Round 1 – Donington Park: A Promising Start at BTCC Season Opener at Donington Park

Apr 30, 2024News

Restart Racing, the newest contender in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, made their series debut this weekend at Donington Park, battling through challenging conditions to secure points and a solid start to their campaign. 

With a significant delay due to intense rainfall that turned the circuit into more of a lake, the team’s drivers, Chris Smiley and rookie Scott Sumpton, had to wait to make use of their promising 12th and 15th starting positions for the opening race of the season.

The first race of the day was characterised by slippery conditions and a lengthy safety car period after the Ford Focus of Sam Osborne went off and damaged the safety barrier at the craner curves. Smiley, returning to the BTCC for the first time since 2021 fought valiantly in the midfield and faced challenges with understeer but finished in 15th to bring home the team’s first point in its debut race. Sumpton’s debut race saw him first hard and ending the race in 17th place. 

It was a delayed start and a wet opening race of the day at Donington Park. Photograph: JEP

As conditions improved, the second race saw the drivers contending with a dry track which seemed hardly believable considering the earlier downpours and delays. Smiley showcased his fantastic wheel-to-wheel skills by engaging in several intense battles, moving up to 14th by the end of race after a rather sweet move on Daryl DeLeon up at Coppice. However, Sumpton’s race was cut short due to overheating issues with the hybrid system and the team asked him to retire as a precautionary measure. 

The final race proved to be a tough one for the team. An early incident after DeLeon was stuck in the gravel trap required another early safety car, reshuffling the pack shortly after the start. Smiley was making good progress until he was forced to retire from radiator damage caused by debris from the Ford of Osbourne. Meanwhile, Sumpton, overcoming earlier setbacks in race 2, demonstrated his growing confidence by finishing in 16th place and narrowly missing out on his first points of the season.

Scott narrowly missed points in the final race of the day. Photograph: JEP

Overall, a positive debut weekend in the UK’s premier motorsport series for the team. Points and more knowledge of the teams Cupra Leon will be taken to Brands Hatch (12/13th May) where Restart Racing will be looking to build on its results at Donington Park.

Chris Smiley said: “So guys, first day back and it started off quite well in the rain as we made a bit of progress. Race 2 we made another bit of progress and was our first proper race in the dry and in the last 5-6 laps we were as fast as any car on the track really which is positive. 

“Unfortunately race 3 we were making more progress but bits were falling off one of the Fords and the parts that fell off went right through my radiator and unfortunately we had to retire the car. 

“A bit of a frustrating end of the day but it’s great to be back. We’ve got some things to work on but that’s expected. We’re looking forward to Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks time and we’ll see you all there!”

Scott Sumpton said: “So my first British Touring Car Championship weekend here at Donington Park and what a whirlwind it’s been, there have been a lot of emotions.

“It was really difficult today with the first race being delayed and it was extremely wet in race 1. But we learnt a lot which was great. It was a shame in race 2, we had a problem with the hybrid coolant so the motor started getting too hot which was disappointing but I kept my head held high going into race 3.

“We had a really good race 3 and got to P16. I had some great battles, learnt lots and I’m ready to go into Brands Hatch fighting.” 

Ben Taylor, Team Principle said: “A really productive weekend here at Donington Park. It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us at the team over the winter and during pre-season but I’m delighted with how everyone has handled the challenge.

“The weekend itself threw as many scenarios at us as it could and whilst it was a challenge it’s the perfect way to learn in this championship.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team, we’ve come here, been competitive, scored some points and learned so much more about the Cupra Leon which we will take into Brands Hatch in a couple of weekends time.”

 

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