Toyota saw Independent driver Frank Wrathall secure his first podium finish of the season in the final race of the day at Thruxton, to complete a strong weekend for the Dynojet driver.
Wrathall had started his weekend off with a top three qualifying position which he converted into his season best results – a fifth in race one, fourth in race two before working his way up the order in the third race to secure third overall and the Independent honours. His results from Thruxton has moved him into the outright top ten for the drivers’ Championship and seventh in the Independents, while Dynojet are seventh in the HiQ teams’ Championship.
Wrathall ran third during the opening race but was unable to keep the BMW of Rob Collard and MG of Jason Plato behind him and he said about the race: “Everything was difficult about that race, Visibility was terrible: even one car ahead created so much spray that you could see nothing. It’s just nice to come home in one piece.”
Wrathall could have had fourth from Collard had it not been for a race stoppage due to an accident at the first corner. “I’m not too disappointed,” he added. “Collard was struggling ahead of me and I think I would have got the better of him, but at the same time Gordon Shedden’s Honda was coming up fast behind and might have passed me, so I think fifth is where we would have ended up. We struggled yesterday in the wet, so I am made up to finish fifth; it shows how much progress we have made with the wet set-up.”
Starting fifth for the second race, Wrathall was able to go one better as he brought the #11 Avensis home fourth overall and second Independent.
The race was started behind the safety car due to the spray at the Thruxton circuit and once the race got underway, Wrathall had lost fifth to Gordon Shedden, but he regained the position from Collard on the sixth lap.
He then had a multi lap battle with the Vauxhall of Dave Newsham and he took fourth with three laps remaining, and he then chased down race one winner Mat Jackson for the final step on the podium.
“It took a couple of laps for the Toyota to come on,” said Frank, “but once it did it was absolutely flying. I loved every minute of that race. It’s just a shame I didn’t have a little bit longer to mount a proper attack on Mat.”
Wrathall rewarded his loyal fans in the third race with a drive from sixth on the grid to third overall and his first podium finish of the season. He held fourth during the early stages before moving into third when Tony Gilham made a mistake.
“Then I could see the headlights coming up behind me, and saw from the pit boards that it was Jason Plato,” said Frank. “Obviously you then have that on your mind; he’s quick, first of all, and he doesn’t mess about when making manoeuvres. I was really struggling at the end of the race with the tyres and he was edging closer to me. But there was no way he was coming past: I made sure that he wasn’t coming through.”
The twenty five year old concluded by saying: “I’m just absolutely delighted for everyone, the team and all the sponsors and especially my dad. We’ve come through a tough time and to end up on the podium is fantastic.”
The other Toyota runners, Speedworks Motorsport team-mates Adam Morgan and Tony Hughes had tougher weekends, with Morgan in particular being denied a career best finish.
Having shown strong pace during the free practice sessions Saturday morning, the 2011 Ginetta GT Supercup Champion could only manage fourteenth in qualifying after being caught out by the changeable conditions and the red flags.
Round seven of the season saw Morgan struggle with the wet conditions plus an overheating problem on the Avensis while the second race of the day saw him struggle with an electronics issue and the issue cost him two visits to the pits and wound up four laps down and unclassified.
Round nine, the third race of the day saw Morgan on course for a career best result before a low fuel pressure issue forced him to stop with half a lap remaining.
Having lined up twentieth, Morgan was thirteenth after two laps and inside the top ten after ten laps. He was running ninth when the gremlins returned and this meant he lost out on a career best result, and what could have been a top seven finish.
“It’s just one of those things,” said a philosophical Adam, who might well have finished as high as seventh had the gremlins not intervened. “I got up ninth, which I think shows that we can race with the pack; hopefully we have proved that point. With a bit more luck we will be all right…Bad things happen in threes, and we’ve had three pretty dismal rounds, so here’s hoping for better to come.”
Tony Hughes saw his points scoring run come to an end at Thruxton but was pleased to have finished all three races. He was an unclassified finisher in race one after losing time in the pits, but he bounced back to finish nineteenth in race two and sixteenth in the third race.
“The weather conditions have been so bad,” he said. “The Toyota drives well in them, in all fairness, but it’s a question of how far you dare take it. Go just a little too far and you are pirouetting across the grass, like I did in race one. I’m just pleased to have been still running at the end of all three today.”
There is now a six week break before rounds ten, eleven and twelve of the 2012 British Touring Car Championship, which takes place at Oulton Park in Cheshire over the 9/10 June.