The season is over.
All 30 rounds of the British Touring Car Championship are finished. It is done.
So how did the team do?
This is not the story of the final race weekend. There are endless reports on countless websites that can give you that story. What this is, is an overview of being in a team that is fighting for the championship.
Each weekend consists of 3 races and my driver, Sam, went in to the weekend leading the championship by 14 points. That may seem like a good advantage, but there were nine fellow competitors who could mathematically win, and 5 who were actually likely to put up a good fight. As a team, we had our work cut out, and so we got to it.
The ballast system meant Sam had maximum ballast for qualifying and race 1, which hampered the competitiveness of the car for these sessions. The 14-point lead was etched away up until the final race. The championship came down to two drivers – Sam (Tordoff) and Gordon (Shedden).
During the race, part of my role is to man the pitboard for Sam. The information we display is current track position and number of laps remaining. Laps remaining, with the exception of laps under safety car, is a simple countdown. I can keep track of that quite easily. Track position however, I can’t know. I don’t have easy access to the track television system, certainly not without running over to the race engineer’s pit perch. Sam’s race engineer often will update me on position as a race is ongoing, but there was a lot going on this weekend so it was, understandably, not a priority. So I devised a plan…
From the pit wall I can see in to the garage. In the garage are Sam’s friends and family. In particular, his sister and girlfriend. Their reactions give me an excellent indication of Sam’s progress throughout the race. Euphoria probably means he has gained a place. Despair probably means he’s lost one. So I kept an eye on them, adjusting the board as necessary, and counting cars as they passed to confirm I had it right. (Initiative like this is a great skill to develop –think how you can use a situation to resolve a problem!)
It got to the point where Gordon had made his way passed Sam. Sam didn’t make a mistake. The car was not under-performing. Gordon simply out-drove him. He was able to call on the years of experience and take advantage of track position. This put Sam and Gordon level in the championship standings, with Gordon going to win based on number of podiums. That would be a tough thing to swallow.
Somewhat fortunately, Gordon overtook the next car up the road, putting him 2 points ahead in the championship, giving him a clear lead.
And that is how the race finished.
So that’s the drama dealt with. The driver’s championship was decided. Sam came second by 2 points. What did that do to the team’s morale?
It was tough. For half of the season we had been leading the driver’s championship and then in the final race, it was snatched away. That was the feeling within the team.
For a few hours after the race, this shadow of defeat hung over us. Slowly though, slowly things changed. The attitude changed to “Hey, we came second! And only by 2 points! That is an awesome achievement!”. This was quickly followed by “We won the Team Championship and the Manufacturer’s Championship! That’s two out of three! We did great!”
There were team drinks late in to the night (and early in to the morning), where the team were positive and enjoying their victories. They acknowledged their achievements and enjoyed the success together. Drivers, mechanics, engineers, managers, caterers and hospitality all shared a drink, toasted and partied. It was a victory and it was a success.
This recovery from dejection to elation is so critical to making it in motorsport. The ability to acknowledge yourself and your team as successful by any real world standard will mean you are driven to come back. Winning is what you are at the track to do. And if you don’t achieve what you want, you must be able to dust yourself off and try again. Two out of three championships is a great success – that cannot be denied and should not be forgotten. The driver’s championship was so, so close and next year, the team will be back, better, stronger and more determined than ever to get three for three.
Watch this space…
Tom is an engineer working his way through the motorsport industry, sharing stories, anecdotes and lessons to help new engineers coming through the ranks.