The final round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship took place at Brands hatch, where the rain did not stop Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan securing his first overall title at the Fawkham-based track, but aside from that, I was cordially invited by Ciceley Racing’s Adam Morgan to the Kent-based track to see the final battles that would end what was a fantastic championship all round.
It would also be a fond farewell to the car that had loyally served Adam rather well over the last two seasons, as his NGTC Toyota Avensis was set for its final hurrah of three action-packed races. Adam was also happy to provide an insight over the weekend’s action to us here at Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, which saw the same torrential conditions 12 months previously. The weather had also given the drivers something to think about early in proceedings, as the mixture of rainfall and sunshine gave the drivers limited running on the Dunlop slick tyres.
Adam explained how difficult it was, especially with the fact that the weather would play a factor in set-up and making the best of it: "It’s really been quite a difficult day, as there have been so many interruptions with both red flags and stoppages. Before qualifying, we only got 6 flying laps in the dry. It was a bit of the unknown going into qualifying, especially when we had to take a look at the data and make some changes for it."
Qualifying was a dry affair in the October sunshine that enveloped the Grand Prix configuration track, as the Indy Circuit was used at the very first round of the championship. All the drivers were pushing as hard as ever, especially with Adam having a great run later in the session, which was marred by a red flag half way through, due to Matt Neal’s hard crash that would see the three-time BTCC champion back at the tail-end of the grid for the first race.
But nevertheless, the trusty Avensis had been showing great improvement over the course of a busy race calendar, and Adam pushed the car to the limit to make sure the results were achievable that weekend: "The car felt good, and we made another change in qualifying, which helped, so getting P5 in the final session of the year, I’m delighted."
Race one saw Adam start from P5, but he said that there was plenty of aquaplaning throughout, due to heavy amounts of standing water still on track but finished 8th after a race of survival. However, he made his way up to fourth in damp and greasy conditions, with the performance again coming to the fore, but an off-track excursion caused the 25-year-old to drop down the field once again.
Having finished 8th in Race two, Adam explained the difficulties he had to contend with that time: "There were changing conditions throughout, having started as damp and greasy, but things changed during the race.
"It's difficult, but sometimes you have to adapt and change your racing line, especially when it comes to remembering where the wet weather puddles are to help keep the tyres. I also struggled with visibility because my windscreen was steaming up, which added to the challenge of driving in the wet."
For Race 3, it was an emotional time, especially as it was the last time the Avensis itself was to be fired up in the garage and made its way out onto the grid. To actually be present at that very time, when the car rolled out down the pitlane, before walking onto the grid to see it line up was a moment to remember. For Adam, it was a case of visor down, and concentrate on the task at hand.
The final race had its fair share of drama during the wet conditions that had started to intensify once again the moment the cars lined up on the grid for the last time this season. Watching the cars line up on the main straight leading to Paddock Hill Bend was like seeing a busy Underground station in London in motion, but this was organised to precision, as the teams made their final checks before all were ushered off the grid.
For the final race of the afternoon, I was watching in the Ciceley Racing garage for what was a nail-biting finale for everyone who was looking to make the best of it in pretty awful conditions. There was the title race that was the main talking point, but Adam was up against Mat Jackson for third overall in the Independents' category.
The tension was so high that it brought a cloak of silence in the garage itself, as we all looked on the TV screen with anticipation as to how the race would unfold. There were moments when there were gasps and shouts, but that just shows how competitive each individual outfit is when it comes to getting the best result possible.
After many ups and downs and thrills and spills over the duration of the final race, it was a hard-earned seventh place for Adam, who managed to keep his position in the Independents' category, finishing just 16 points ahead of the former runner-up in the Airwaves Focus, and finished a credible 7th in the overall standings.
As the champagne was sprayed by Adam with the whole family unit in attendance, it was a welcome relief that his best season so far in his short BTCC career had come to a fitting end, as the outfit celebrated the last hurrah for the Avensis.
However, for 2014, a new challenge awaits, as Ciceley Racing will be fielding the new challenger it brings to the table, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which will be further bolstered by the recent announcement that WIX will be sponsoring the team, having ended its relationship with Rob Austin Racing.
The efforts are well underway, as both cars that the team will field for 2014 are begin built as we speak, but it was very early stages when I spoke to Adam on the Finals Day about how it was all progressing. He also admitted that they seemed to have some viable options apart from the eventual choice made: "Well, we looked at the new CLA as well, because of the boot, seeing whether it would have any additional downforce over any of the other cars. We also took a look at the other cars from this year, such as the Hondas and BMWs, which is a similar class to the new Mercedes we will be running in 2014, which seems like a logical step to us."
At that moment, one of the cars was stripped to a bare shell in preparation for its roll cage, with the other being sent away for all the bodywork moulds to be fitted to the new car, which would take around two months to complete, with Adam saying that the work needed to be started early in preparation for the forthcoming tests that the cars will be undertaking, ready for the new assault.
Adam and Ciceley Racing are making a bold statement with regards to the NGTC class by such an undertaking but with the new car's short wheelbase and front-wheel driver set-up, I honestly think that it won't be long before he makes it to the top step very soon. He's got the pace in spades, as well as a new car to help him reach the top. 2014 could be a year that everyone really starts taking notice of this family-run unit.