A race one driveshaft failure derailed a weekend full of promise for Mike Epps as he suffered a frustrating start to the second half of the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Snetterton this past weekend (29/30 July).
The Norfolk circuit had proved to be a happy hunting ground for Epps and Team HARD last season as he made his first ever visit to the BTCC podium with a Jack Sears Trophy success, however his hopes of a similarly standout weekend were dashed in the opening encounter.
Saturday had been a day of solid progression for Epps in his Auto Aid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC, as some hard work with the engineers across the two free practice sessions culminated in a hugely positive run come qualifying in the afternoon.
A brilliant lap time of 1m 57.067s around the 2.97 mile circuit would place Epps twelfth on the grid, and with less than five hundredths of a second splitting him from ninth, he headed into Sunday’s opening race confident of battling for a third top ten finish of the season.
The Hemel Hempstead racer lost some ground during a busy opening lap, but fought back superbly to climb his way through the order to eighth position when disaster struck on lap six, with a driveshaft failure bringing his race to a sudden, premature end.
As well as depriving him of a potentially big haul of points, the problem also meant he would start the second race of the day from the back of the grid. The 25 year old rose to the challenge though and produced an impressive drive in front of the live ITV4 television cameras.
A sensational opening lap saw Epps climb no less than eight positions to slot into 21st place heading into an early safety car period, before steady progress after the restart saw him pass former double BTCC champion Jason Plato on his way to an eighteenth place finish.
Epps was determined to make further progress in the final encounter later than afternoon, however his rivals on track would unfortunately have other ideas as the Anytime Fitness, Simply Race and iPro Sport backed driver found himself the victim of contact on multiple occasions.
After numerous hits to his Volkswagen CC on the opening lap dropped him down to 26th place, Epps began to regain some ground when a heavy impact from Plato resulted in a broken toe-link and another unfortunate retirement to cap off a frustrating meeting.
Mike Epps: “It’s been another up and down weekend. The practice sessions were difficult and we found a lot of time from those to do well in qualifying, but luck deserted us in the first race with the driveshaft when we were running well and left us on the backfoot for the rest of the day.
“The racing in the final two was just generally too messy. We came through well in race two, but that was difficult and wasn’t without some contact from others, and then race three was just carnage, there must have been five or six cars make contact with me.
“Sadly I’m not surprised by some of the ‘racing’ I saw on track, and it’s made more frustrating by the fact that Jake [Hill – team-mate] showed the performance was there in the car to be battling in the top ten and without the failure, I’m hugely confident I’d have been up there with him all day.”
The image is from Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC Media.