Michael Epps has seen a vast improvement in the VW Racing Cup last weekend at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Derbyshire. With a what turned out to be a combination of electrical issues and a boost leak at Oulton Park leaving him several seconds off per lap to the leaders, he has now narrowed that gap down to just a few tenths with the car fixed for rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the Milltek Sport sponsored series.
After trading fastest laps with many of the top contenders in Friday practice, it all came down to getting the car setup right for new tyres in qualifying on Saturday morning. “These cars change their dynamic quite a lot depending on the age of the front tyres”, said Epps. “It is quite hard to anticipate setup without throwing new sets on in practice, which we haven’t done due to budget.”
Epps went out and managed to qualify seventh in the highly competitive field, just 4 tenths of a second away from a front row position. His second best time was also enough to also put him seventh on the grid for the third race on Sunday.
Epps’ first race encounter of the weekend proved to be a challenging one, losing a couple of places at the start when unable to get on the inside line. He came off track at turn four after someone made a late overtake and tagged him, falling down outside the top 10, but worked his way back up to eighth by the last lap. After all his efforts he was barged wide at the very last corner once again, dropping to 10th over the line.
“It’s a bit rough out there”, the 23-year old commented. “Perhaps more so than necessary, but I’ll just have to fight back a bit harder next time I suppose. I’m still getting used to being able to bounce off other cars. In single seaters a small hit or tap could often cost thousands and end your race just like that.”
The heavens opened for round five of the championship on Sunday morning. Started 10th, his finishing position from race one, Epps kept his place at the start and set about moving forward, finding his way into eighth place mid-race. After overtaking and defending against others, the leading pack had gotten away and so he made no more places, but was relatively pleased given his lack of wet experience in tin-tops.
“There seemed to be a tiny bit missing, I couldn’t catch the guys ahead. I’m still finding a bit of time each lap in wet conditions though, so maybe given more time I might’ve been able to move up further.”
With the track back it’s usual dry conditions in race three, which was broadcast live on Motors TV, Epps was starting P7 once again. A slow getaway lost him places on the first lap. Sitting in tenth he held his position, the front pack hadn’t spread out but Epps didn’t have pace to get close enough to pass. Just a few laps from the end there was an incident the safety car deployed, bunching the whole field back together giving Epps a final chance to make places. He became part of a great scrap for seventh on the last lap, but unfortunately came off worst and had to settle for tenth over the line, rounding up a trio of top ten finishes for the weekend.
He commented after, “It’s kind of bitter-sweet really. I’m so glad we sorted the issues from Oulton, as that was just awful to race with, but I was hoping for more of an improvement in terms of finishing positions. I guess it is how it is, we needed a little bit more pace from somewhere and given that I’m still new to this series I’m sure I’ll find it. Thanks to Team Hard and everyone else for their support over the weekend, bring on the next rounds Silverstone!”
Stay tuned for the next races of the Milltek Sport VW Racing Cup at Silverstone GP in four weeks time on 30/31 May.