Support Our Paras Racing and driver Derek Palmer emerged from the latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone battered and bruised, but defiant.
That defiance was emboldened by the presence of a significant number of veterans and serving members of the Parachute Regiment on race day.
And in addition to the Red Devils dropping in on the Northamptonshire circuit, the Parachute Regiment Band played the National Anthem for the podium ceremony at the end of Race 2.
The Mallory Park-based team’s race cars are prepared by injured ex-servicemen from the Parachute Regiment, with all team profits being donated to Support Our Paras, the official Regiment charity.
Staring 28th on the 30-car grid for Sunday’s opener, under clear blue skies, Palmer narrowly missed out on a top 20 finish, bringing his TENA Men-backed Infiniti home in 21st.
“I started 28th and finished 21st, so that was a big positive,” Palmer said. “But I lost a barrow load of time at the start avoiding an incident, which happened right in front of me, involving Stewart Lines and Nick Hamilton.
“The field is to tightly packed competitively, that it was difficult to close the gap back to the cars in front, but ultimately we were unlucky not to finish in the top 20.”
The 28-year-old Zurich-based racer from Lesmahagow then looked on course to finish in the top 20 in Race 2 before he became the meat in a BTCC sandwich.
Pushing hard to pass the Audi of Hunter Abbott for 20th, Palmer was hit from the rear by the Toyota of Simon Belcher. The impact propelled the Scot into the rear of Abbott’s car causing damage to both.
While Belcher recovered to finish 22nd, Palmer lost two places, eventually bringing his damaged car home in 23rd.
“It was all pretty hectic at the start, but we did pretty well out of it,” Palmer, who started 25th, explained. “As the race progressed, Hunter caught me and got past, but I managed to hold on to the back of him.
“Then everything started to close up again towards the last six or seven laps. The guys ahead were struggling; I caught them; the group behind me caught me, and all of a sudden we were a train of about five or six cars on the same part of the tarmac.
“Ultimately we made contact coming down into Turns 2 and 3. I got pushed from the rear by Simon, which then catapulted me into the back of Hunter.
“It’s frustrating, because again it ultimately it cost us a potential top 20 finish. It was a pity because we’d been racing and competing really well up until that point.”
Starting from 29th on the grid for the day’s finale, Palmer brought his Support Our Paras Racing Infiniti home in 23rd, having struggled to maximise performance on the soft compound tyres.
“We knew from the degradation we’d seen in the opening two races on the medium compound that we’d just about got away with it over a race distance,” the Scot explained.
“So we knew when we put on the soft compound tyres it was going to be touch and go: and that’s exactly what happened.
“From our perspective, on our car, the performance just dropped off the edge of a cliff: ultimately we were about two-seconds a lap slower than where we wanted to be, despite me giving everything in the car.
“I think we were also loosing a wee bit of boost from the engine, but we need to analyse the figures to confirm that.
“But our biggest problem was that we simply couldn’t get the soft compound tyres to work for us this weekend.”
As BTCC rookie Palmer and his team head for the season finale at Brands Hatch in a fortnight, he reflected on Silverstone and his self-imposed raised expectations.
“Everyone knows we’ve had a tough debut season, essentially due to a number of circumstances we didn’t have any control over,” he said. “But we’ve risen to the challenges; and those challenges keep on coming.
“Race 2 was going well, but again we were unfortunate to get involved in the incident with Hunter and Simon. It wasn’t an incident of my making, but once again we suffered because of it.
“We’ve got to the stage in the team’s development that we’re constantly raising the bar of expectation at every race weekend, and because of that we’re harsh on ourselves when we don’t meet those self-set goals.
“But we’ll persevere. We always knew how tough entering the BTCC was going to be, but we’re in this for the long haul and we know the results will come.”
Photos: Copyright Jakob Ebrey