Tom Onslow-Cole: Round 3 Race Report from Thruxton
We were delighted to catch up with an elated Tom Onslow-Cole following a simply sublime display of driving at one of his favourite tracks; Thruxton. With a double podium to show for his efforts and a 4th in Race 3, it’s fair to say that our man had a decent weekend at the office!
Tom, first of all, well done from everybody at Milltek. Safe to say the car is where you need it to be now, then?
Thank you! For sure, the car feels much better now. There was big jump from Brands to Donington, so the jump needed to get competitive at Thruxton was much smaller. Looking at the data from Dono, and talking to the other drivers, it was clear that we were one of the few cars that could go flat through the Craner Curves there. The Passat CC seems to be very good through the high speed, loose radius turns, due to its longer wheelbase. You have to exploit it when the track conditions are right. The Hondas, for instance, are much nimbler through tighter, more complex corners. Luckily, Thruxton is a fast track, and it really plays to the technical advantages of the car.
Talk us through each of the races...
Qually felt quite good from the outset. We knew from FP2 that we were 6th fastest overall, but as always, it was a case of seeing just how far people would move forward from practise. We don’t really have a full on ‘qually trim’ for the CC yet, as many other teams do, but I was able to find another 7/10ths from the practise sessions. It was our first time in the top ten, which made the team happy, but, I have to admit, I came into the pits with a bit of a long face though.. I felt as if I had over-driven a little and lost some time in the first complex. It’s a hard track, and you only really get one lap, so I was cross with myself. I was sure we could have had a top 5 place, there!
Race 1 yielded a great start from the line with a productive first lap. I managed to make quite a few opportunistic moves in the complex and then got past Turkington at Church. I then set my sights on catching and passing Tordoff before moving on to get Plato right in front of me. It was a real ‘ying and yang’ situation, with his car being strong where mine was weak – and vice versa. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get past him, however. At this point I was running 4th – right up until the last lap where Jordan got a puncture, moving us up to the podium.
How did it feel to get the car into the top three on just the third meeting?
It felt great – obviously, but the weird thing is, the second of elation you get is followed immediately afterwards by a self-imposed expectation that you want more of the same. You set a bar for yourself. Believe it or not, my first thought immediately afterwards was ‘Now I need to keep pushing and make sure I catch the Hondas!’
Race 2 transpired to be the most satisfying – and from the off I wanted to achieve a result on my own merits, rather than being gifted a podium from someone else’s misfortune. During the race I could see Shedden and Jordan literally scything through the pack at a rate of knots. I was third behind Jason at this point, and I knew that I would need to get them behind me to keep the pressure off a little. This meant getting past Jason, so I made sure I got my nose alongside him at Goodwood and made the place. He then become the perfect unwilling rear gunner for me as he was suddenly about five cars wide for the Hondas, giving me the breathing space I needed to try and catch Matt. Ultimately the Hondas broke through though, and we were soon sliding and bumping through the faster parts of the circuit as I did everything I could to keep them behind me. To me though, that’s when BTCC is at its best. It was great fun, and it felt good to be back in the room, defending on merit. It was easily the most fun I’ve had in racecar so far this season! It also felt good to be in contention with the Hondas. When you think of the development time they’ve had, I think it reflects well on Team HARD that we were up there with them.
Race 3 proved to be a little quieter.. which let’s face it, wasn’t hard! I got a reasonable start from our reverse grid slot of 8th. I simply got my head down and worked up getting past people. By the end of Lap 1, I was 6th. By Lap 2, I was 5th and by Lap 3 I was up to 4th behind Smith’s Honda and the two MGs. Shedden, Neal and Jordan were begin and pushing me hard and I was able to hold them back for a little while, but finally dropped back to 7th as I was really having to push the car and fight the power steering. I tried to make up ground on Tordoff ahead, but it wasn’t happening. Then luckily, another puncture, this time for Jason, meant that I was able to reel Sam in and get up to 5th.. and then capitalising on a tiny mistake from Smith meant I was able to nip through at the chicane and up to 4th. All good clean fun!
All in all, it was a great weekend for the team. Second overall on points, winning the first two Indy results and we’re now 9th overall and 5th in the Independents.. and a pole for Jack on Race 3! A good day to be in Team HARD. Now, I just need to deliver you all more of the same for Oulton Park!