Support Our Paras Racing and Derek Palmer battled to a series of season-best results in their debut year in the British Touring Car Championship. The team left Snetterton with its best overall finish, 15th, and with Palmer having moved into second place in the race for the prestigious Jacks Sears Trophy for BTCC rookies.
The Mallory Park-based TENA Men-backed 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.
“Yeh it’s been a great day for the team,” Palmer — who finished top rookie in the day’s second race, sandwiched between two second places — said. “But the frustrating thing is, it could have been even better.”
In the day’s opening race, under cloudless blue Norfolk skies, Palmer was on course for a comfortable top 20 finish when his Infiniti was tapped into a spin by Rob Holland’s Toyota.
Palmer, the 28-year-old Zurich-based Scot from Lesmahagow nursed his damaged car home to a frustrating 23rd.
“It’s frustrating, but I guess that’s touring car racing,” he explained. “It was annoying, but Rob and I spoke afterward. It was just one of those unfortunate racing incidents: he didn’t have anywhere to go apart from tapping me.
“Unfortunately the contact spun me and I ended up losing four or five places. Without the spin I’d probably have finished anywhere between 16th and 19th, it was so close.”
Starting 25th, Palmer took advantage of the day’s chaotic second race to deliver his, and the team’s, best result of the season finishing 15th overall, and top rookie, despite his car having no power-steering.
“I did the whole 12-lap race, on the 2.96-mile circuit, without power steering after I felt it go on the warm-up lap,” Palmer continued. “It was knackering.
“I was stewed in the car in the opening race, so thankfully we ran with the windows open a bit in Race 2, otherwise I think I’d have passed out with the effort.
“It was carnage out there over the opening couple of laps. It was a case of making sure I didn’t get caught up in somebody else’s accident.
“But it’s a real pity. I’m obviously stoked to have got our best finish of the season, and score our first overall championship points having finished 15th, but it should really have been 13th … or even better.”
And there was further frustration for Palmer in the day’s finale when, having started 15th and holding 16th, his Infiniti was nudged into a spin by the Honda of championship contender Gordon Shedden on the second lap.
The impact spun Palmer’s Infiniti which was then hit on the right-hand side damaging the steering and demoting the Scot to 23rd.
“Shedden was trying to come through the pack, having started from 26th on the grid, but I had nowhere else to go at the part of the circuit where he caught me,” Palmer explained. “You can’t really get out of the way.
“Obviously I’m not going to hold him up, because he’s fighting for the championship, but there was nowhere for me to go.
“Once turned, I then got clattered on the right-hand side and the impact damaged the car’s steering: that dropped me back from 16th to 25th.
“It was a pity, because I’d made a good start from 15th and was settling into the race. Then the car was hit and damaged.”
To compound Palmer’s misery, having fought back to 21st and eyeing another top 20 finish, his car then suffered a front-right puncture two laps from the end.
“It was a pretty miserable end to the race,” Palmer continued, “but I managed to get the car back to the pits and the Paras quickly changed the wheel.
“They got me out and I ended up finishing 23rd, which is frustrating given the fact I was 16th before my car was rammed up the rear. Overall it was a pretty difficult Race 3.
“But we scored points this weekend, notched our best finish of the season with 15th in Race 2, and I’ve moved up to second in the race for the Jack Sears Trophy.
“Though I’m disappointed at the moment, when I reflect back on the weekend, I know I’ll be pleased with what we achieved.”
Photos: Copyright Jakob Ebrey