Michael Epps produced a hugely promising weekend at Thruxton with a hat-trick of crucial points finishes in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, including a breakthrough top ten result in the final race.
With confidence high after notching a breakthrough first points finish last time out at Donington Park, Epps produced a trio of battling drives in his RCIB Insurance Racing Toyota Avensis on his way to eleventh, fourteenth and tenth place finishes in Hampshire.
They came as the 24 year old fought back from a below par Saturday at the fastest circuit in the UK, with a recurrence of a power steering problem hampering his progress in free practice, before a difficult qualifying session saw him only muster 22nd on the grid for race one.
That became a 20th place start when a rival team elected to skip raceday, and Epps made some immediate progress at the start of the opening encounter, working his way up to 17th after two laps before producing a slick move on Daniel Lloyd on the next tour.
After gaining two more places when rivals suffered punctures, Epps picked his way through a dramatic final corner accident on lap twelve to take ninth position on the road – which became eleventh when the result was declared on countback after the red flags were brought out.
Retaining his top twelve position throughout the opening stages of the second encounter, Epps moved up to a high of ninth at mid-distance and had eighth in his sights, but some determined defensive driving from the car in front backed him into the pack behind.
In the difficult position of trying to defend and attack at the same time, Epps was hung out to dry around the back of the circuit late on, dropping back to a frustrating 14th place finish – however his consistent pace and tyre management throughout the race left him confident for race three.
A disappointing start saw him lose some ground early on, but another battling drive in front of the live ITV4 cameras saw the Team HARD ace swiftly move back into the top fifteen, before moving onto the edge of the top ten battle as rivals faltered.
Comfortably outpacing his team-mate Jake Hill throughout the race as he established himself as the lead HARD Avensis, Epps set a fastest lap bettered by only one driver ahead of him en-route to his tenth place finish.
The weekend’s results mean Epps maintains his top twenty standing in the overall drivers’ championship and top ten position in the Independents Trophy ahead of the visit to Oulton Park in Cheshire for Rounds 10, 11 and 12 next month (04/05 June).
Michael Epps: “It was a case of being patient and powering through this weekend. We had some issues yesterday with the power steering again, but we managed to fully rectify the situation this time it seems and that allowed us to have a positive race day.
“Qualifying wasn’t the strongest showing, but we didn’t get the perfect lap and we know our race pace would be stronger than where we started. A lot of people were too impatient in the races, falling off, getting punctures and we were there to pick up the scraps.
“A first top ten and three points finishes are a couple more milestones reached for us, and to be consistently in the top fifteen across all three races shows that the car is there and I can race with those drivers.
“I really like Oulton Park, the rhythm of the circuit seems to work with me and I can imagine it’s a meeting we can do quite well at. We’ve got some work to do on the car, we’re going back and forth with set-ups at the moment, but we hope we can continue with the top tens at Oulton.”
Provisional 2016 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings
18= Daniel Welch – 19pts
19= Michael Epps – 16pts
20= Jake Hill, Hunter Abbott – 12pts