Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing left Donington Park buoyed by another series of marked time improvements in the latest round of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.
The team arrived at the Derbyshire track with both Infiniti Q50 race cars for the first time this season, and saw both Derek Palmer and Richard Hawken take to the track.
The team’s Infiniti Q50 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.
Palmer, the 28-year-old from Lesmahagow, shaved an impressive 16-seconds off his lap times over the weekend. After clocking 1min 27.244secs in Saturday’s opening free practice, he improved dramatically through the day to set 1:11.930s in qualifying.
But the Scot’s weekend was ruined when his engine suffered a progressive power loss through Sunday’s opening 16-lap race. And despite again recording a series of improved lap times throughout the race, his car eventually slowed to a halt on his in-lap.
“I was very conscious the car was operating on reduced power for much of the race,” Palmer said afterwards, “and it was frustrating not to be able to maintain the rate of progress we’d established on Saturday.”
Palmer, realising his engine was struggling as he headed for the pits, had the sense to switch the unit off as he headed towards the final chicane. His actions were praised by engine supplier, Swindon.
“Derek’s actions certainly saved the engine from suffering further, more extensive damage,” a Swindon Engines spokesman said. The damaged engine will be returned to Swindon for detailed examination.
With Palmer ruled out of the day’s final two races, Hawken, making his debut in the 2015 BTCC, safely negotiated all three races, culminating in a top 20 finish in the day’s action-packed finale.
“It’s really been a bit of an extended test session for me this weekend,” the 42-year-old from Walton on Thames, said. “But I’ve definitely gained a significant amount of track time from which I can build on.”
The weekend was also rated a success by the injured Paratroopers working on the team’s race cars.
“Obviously we’ve had a couple of ups and downs this weekend,” former Para Corporal John Price explained. “Derek’s car went down, but it couldn’t be helped: it’s just one of those things in motorport.
“This weekend I was in charge of jacking Rich’s car up, basically making sure everything with the car was alright.
Considering this was the first time our side of the garage had had its on car to work on at a race weekend, everything really went very smoothly.
“Obviously there were a couple of teething problems — Rich had never run the car before, and it was his first time out on track at a BTCC meeting this season — but really the car ran fine all weekend. A testament to the way it’s been built by the team. I’m pretty impressed with what we’ve achieved again.”
John’s sentiments were mirrored by one of the guys working on the other side of the garage.
“It went really, really well this weekend,” former Corporal Mike Lewis said. “It was obviously unfortunate that Derek’s engine went, but the other car competed well right through the weekend.
We achieved another goal, getting Car 2 through all three races this weekend. We’ll have both cars back out next time at Thruxton.
The team worked really well again this weekend; even better than we did at Brands hatch, so it confirms we’re improving as a unit, and we’re getting faster and stronger.
I’m loving it. It’s terrific.”
All photos by Jakob Ebrey