The Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team enjoyed another strong weekend on track with a maiden pole position and two podium finishes from the latest rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season at Thruxton.
The team headed for the fastest circuit on the calendar in confident mood on the back of a solid test at the venue last month, with drivers Rory Butcher and Sam Tordoff both confident of challenging towards the sharp end of the field.
Having qualified on pole with a record-breaking lap, Leeds racer Sam made the ideal start to race one to lead the way into Allard for the first time and controlled the race from the front through the early stages.
Maintaining a lead of just over half a second over the chasing pack, Sam's victory charge was ended by a battery problem that affected the power steering on his car, slowing him through the high-speed Church corner on lap 13 and allowing Andrew Jordan to get ahead on the run up Woodham Hill.
Fighting around the problem, Sam was able to fend off the newer FK8 Honda of Dan Cammish through the closing laps to secure second spot and his first podium finish of the year.
From the front row of the grid for race two, Sam lost a place to a quick-starting Colin Turkington but held third in the opening laps before a clash with Cammish at the chicane saw him slip out of the podium places.
Dropping behind Jason Plato and Mat Neal as the additional ballast on his car took its toll, Sam would take the flag in sixth to add more points to his championship tally.
Heading into the final race of the weekend, Sam looked well set to fight for another podium finish as he ran fourth in the early stages but a further, unrelated, issue with the power steering instead forced him into the pits to retire.
Fife racer Rory qualified fifth on the grid despite carrying additional weight on his car, and came through the opening race unscathed to add more solid points to his tally, maintaining his position from start to finish.
Race two would once again prove to be a relatively quiet affair for Rory, who would post the fastest lap of the race before taking the flag in seventh to maintain his points scoring run.
With the team having resolved a damper issue on his car, Rory lined up fifth on the grid for race three, and a strong start saw to jump up into third place on the opening lap.
Battling ahead of Ash Sutton at Goodwood after an early safety car period, Rory would run in second place all the way to the finish and heads away from Thruxton in a share of the overall points lead, whilst also heading both the Independents' and Jack Sears Trophy standings.
Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing sit third in the Teams' Championship and second in the Independents Team Championship.
Rory Butcher, #6 Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Honda Civic Type R, said:
"It's been a fantastic weekend after a tough Saturday where we lost a lap that would have given us pole. We didn't quite have the pace to run at the front in race one or two but then found an issue with a damper ahead of race three. With that sorted, the car really came alive and it gave me the confidence I needed in the high-speed stuff.
"I was able to get ahead of Ash [Sutton] with a solid move out of Goodwood and hoped to push Josh [Cook] but he kept it nice and tidy and didn't put a foot wrong. When Ash got a second wind, I focused on bringing the car home and we have ended up with some cracking points and a share of the points lead.
"It isn't where I expected to be at this stage although I did think we could compete. I've kept the same mentality I had in the MG of racing hard, keeping it clean and bringing it home. When I have a fast car like we did in race three, we've got to push for those big points and some silverware."
Sam Tordoff, #600 Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing Honda Civic Type R, said:
“It's been a bit of a frustrating weekend for me but at least I've been able to put some points on the board after the troubles we faced in the opening rounds. To qualify on pole in the way that we did was amazing and I was controlling the opening race before we had the issue with the battery.
“That robbed us of a certain victory and had the race been a few laps longer, I doubt we'd have finished, so to salvage second was still a good start to race day. With the weight onboard in race two, we picked up more solid points and I was happy with how things were going at that stage.
“With the pace in the car, I think we could have pushed for another podium in race three and the fact we were unable to finish that one has spoiled the weekend a bit. Whilst I'm pleased to have got two solid finishes, I'm disappointed with how things ended."
Shaun Hollamby, Cobra Sport AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team principal, said:
“To come away from Thruxton with pole and two podium finishes is great for us as a team and it's just a shame that a mechanical issue robbed us of what would have been a first win on the road. Both Rory and Sam have driven well this weekend, and we have once again shown that we are capable of taking the fight to the big boys at the front of the grid.
“With three rounds done, we're in a great position in the championship standings but it's important that we continue to work hard on our weak areas as a team because despite enjoying another fantastic weekend we can always improve.
“We need to keep our collective heads down and remember that it is a long season, and there are plenty more twists and turns still to come."