David Bartrum and the Motorbase Performance team had a successful 2012 campaign as the team secured victories and titles in various categories.
Talking to TouringCars.net about the campaign, Bartrum looks back over the 2012 season, one which saw the team break new ground and become a constructor themselves.
2012 saw the team run under the Redstone Racing name in the British Touring Car Championship while they returned to the British GT paddock having withdrawn from the BTCC supporting Porsche Carrera Cup GB at the end of the 2011 season.
Looking back over the 2012 BTCC campaign as a whole, Bartrum admits that there were a few highlights in particular.
“There were a few this year,” explains Bartrum. “With BTCC they would have to be seeing the build of our NGTC car over the summer and sneaking it in to Snetterton without anyone in the paddock knowing too much about it and then seeing it run for the first time.
“As the first race car Motorbase Performance have built from design, build and then developing it in to a race winner at Silverstone two months later was very special! Also Aron’s development throughout the season culminating into his first win at Brands Hatch was great.”
The return to the British GT Championship was a successful one for Bartrum and the Motorbase Performance squad as long term Motorbase driver Michael Caine and Danielle Perfetti secured the drivers’ title in the season finale at Donington Park.
“With GT it is obviously the final round at Donington where we sealed the Championship, which was a brilliant feeling for all of us,” added Bartrum.
With the British Touring Car Championship and British GT Championship clashing in places during 2012 (Oulton Park and Croft clashed with Rockingham and Brands Hatch), how easy was it for Bartrum to run both squads on a weekend when the two Championship’s clashed?
“To be honest it was quite straight forward,” he continued. “Fundamentally there are two separate teams who are very capable. There were two clashes, which was a bit of a road trip for me, as I with both!
“I started the weekend with the GT team and then came to the BTCC on the Saturday evening for race day.
“With GT’s the majority of the work is done on the Saturday and the Sunday race should be relatively straight forward, whereas in the BTCC there is a lot more going on throughout Sunday with three races in the one day and taking care of our guests in hospitality,” he concluded.
The BTCC side of the Motorbase Performance team started off the campaign with three S2000 Ford Focuses for Mat Jackson, Liam Griffin and Aron Smith, the latter starting his first full campaign in the BTCC.
Jackson took two wins in the S2000 car before the mid season break while Smith took his maiden victory at Brands Hatch in the season finale weekend. The summer break however saw Motorbase introduce their new NGTC Ford Focus for Jackson.
How much of a challenge did this provide the team during the second half of the campaign?
“It was a huge challenge to build the NGTC car but one which everyone involved got a great deal of pride and pleasure in from seeing it through,” explained the former racer on the build of the NGTC Focus.
“Running on race weekends with two different specifications seemed from the outside and mostly from the inside like no more of a challenge at all. However there were logistical issues which were overcome with ease due to the staff working here.
“It’s not ideal as the drivers feedback on S2000 lost Mat’s input and Mat and his crew were on their own with their feedback, but the team and drivers showed that that caused little hindrance with a race win from Mat at the penultimate round and Aron at the final round in different cars,” added Bartrum.
With Smith joining the team for 2012, Bartrum admitted that there were some difficulties due to infrastructure of the garages. Having run a three car team at the back end of 2011 – with Michael Caine and then James Thompson joining the team – the team were set up for the challenge.
“Running three cars does offer up some difficulties as most facilities are set up for two cars, like the trucks, garages etc,” he explained when asked about the three car team.
“We ran three cars successfully at the end of 2011 and carried that through to this year. The three drivers get on very well which helps and the crew of those three cars are the same. There are no ego’s (well nearly no ego’s) in this team and that’s why it works so well.”
The switch to the NGTC car had been planned prior to the start of the campaign with the introduction during the final two rounds of the campaign, at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
As Bartrum explains, the switch happened earlier due to other on track incidents: “Even before the season began we had an idea that finances permitting we would look into building an NGTC car.
“Despite TOCA’s promise of parity it was clear this wouldn’t be the case because of the tyres. In dry conditions the S2000 cars would always struggle over a race distance because of the tyres. We had planned to build the car slowly during the breaks and bring the NGTC car out for maybe the final two rounds.
“Then Liam had an incident at Croft (which wasn’t his fault I would add!) this caused a financial situation where it wasn’t worth building the car by using up our spares and leaving us short for the rest of the season, so we cracked on day & night with the project to bring it forward 2 months.”
The Snetterton weekend saw the NGTC car makes it’s on track debut with Jackson at the wheel, although this wasn’t confirmed until the early hours of Saturday morning.
“Once we decided the car would run we very openly stated the remainder of 2012 would be a testing exercise for 2013,” admitted Bartrum. “Any results which came along would therefore be a bonus. We hoped we would begin to be competitive in our 3rd or 4th meeting. So my expectations were not for results but to hope for reliability so we could develop. “
Jackson went on to secure a trio of top eight finishes in Norfolk, which exceeded all expectations for the team considering how late the car was finished.
“The team far exceeded those expectations at Snetterton and the car ran relatively faultlessly and competitively with three top eight finishes. Mat was given instructions to treat the weekend as a shakedown/test session and not to damage the car. He did exactly that and by race three was racing with everyone in a podium position for much of the race.”
Ahead of the 2013 British Touring Car Championship, a number of changes have been announced, with tougher penalties for drivers’ who constantly get involved in on track incidents, a new ‘option’ tyre plus changes to the boost equalisation methodology.
“As ever the BTCC looks in great health and with the minor tweaks to the regulations it should be as exciting as ever,” continued Bartrum.
Looking ahead to 2013 for the team as a whole, Bartrum confirmed what the teams’ intentions are: “We plan to run at least 2 NGTC cars and 2 GT cars in 2013, there are other options that are arising which we are looking into.”
He also confirmed that if there was a situation which arose which would make sense for the team, both commercially and competitively, he’d investigate the situation.
“One thing I pride our team on is its flexibility and if something crops up which makes commercial and competitive sense then I will look at it and adapt if I think it’s the right thing for Motorbase. The same happened last winter when we changed from Porsche Carrera Cup to GT. Turns out that was a great idea. Any way you look at it 2013 is looking good,” sums up the popular team principal.
The 2013 British Touring Car Championship gets underway at Brands Hatch, Kent over the 30/31 March while the British GT Championship holds its opening rounds at Oulton Park, Cheshire the same weekend, with race day for the GT’s on Easter Monday.