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United Kingdom FlagTom Onslow-Cole: Round 2 Race Report from Donington

Onslow-Cole in BTCC VW Passat CC: click to enlarge

Tom, the car looked much more competitive this time around. You’ve obviously been making some changes!

Oh yes! We have all been working very hard to get things right for Donington. We still have a few wrinkles to iron out, but the car came to the circuit very much improved from its ‘launch spec’ at Brands.

Free practise started well.. It felt like we had all made good steps forward. When my dash pinged up that the car had run quicker than the best time on media day, I have to say that I did break into a smile.. Problem was, everyone else was much quicker too! We were around eight tenths off the pace, but I hoped we could use FP2 to tweak that. It wasn’t to be sadly. Everything we tried in that session made the car slower! It was suffering big oscillations in the corners and as I went onto the power and it looked and felt very unsettled. We tried everything, but ultimately, we returned to the set-up we had in FP1 for the Qually. We couldn’t fix the problem with the time we had, so it was a case of working – and driving – around it. I managed to get 11th in the end, so I was hopeful I could battle forward and get into the top ten.

The forecast suggested rain for Race 3, so that was at the back of our minds for set-up and tyre choice. We really need to get more data on the soft tyre, so we knew we would need to get as much test information as we could over the course of the meeting. The soft tyre went on for Race 1, but on the set-up we have now, it wasn’t getting anywhere near hot enough, and I was struggling for grip. The result is that I ended up falling back through the field to 13th. The upside of this was that I ended up in a superb, clean scrap with Collard, which got us loads of airtime! All good, and very enjoyable, particularly because I came out on top! Race 2 started much better and I got away and managed to make a good few places and into the top 10. Tyres were still a little sketchy and I managed a big drift at the old hairpin, up the inside of Rob Austin and right across the middle of the pack. Weirdly, the car got comparatively quicker as the race went on. Our damper setting aren’t quite right yet, and are a little soft, meaning that the tyres aren’t getting too stressed and come back to you near the end of the race. It meant I was able to finish in 10th, which was all good. It felt like we were progressing.

Race 3 saw the reverse grid giving me pole after my friend David Brabham managed to pick it for me! I have to say, I had mixed feelings about this, as it still feels very early on in the cars life. She’s only four weeks old! But, we were one of only two cars in the top ten on the hard tyre, so I felt we could do something. As I said before, the other teams clearly have the softer tyre sussed, so I was having to defend from the outset. I dropped to 7th, but was able to claw back to 6th and get some great points and the tyres came back. Had a superb battle with Aron Smith – with a few battle scars to really christen the CC properly. I lost a sill in the end, but you can’t beat a good old fashioned dog fight! Knowing how well Motorbase has got that car to work, and the fact we were living with it, made me realise that we had turned a corner from a development point of view.

Going forward, what else will you be doing to the car?

We’re still running a little bit overweight, which needs to be sorted. Areas like the battery will address that, as will looking again at the bodywork, some of which is quite thick, and streamlining and optimising there. There’s plenty of development left to do. The dampers will be re-valved for the next round, for sure. The car is starting to feel competitive now, and we’ll soon be able to contend. At Brands we were just part of the traffic, but at Dono, I was able to attack and now we’re able to get in the mix. Roll on Thruxton!

Catch Tom at Thruxton – the UK’s fastest circuit - on the 4th and 5th of May.