Dextra Racing’s Alex Martin says he is well aware of the challenge ahead of him as he prepares for his maiden season in the British Touring Car Championship.
Martin, who will compete in a Ford Focus in 2015 with backing from his family firm, enjoyed an extensive pre-season testing schedule in preparation for his BTCC bow, although he was forced to miss two days of running due to a recurrence of an old injury.
Speaking at the championship’s annual Media Day event, the former Ferrari Challenge racer was nevertheless delighted to be firmly involved in the series and did not believe the injury presented any major concerns.
“We haven’t tested yet today but the car is great,” said Martin to TouringCars.Net. “We’ve got a fresh engine for the season and everything’s running well.
“I missed two tests because of the injury but it’ll be alright, it won’t slow me down – I might just be in a bit of discomfort.
“It’s great fun. Everybody has been really pleasant. You see people on TV and you think there’s always a bit of controversy but in the paddock it’s like a big family, everyone’s really nice, everyone half knows who you are anyway.”
Martin’s entry was initially to be run as a satellite operation to Motorbase Performance’s before the experienced campaigners were forced to withdraw from the first five rounds of the season for financial reasons, with Team Parker Racing – who had managed Martin’s previous racing efforts – taking over the running of Dextra Racing.
While Martin’s plans remain unaffected, he spoke of his disappointment that the team would be absent for the first half of the season.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “It was always going to be this crew running my car, so the people I’m working with haven’t changed, but what has is that pool of knowledge and experience that we would have gained from them.
“I’ve spoken to them all and if there was any chance that they could be on the grid, they would be here. Dave [David Bartrum] is a racer through and through and Mat Jackson has already asked if I would like him to be on the pitwall with me and of course I would, I’ll take any help I can get, I’d be stupid not to.
“Bring back Motorbase – if anyone is out there and wants some bloody good advertising with a great team, they’re the guys. Hopefully they’ll be back as soon as possible.”
After testing at Thruxton last month, Martin had spoken cautiously on his chances but despite missing two runs through the recurring injury, he insisted that his outlook for the coming season was far more optimistic after a breakthrough run at Brands Hatch.
“I thought I was going to be a backmarker for a year,” he said. “That test has really changed things around; something clicked and I was just really ecstatic after it.
“Everyone has an inkling [of where they’ll be] because of lap times that we’ve done but they don’t mean anything really; you have to be consistent and you have to be able to duplicate that time under pressure.
“The team are telling me that a top-half [finish] would be like a race win at Round One for us because we’re a new team, with a new car and driver.
“My own private ambitions are obviously a lot higher and I think that every racer’s is and that’s what I am through and through so I want to do as well as I can but I have to be realistic and take the championship with respect.”
Martin also added that while he felt that there were some expectations on his shoulders to perform in a proven car, he was more focused on establishing himself in the series and approaching the competition with the right level of respect.
“There is that element of pressure,” he affirmed. “The car is one that moves forwards – it may not be the fastest in qualifying but it’s definitely up there at the end of the race. That’s a positive, because it’s the end of the race when people go off, when you’re tired and it‘s hot and everything’s at its peak, you’re trying to hang on. It’s nice to know you’re in a car that has more in the bag at that point.
“My car finished fourth last year and although I don’t expect to do that, I’ve got to live up to expectations.
“This is a long-term plan, this isn’t just one season, so we are going to take this year with a pinch of salt – we’re not going to walk away from any opportunity you know if we’re up in the top ten, if we’re a frontrunner then it’ll be amazing.
“We have a lot of respect, the whole team for the whole grid, we know the level’s high. I think it’s a foolish man who comes into this championship thinking that they’re going to dominate. It just doesn’t happen, it never has happened, it’s one of the great things about touring cars.”