It was another ‘mission accomplished’ step for the Infiniti Support Our Paras BTCC team earlier today, as Derek Palmer Jnr took to the track ahead of this weekend’s season-opener at Brands Hatch.
The car, prepared by injured ex-servicemen from the Parachute Regiment, completed a series of installation laps and component checks at the Leicestershire track before running for a number of race-pace laps. During this time, the Infiniti Q50 showed glimpses of its true potential as Palmer Jnr guided it around the curves of Mallory Park circuit.
Sitting-out the session, however, was Palmer’s team-mate, Richard Hawken. Delays in getting the second shell back from its strip-out means that despite all the hours put-in by the crew, it is likely that only one car will now run at the weekend.
“We’re naturally bitterly disappointed that one driver might have to sit-out the opening rounds” said team principal, Derek Palmer Snr, “but at the same time, I have to pay credit to the amazing job that Les and the guys have done to get even one car ready. The work ethic and spirit in the workshop is just fantastic, these chaps just never cease to amaze me.”
“The guys did a fantastic job preparing the car, and it was an emotional moment seeing it take to the track for the first time. Everyone in the team has worked tirelessly to get to where we are. We know we’re a work-in-progress, but we know we have the team to deliver.”
And I have to say, standing in the garage, watching all that was going on, you’d never know that most of the crew looking after the car are not only new to the world of motorsport, but are also managing challenging disabilities. Facts that are not lost on the driver as he finds a few minutes away from engineer, Craig Porley, to talk to me.
“You know, people often ask me ‘what do I want out of this?’”, said Palmer Jnr. “That’s easy. I want people to see just how good these (ex-para) guys really are.”
And what of the prospects for Brands Hatch? With virtually no time in the car, and the likelihood (now confirmed) of no second car with which to share data, does he think that the team can get the Q50 up to pace at a circuit where tenths of a second mean much?
“The reality is that Brands Hatch might have to be an extended test session.” And then his smile changes to a sharp and focused look.
“But I’m a racer.So when I sit on the grid, there’s only ever one thing on my mind…“
“We know we’re behind, that’s why we planned this day as we did. We’re not just undertaking critical checks, we’re bedding-in spares at the same time, so that when we get to Brands, we can focus on really understanding the car, working as much as possible on the set-up. We want a solid weekend. We want three finishes. We want to give it our all.”
Free Practice and Qualifying for the opening rounds of the 2015 British Touring Car Championship are at Brands Hatch, Kent, this Saturday, 4th April. Racing is on Sunday 5th and you can view the timetable on the Brands Hatch website.
If you can’t make it to the circuit, you can watch all the action via the BTCC’s Live Zone, or on Sunday on ITV4.
Credit: pictures provided by Steve Hindle, Mike Hoyer and Jakob Ebrey.