Michael Epps is targeting a return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship points positions this weekend (18/19 June) at Croft to cap off a busy few weeks of racing, having last weekend made his GT racing debut in the European GT4 Series at Silverstone.
Epps saw a positive start to his outing in the prestigious Silverstone 500 event come to an unfortunate early conclusion when contact broke the steering of his Sin Cars R1 GT4 whilst his team-mate Hendrik Still was behind the wheel.
With his first time in the car only coming on Friday afternoon, it would prove to be a difficult weekend for Epps as he not only battled power issues in the Team Sofia Car Motorsport machine, but also some severe weather conditions come raceday.
Free practice on Saturday would serve as an indication as to the uphill struggle Epps and Still would face for the weekend, with the undeveloped Sin Cars R1 being up to 10mph slower in the speed traps than its class rivals.
As Epps got more comfortable with the car he was able to edge the team closer to the front-running pace in qualifying despite the straight line disadvantage, with the combined times for each driver in their ten minute sessions putting them tenth out of the European GT4 runners on the grid.
Some changes to the car overnight would hint at the potential for a strong race showing after Epps finished third in class during a damp warm-up session on Sunday morning, but the task at hand would only become more difficult as the rainfall increased during the build-up to the race.
Despite it being his first wet running in GT machinery and there being almost zero visibility on circuit, Epps would go on to produce a sensational opening few laps amongst the mammoth 51 car field, swiftly overtaking both European class rivals and British GT Championship crews.
Within four racing laps, Epps had gained a superb seventeen places overall from 41st on the grid and impressively matched the pace of the vastly more experienced class leading crews as he settled into fifth position in the European ranks.
His charge up the order suffered a blow however when he spun at Woodcote whilst trying to avoid a slower car in front, though fortunately for the 24 year old his car shot across into the gravel trap on the outside of the circuit, rather than the pitwall on the other side.
Losing two laps as the marshals got him back on circuit, Epps held position into the first pitstop window and handed the car over to Still. That would prove to be his last running of the race however, as on the first lap out Still was hit by a GT3 car, causing terminal steering damage.
Michael Epps: “It was a last minute opportunity to jump in a GT4 car at Silverstone GP so I was always going to consider it. The whole thing has been a little bit blurred and I ended up working a bit harder on things than I expected, but I loved being back in a low-slung, mid-engined RWD car.
“I knew there was always going to be some difficulties working with the car and the team for the first time, the outfit is run on a shoestring and the car still needs some development. Both myself and Hendrik found the car was really difficult to drive in the wet; very pointy and on the edge the whole time, so on this occasion we weren't really able show our full potential.
“It was a good weekend though and I’m pleased I was able to make a decent crack at getting through over the first few laps before our troubles. I’d like to get out in GT4 again for sure or even GT3, I definitely feel I'm competitive enough to put it up front in either class. It depends on my opportunities but I guess we'll find this all out in the future."
Epps is now back on BTCC duty this weekend and following some positive steps forward during the meeting at Oulton Park a fortnight ago, the Hemel-Hempstead racer is targeting points finishes as he tackles Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the season in his RCIB Insurance Racing/Team HARD Toyota Avensis.
Epps: "I've no idea how the Croft weekend is going to pan out to be honest. I haven't visited the circuit since racing there in Formula Renault in 2012, but I'm confident I'll be straight back on it.
"I believe the changes we made to the car over the Oulton weekend will work there and in the future, so hopefully we can start the weekend a little further up the order. If that's the case, we'll be set to challenge for higher points finishes should luck play on our side."
Images included are from European GT4 Series Media.