back in time to compete at the Silverstone Classic at the wheel of a 17-year-old BTCC Vauxhall Cavalier.