Mixed fortunes for Avensis racers at Oulton

Toyota’s three independent racers endured a mixed weekend at Oulton Park as the battle for Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship honours resumed today after a brief early-summer break.

Dynojet Racing’s Frank Wrathall secured the best finish of the weekend among the Toyota men with a solid drive through the field to ninth in race three, while Tony Hughes headed the Speedworks Motorsport challenge by scoring points in each of the three races; the first time he had secured a triple score since joining the grid at the start of last season. Team-mate Adam Morgan endured a more trying weekend, however, with a series of incidents forcing him to retire from all three races.

Qualifying on Saturday saw Frank emerge as the quickest Avensis driver as he battled back from two difficult free practice sessions to qualify his car seventh on the grid. In the opening race of the day he ran solidly inside the top 10 before getting caught up in a collision between two other cars and having to take a trip across the grass in avoidance. Forced to pit to have grass removed from the radiator, Frank rejoined to take the flag 12th for a points finish.

Another trip across the grass led to a further pit stop in race two and left Frank 17th and with work to do in the final race, but he survived a chaotic final encounter to bring his car to the finish in ninth place.

“A top 10 finish is a good way to end what has been a pretty challenging day to be honest,” said Wrathall. “We qualified well yesterday but we lacked a bit of pace in race one and two today, although the incidents didn’t help us. It was all a bit chaotic in race three but I stayed out of trouble to pick up the points and it has helped us move up a place, to ninth in the championship.”

For Tony Hughes, Oulton Park was easily his strongest weekend to date in the BTCC, although he gave himself a tough job by qualifying 22nd. A solid drive in the opening race saw him gradually work his way up the order despite contact from another car tipping him into a spin at the Island Hairpin. He took the flag 13th — his best result in the series — only to then go one better in race two and cross the line 12th. Completing a memorable weekend for the Stockport racer, Tony then finished the weekend with 14th place to give him a hat-trick of points finishes.

“Practice went OK but after qualifying I didn’t think I’d have been in a position to score points in all three races,” he said. “It was frustrating in race one that someone tried to use me as a brake but the car felt great and it was good to pick up points. It was strong again in race two and then in race three, I just wanted to bring the car home and not try to be a hero. The points are good but I was also a lot closer on the times throughout the races, which is a big positive.”

For Adam Morgan, however, Oulton Park turned out to be a weekend to forget despite an encouraging start with seventh place on the timesheets in both free practice sessions. He qualified 16th and Adam drove well in race one to take his Avensis into the top 10, but was then tipped into a spin on the final lap exiting the hairpin and was forced to retire. A sticking throttle as well as a brake issue then saw Adam spin out of race two while – having completed much of race three without a windscreen after an early spin – he was then forced to retire for a third time after a clash with the Audi of Will Bratt.

“It was a good day on Saturday but Sunday was one to forget,” he said. “Qualifying didn’t go to plan as we made a mistake with the tyres and that left us on the back foot. In terms of the results it’s been disastrous, but the positive is that we have showed some good pace and we’ve just got to build on that next time out.”

The next BTCC outing for the Toyota trio is at Croft, near Darlington, in a fortnight’s time.

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