Derek Palmer Jr was content after his first qualifying run in the British Touring Car Championship for Support Our Paras Racing, and admitted that returning to the garage at the end of the session was ’emotional’.
Having missed out on running during the Donington Park media day test session last week, Palmer is the team’s sole on-track representative at Brands Hatch this weekend with the team unable to prepare their second Infiniti Q50 in time.
But despite only completing a handful of laps during their shakedown in the week, Palmer ran in each of Saturday’s sessions at the Kent circuit, and eventually qualified a respectable 2.198s slower than Andy Priaulx who claimed pole position.
And reflecting on the day’s events, Palmer was delighted to see the team’s plans reach fruition.
“I’m really proud of the guys and what we’ve achieved,” he said to TouringCars.Net. “From five months ago where we had an idea to being here with the car…the guys have been great, it’s really professional.
“It was definitely emotional when I got back in, to see everyone congratulation each other and slapping each other on the back.”
Saturday’s track time marked Palmer’s first significant stint in the car, with only a handful of laps charted during the team’s shakedown.
With that in mind, the Scotsman was pleased with the outcome of qualifying, although he felt that he could have wrung more from the car.
“We only did five or six laps at Mallory Park. We came here and what I really wanted to achieve in FP1 and FP2 before the weekend was to do what we ended up doing in qualifying and learn a bit more about the car but unfortunately with the way the weather played out that made it extremely difficult.
“We took a big step between FP1 and FP2, and then FP2 and qualifying so I’m extremely proud of what the guys have done – we could have gone quicker, for sure, we were on a better lap but it got a bit spoilt by someone going off at Druids but that’s the way it is around here, it’s such a tight track and there are so many cars so it’s difficult to get it right.
“I think the optimum lap would have been six or seven tenths quicker than that which would have put us a fair bit higher but I’m happy with it,” he continued. “I didn’t manage to quite get the lap in but you win some and you lose some. As the session went on we were getting quicker but things were going on in front of us as well.”
With the team only running one car this weekend, they were forced to choose who of Palmer and teammate Richard Hawken would drive the Infiniti.
Although Palmer was pleased to have been given the nod, he said that regardless of who had been chosen, the project was his main concern.
“This project is about the paratroopers. We discussed it as a team and took a decision based on the technical difficulties that we had and me having run slightly more laps and that was it – Richard was very fair about it.
“Obviously as a driver you want to be in the car – this morning when it was damp I wasn’t sure how I felt about being the test dummy – and as a team we’re disappointed but we’ll have both cars out for Donington certainly.”
And with the team still learning about the car, the 27 year-old insisted that continuing to rack up mileage was his priority for today’s races.
“Getting inside the top 20 and getting involved would be great,” said Palmer. “Getting to the end and making sure we get to the finish and learn as much from the car as we can is important.”