Mike Epps enjoyed the best weekend of his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship career so far as he launched the new season in style. With a trio of top ten finishes around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this weekend (01/02 April), he left the venue joint fourth in the Independent driver standings with multiple race-winner Mat Jackson.
With only two days of testing prior to the season opener, Epps put in a superb performance across the weekend, showing front-running potential throughout the meeting in his new AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC.
Twelve months on from his BTCC debut at the same circuit, Epps would show a glimpse of what was to come as he ran in the top ten for parts of both Saturday’s free practice sessions, however he wouldn’t be able to match that feat during a chaotic qualifying session in mixed conditions later in the day.
The Anytime Fitness, Simply Race Milton Keynes and iPro Sport-backed driver would still secure his best ever qualifying result of thirteenth though, however he knew there was much more pace to show after getting caught out in a session filled with red flag stoppages and rain showers.
Epps would more than make amends come race day, with the Hemel Hempstead racer turning heads throughout the paddock as he took on and beat many of the established front-runners throughout the three high-octane encounters in the spring sunshine.
The 25 year old was in the thick of the action throughout the day, pulling off some superb overtaking moves on his way to a hard-fought ninth place finish in the opener for his best result in the BTCC so far, which he would go on to superbly replicate in the final race later in the day.
In between, Epps would narrowly miss out on a top ten finish on the road in race two, with just five hundredths of a second splitting himself and Colin Turkington in a drag race to the flag – a post-race exclusion promoted him to tenth in the final results.
Epps' striking VW CC took prominent place on the ITV screens several times throughout the day, receiving praise from the ITV Sport commentators describing Epps' performances as "spectacular". Nominated by a few motoring media outlets as "driver of the day",
The top ten treble for the weekend means Epps leaves Brands Hatch joint fourth in the independent driver standings with Mat Jackson and tenth in the overall championship, with confidence high heading into Rounds Four, Five and Six at Donington Park in Leicestershire on Easter Weekend (15/16 April).
Michael Epps: “I’m incredibly happy with how this weekend has gone, but I’m focused now, we’re climbing the mountain of the BTCC and I want to keep going. We’ve got things to work on with the handling of the car and our soft tyre performance especially, but this is a fantastic foundation for the season.
“We made lots of changes to the car set-up across the weekend, but the car was strong every time we went out on track. We didn’t get to show our true potential in qualifying, but we were able to really battle hard in the races and take the results we deserved.
“We’ve got a hat-trick of top ten finishes under our belt, but now we want to push for more next time out. I don’t feel like this track suited our car that much, so we’re confident that we could be even stronger at Donington Park in two weeks time.
I'd like to thank everyone that got us back here in 2017, my family and sponsors and the team for really upping their game this year.”
The attached imagery is from Mike Hills Photography. Please credit where used.