Mike Epps saw a promising start turn sour in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham this past weekend (26/27 August), with a return to the points paying positions in race one the highlight of an otherwise difficult day of racing in Corby.
Following a weekend to forget at Knockhill last time out, Epps headed to Rockingham determined to enjoy an upturn in fortunes around a circuit that was expected to suit his AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC, however his weekend didn’t start in a positive fashion on Saturday.
An unusual balance problem with the car caused braking and handling issues during the opening free practice session, causing him to end proceedings early and miss out on crucial track time as the Team HARD mechanics worked to find a solution for the second session.
With improvements found Epps was able to get closer to the front-running pace ahead of the all-important qualifying session that afternoon, during which a strong late lap of 1m 23.696s was just a tenth of a second shy of the top ten as he put himself fifteenth on the grid.
Running the harder option tyre for the opening race on Sunday, the 25 year old would initially lose out to a couple of rear wheel drive contenders in the opening few laps, but he would gain the two places back later in the race with one of the overtaking moves of the day.
As two drivers battled ahead of him through Pif Paf, Epps lined them up superbly for the next pair of corners and executed a perfect switchback manoeuvre to dive down the inside of both through Gracelands for fifteenth place, which he then held comfortably to the finish.
That result marked his first points finish in the second half of the season so far, and with his Volkswagen now carrying the favourable medium tyre compound for the rest of the day, Epps was confident of adding more points finishes to his tally in the remaining races.
A strong start to the second encounter saw the Anytime Fitness and Simply Race backed racer rise to thirteenth place, however a couple of unfortunate collisions with other cars would ultimately lead to his engine overheating and retirement from the race.
The Hemel Hempstead racer would bounce back from that disappointment strongly in the final race of the day though, with a fighting display seeing him climb through the order from 27th on the grid to nineteenth position at the flag.
Mike Epps: “This weekend was definitely a step forward following a tough couple of weekends. The aim was to get back in the points which I’m pleased we achieved in race one, but after that it all went a bit wrong and I feel some of the problems we had with the car led to me making more mistakes than usual.
“I extracted more or less the best from the car in qualifying, but sadly it wasn’t quite enough to get us into the top ten, which I think comes down to our problems in practice and the time we spent trying to fix the issues rather than pushing to make the car faster.
“Still, we showed on the harder tyres in race one that we were quick enough for the points positions and if things had gone our way we could have stayed there all day. We performed better than we did at Knockhill, but we still want much more and hopefully we can achieve that at Silverstone.”
The short, fast national circuit at Silverstone will play host to the penultimate meeting of the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season in three weeks’ time (16/17 September).
The image is from Jakob Ebrey Photography/BTCC Media.