Michael Epps returned to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship points positions during the fifth round of the 2016 season at Croft, finishing in the top fifteen on two occasions to bring the first half of his maiden BTCC campaign to a close on a high.a
Epps piloted his RCIB Insurance Racing Toyota Avensis to fourteenth place after a composed drive in the opener and was one position higher in race two when his alternator failed, with a storming comeback drive in a wet final race producing a fifteenth place finish.
With this marking his first race meeting at the circuit since his Formula Renault days in 2012, the two free practice sessions on Saturday allowed him to get reacquainted with the North Yorkshire track as he worked with the team on developing the setup on his Avensis.
A promising showing in the second outing saw Epps post the fourteenth best time, but his efforts to replicate that performance in qualifying were hampered by drivers blocking his two fastest laps – though he was still able to come away with a seasons best nineteenth on the grid.
Knowing there was more pace to come in the car, Epps was determined to make forward progress in the opening race and after holding his position in a frenetic opening lap, the Hemel Hempstead-based racer started climbing up the order.
Epps made steady progress during a race plagued by safety car periods, before really hitting his stride in the closing stages with a couple of brilliant overtaking moves on Alex Martin at Hawthorne and double champion Gordon Shedden at Sunny In that moved him up to fourteenth at the finish.
The second race of the day would prove to be a case of what might have been for the 24 year old though, as after passing Shedden once again for thirteenth position, a late charge for the top ten was derailed when his alternator failure forced him to pull off circuit into retirement.
That would leave Epps with a mountain to climb in the final race of the day as he started at the back of the grid, but with the rain starting to fall as the field headed out to the grid, Epps was afforded the opportunity to firmly showcase his wet weather prowess with one of the drives of the season so far.
With the conditions catching out a number of his more experienced rivals there were once again multiple safety car periods during the race, but when the racing was live Epps proved to be a man on a mission in front of the live ITV4 television cameras.
Incredibly gaining ten positions in the opening four racing laps, Epps would continue his forward momentum throughout the race and eventually brought his Team HARD Avensis home in fifteenth position, his sixth points finish of the season so far.
Michael Epps: “We started the weekend in a better place than we have before and I was happy to see that we could get up to fourteenth in FP2. Qualifying wasn’t the smoothest of sessions and that left us down in nineteenth, but we knew we could come through in the races.
“We showed our pace in race one but it just wasn’t quite quick enough, which was the theme of the weekend really, there just wasn’t quite enough time on track for us to get done what we needed to and things just didn’t fall my way.
“In race two we had the alternator failure just as we were really pushing forwards, which put us at the back for race three. The weather gave me a chance to come through and I’m delighted with the positions we gained, but a few more laps and we certainly had the chance of a top ten.
“The first half of my maiden BTCC season has gone really fast, it’s all been a bit of a blur! I’m looking forward to the summer break and getting the chance to have my first test days in the car at Snetterton, which will be crucial for us.
“Half a seasons racing allows you to learn so much, but some proper test days with back to back runs on different set-ups will teach me and the team so much about the car. With that under our belts, I’m confident we can be right on the pace in the second half of the year.”