Bobby Thompson believed he could have put his CUPRA on the front row of the grid in qualifying for the British Touring Car Championship season finale at Brands Hatch, although he ultimately had to settle for a season-best result of sixth.
Thompson was five tenths off the pace of pole-sitter Tom Ingram, although he was only just over a tenth of a second from potentially qualifying in second.
Sixth still represents Thompson’s best qualifying result of the year – his first time in the top ten – and is just one place short of his career-best obtained in 2020.
The 26-year-old thinks he could have gone even faster, although he went off on his best lap which scuppered his chances.
“In qualifying we were on for a very decent lap until I had a bit of an off,” said Thompson to TouringCars.Net. “I don’t think we’ve got Tingram pace, that was very fast – four tenths quicker, which is impressive.
“I definitely had pace for P2 and on one of the laps we were on for it until I got a little bit excited out the back and carried too much speed.
“The car is mega – it’s really good and I’m so happy for the boys for a strong year.”
The Greater London-based racer put his improvement in qualifying pace down to steady developments of the Team HARD CUPRA, which is now at the end of its second year in the championship.
“A big part of it is that we’re in year two of development. This is the newest car I’ve ever driven – when I look back through my career it’s been a matter of what I can get my hands on in terms of budget – I’ve always been in an old car.
“I don’t feel that I’m doing anything differently. Of course, I’ve got more experience going away and doing other stuff, but this weekend I don’t feel like I’m doing anything differently.
“The team is just getting more to grips with the car. This is a second year of development for this car and we’re up against cars on their fourth or fifth year of development, which is huge.
“I don’t want to say we don’t get enough track time, because we do – we get a lot on a race weekend.
“But we don’t get a lot of time to carry out trial and error, because the time we have got is so valuable, so if we cock something up it’s wasted time.
“We’ve been trying all sorts of different avenues with the car. We’ve gone down an avenue with the damping and it seems to be really working.
“After this weekend we carry on doing that until it doesn’t work anymore. But it’s working really well at the moment.
“I’ve got to give it to the boys, the car is proper. Where Team HARD were when I used to be here, we’d be happy with the top fifteen but we’re legitimately a top ten running car now, every weekend they give me that.
“Now it’s just playing catch up with development of the car.”