Dan Welch and the Welch Motorsport team have been causing a number of shocks and upsets during their first year in the British Touring Car Championship.
Speaking exclusively to TouringCars.net after qualifying at Snetterton, Welch reflects on his first year within the BTCC, the highs, the lows and how the choice of car came about.
Welch’s debut in the BTCC came at Snetterton in 2011, with the Proton Gen-2 and with the parity issue in force, Welch feels that he was one of the easiest to keep tabs on.
“We were 8 – 10mph off at the end of 2011,” explains the 30 Year old. “We were being held back on power. We were easy to keep tabs on as we were one of the last entries.”
Looking back over the first 12 months, Welch has one personal highlight and that came earlier in the 2012 season.
“Oulton Park was good,” continues Welch. “We were still carrying problems at that point so to come away with a fourth place finish was good.
“We should be more consistent now as we are getting to the bottom of our problems.”
Welch also admitted that there are constant talks going on between themselves and Proton: “We need to get the podium monkey off our back. We don’t need to be quick though, just consistent.
“We aren’t doing any worse than the works Protons. There is constant dialogue between us and them (Proton) but things are constantly changing.”
As well as the high points to the season, Welch has had some lows – and one in particular springs to mind from the beginning of the 2012 campaign.
“So many, there have been more lows than highs,” reflects the #12 Proton Persona driver.
“The third race at Brands Hatch, I had just passed Matt Neal and up into the top five when I went off on oil and we ended up with damage to the front left and right as well as the rear left corner.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start the season.”
The NGTC regulations have made it easier for people like Welch to enter the series and the Proton which his team enters for him is their own project.
“We built our own car to fit the NGTC regulations,” explains Welch. “It is our own project and this means that we aren’t stuck and thus able to interpret the regulations.
“We looked at the regulations and found that the Proton was one of the shortest allowed – until Honda built their Civic.
“Originally we were going to run a SEAT Exeo with help from SEAT Sport but once the NGTC regulations were confirmed, the project was scrapped as it meant that the Exeo would have to be Rear Wheel Drive, due to the engine bay layout – like the Rob Austin Racing Audi.”
Since the car first hit the track at Snetterton last year, Welch explains how much of it has changed since then.
“Only the roof panels are the same, the body shape is completely different. We are a family run team; we run customer cars elsewhere in Endurance series out in Spain, Germany. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Welch also confirmed that the team could run a second car if required: “We are all equipped to run a second car but it doesn’t exist, we can’t afford to have a £240k touring car sitting around.
“If we had to, we could get a second car built up in 2 months. Building the first car is always the longest part of the process. All we would have to do to get a second car ready is repeat and copy the designs from the first car. We have all the spares ready.”
“A rear wheel bearing broke which left us with lots of play and this made the car hard to drive,” added Welch. “We set our best time while the car was unstable and when we went out for our second run, the car was undriveable.
“If we hadn’t have had the issue, the second row was possible. Jason (Plato) and Frank (Wrathall) were untouchable.”
Due to the tightness of the finances within the team, Welch also explained that there have been a few sacrifices made.
“Since the car was built, we haven’t had a single test – all of our testing has been done on a race weekend. We were in attendance Media Day but didn’t run the car.
“We also don’t use our full tyre allowance; we didn’t use new tyres in the second Free Practice session this weekend.”
Welch is predicting one person for the Championship this season: “Jason Plato. Honda has the best car but I think it will be Plato.
“I’d also like to see myself winning the last 15 races,” joked Welch.
Welch took a fifth, 17th and 12th in the three races at Snetterton, results which leave him 16th in the overall drivers’ standings and 13th in the Independent drivers’ standings ahead of rounds 19, 20 and 21 which take place at Knockhill over the 25/26 August.