Michael Epps made a surprise first visit to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship podium this weekend after taking the Jack Sears Trophy honours despite a difficult day of racing at Snetterton.
Epps saw contact from rivals derail his challenge for outright points finishes in each of the three races in Norfolk, however three finishes coupled with retirements for each of his class rivals during a dramatic day in Norfolk earnt him the class trophy for the first time.
Epps headed into the weekend in confident mood after a hugely positive first full BTCC test at the circuit during the summer break, with his aim for the weekend to build on all he’d learnt and continue to make forwards progress with the Team HARD Toyota Avensis.
In particular Epps was eager to improve his qualifying performance to maximise his clear race pace, as shown by him ending the first half of the season near the top in the Dunlop Forever Forwards award, which highlights those who have gained the most positions in the races.
Strong runs in the two free practice sessions on Saturday saw him finish sixteenth on the timesheets in each and a repeat performance was the target for qualifying, however a frustrating session saw him place his Avensis twentieth on the grid for Sunday’s opening encounter.
It remained only the second time this season he has qualified in the top twenty though and put him in a prime position to challenge for the points in the opening race of the day – chances which were aided as he picked his way through to seventeenth during the opening lap.
That would be the highest Epps would run across any of the three races however, with contact at Riches on lap two sending him flying off track into the farmers field on the outside of the corner – an incident that set the tone for the two races ahead.
Eventually recovering to twentieth at the finish of the opener, Epps would see contact on the opening laps of each of the next two races cost him huge amounts of ground in both, resulting in nineteenth and twentieth place finishes.
Although frustrated to see some positive steps forwards with the car set-up not produce the race results they deserved, Epps is pleased to have come away from the weekend with his first BTCC silverware ahead of his first ever race meeting at Knockhill in a fortnights time (13/14 August).
Mike Epps: “To step onto the podium, receive my first trophy in the BTCC and spray champagne with Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard and Rob Austin is pretty incredible, and just the end to the weekend we needed after a pretty atrocious three races.
“It was one of those weekend’s that really didn’t go to plan, we got fired off circuit in each of the races and really weren’t able to showcase the progress we’ve made with the car during the summer test and then the two free practice sessions yesterday.
“We showed strong pace whenever we got the chance to in the races and quickly closed the gaps back to the pack after the contact, but we didn’t get the opportunity to run inside the pack and fight our way to some overall points finishes.
“We had everything there to do so though and that means I’m heading to Knockhill with a smile on my face. I’m going there a bit blind, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and learning the circuit.”