The Support Our Paras Racing debut season in the British Touring Car Championship ended at Brands Hatch with the injured ex-Paratroopers again highlighting the major steps forward they’ve taken this year.
In what unquestionably has been a baptism of fire for the TENA Men-backed team, the Paras united to rebuild the front-end of Derek Palmer’s Infiniti in less than 90 minutes.
Having delivered an impressive drive in the opening race on the 2.4-mile Grand Prix Circuit, working his way through from 27th on the grid to finish 21st, the 28-year-old from Lesmahagow was upbeat ahead of the day’s second race.
“The car feels really good,” Palmer who, like the Paras, made his BTCC debut this season, said immediately afterwards. “We’ve made a number of changes to the rear of the car, which means it’s now totally different to drive, and I’ve adapted my driving style to maximise the best from it.
“The main thing is I feel we’ve made a big step in the right direction. I enjoyed the race, got a good result and now we look forward to the final two races of the season.”
Unfortunately, after lining up 24th on the grid for Race 2, and eyeing a potential top 15 finish, Palmer’s outing lasted less than a lap before he was punted off by the Volkswagen of former champion Alain Menu.
“Again I made two or three positions off the start, which was good,” Palmer continued. “Menu was behind me, and when everyone came down into Clearways, the fast right-hander entering the start-finish straight, he just outbraked himself and wiped me out in the process.
That damage amounted to around 20 new parts, according to team principal Derek Palmer Snr.
“The damage was extensive,” he explained. “Front wings, front bumper, radiator cowling, the monster bar on the front: they were all destroyed. It was a major job for the boys.
“But they pulled it all apart, rebuilt the front end of the car from the engine forward and had it ready for Race 3, and all in less than 90 minutes. Around 20 new parts had to be introduced to the car, so it was an expensive rebuild.”
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.
And John Price, one of the injured ex-Paras — watched by Lieutenant General John Lorimer, The Colonel Commandant of The Parachute Regiment, who made a special visit to support the team — was one of the first to get on with the repairs to the damaged Support Our Paras Racing car.
“We may have been new to motorsport and the BTCC when we were here in April for the season-opener, but we learn fast, and we work perfectly as a team, especially when we’re under pressure.
“The car looked a mess when it arrived back at the garage after it was taken out in Race 2, but we just took a deep breath and got on with it. We were never in any doubt we’d have the car back on the grid for Race 3.”
Staring from 30th and last place on the grid, Palmer battled through to eventually finish 23rd.
“It’s testament to the guys that we were even out for Race 3,” the Zurich-based scot said. “Sure it’s been a baptism of fire for the team this year, but we’ve all learned so much and we’ll be back bigger, better and even stronger in 2016.”
Photos: Copyright Jakob Ebrey