A leap into the unknown – that’s how Toyota’s independent BTCC racer Frank Wrathall Jnr describes the coming rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the UK’s fastest circuit, Thruxton in Hampshire.
For although Dynojet Racing Avensis driver Frank has enjoyed several successes at Thruxton, he has never driven his new Toyota there and will have no opportunity to do so ahead of the third BTCC meeting of the season next weekend (30 April/May).
“It’s a complete unknown,” says Lancashire-based Frank, 24. “Thruxton is a unique circuit because it is so high-speed, and so bumpy, so we have no idea how the Toyota Avensis will go there. We know the car has huge potential, but I think it will be hard at Thruxton to make the sort of progress with it that we achieved at Donington Park.”
Frank’s Dynojet car will be the sole Toyota on the Thruxton grid; Speedworks Motorsport today confirmed that the Avensis of Tony Hughes, which suffered major damage in the third of the Donington races last Sunday, will not be making the journey to Hampshire. “It is a great shame,” said Speedworks boss Christian Dick. “We could have repaired the Avensis in time for Thruxton, but we have decided instead to opt out and spend our time more productively, in sorting the one or two underlying issues we have. Then, when we do return, we can be sure the car is in top form.”
Both teams have made major strides since their hurried racing debuts at Brands Hatch at the beginning of the month, with Wrathall in particular showing strong pace in the Donington races. Since then Frank has been busy helping the car’s creator, GPR Motorsport, iron out some of the teething problems. “We made a lot of progress this week with the steering issue,” said Frank. “We don’t yet have a complete solution to the problem but we have gathered a lot of information about it which will help us to solve it in the long run.
“Thruxton has always been fairly lucky for me – I was second, and the leading championship-eligible finisher, in two of the three Ginetta G50 races held there last year, so I am hopeful that my luck will continue and, whatever problems we may face, that we can get somewhere near the pace of the frontrunners and continue to make progress as a team.”
A bumper crowd is expected at Thruxton, near Andover, during the forthcoming bank holiday weekend for what will be the circuit’s biggest race event of 2011. For those unable to make the journey, qualifying will be streamed live on the itv.com website on the Saturday and there will be live HD-quality TV coverage on ITV4 of Sunday’s racing.