The MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square team was forced to battle the elements on the second day of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship's two-day long Goodyear tyre test at Snetterton, with focus now turning to the start of the racing action next month.
On the back of a strong start to the test on Tuesday, where Jake Hill posted the fourth quickest time in his Honda Civic Type R, the team headed into day two with a revised line-up as Official Development Driver Esmee Hawkey took over from Jake alongside Sam Osborne.
The wet weather that had affected the opening afternoon of the test would again impact proceedings at the Norfolk circuit, making for tricky conditions when Sam and Esmee took to the track for the morning session.
An unfortunate off at turn one that resulted in a trip into the gravel would have an impact on Sam's track time, but he was able to show encouraging pace on a short run just before the lunch break where he bettered the time he had set in the wet on Tuesday afternoon.
The rain would provide Esmee with an additional challenge as she hit the track in a BTCC machine for the first time - making her the first female driver since Fiona Leggate back in 2007 to take part in an officially-timed session.
With her goal being to learn as much as possible, Esmee would improve her times across the session and an impressive final run at the end of the morning saw her break into the top 20 on the times, ahead of former champion Matt Neal and within half a second of race winner Tom Chilton.
Conditions would remain wet for the afternoon session, with both drivers continuing to show solid pace on track.
Sam would be one of the busiest drivers on track in the #4 Honda as he produced his fastest wet laps of the test, going nearly three seconds quicker than he done in the morning session to end the day firmly in the midfield pack.
Although unable to quite match her pace from the morning, Esmee was able to complete a solid day on track with another 18 laps under her belt; continuing to impress the team with her approach to the test and the manner in which she dealt with the tricky conditions.
MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square will now switch focus to the season opener at Donington Park on the weekend of 1/2 August.
Shaun Hollamby, Team Principal, MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square:
"It would have been nice to get some dry running for both Sam and Esmee today, but unfortunately we can't do much about the weather. However, the information and data we have gathered will be helpful when the season gets underway. The tricky conditions haven't made it easy on track for Esmee on her first run in a touring car but she did a fantastic job and can rightly be proud of the way she performed. She worked well with the team, took everything onboard and whilst lap times weren't the important thing, she also showed good pace on track. Although it was unfortunate for Sam that he lost some track time this morning, the way he recovered from that in the afternoon was encouraging and he was right in the mix on the times, which is a positive for him to take away from today. Now we can look ahead to the start of the season and hopefully build on the pace we have shown during testing."
Jake Hill, #24 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
"Although I've not been out on track myself, it's been an interesting day working with Esmee for her first outing in a BTCC car. In tricky conditions, she has done a really good job and shown her potential despite the fact she had never driven a front-wheel-drive car before. She can be really pleased with how the day has gone and as a team, I think we have been able to learn a lot from these two days to take into the season ahead."
Sam Osborne, #4 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
"It would have been nice to get some more dry running today, but there is a good chance that we’ll have to deal with conditions like this before the season ends in November, so there is still plenty for us to take away from the test. Losing some track this morning was unfortunate, but I think we recovered well from that this afternoon and I was getting more and more comfortable in the conditions. I’m feeling confident about the start of racing next month, and can’t wait to get started."
Esmee Hawkey, #42 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
“It’s been an amazing day today and a great experience with the MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square team. I’ve been chucked in the deep end with the weather and the conditions, particularly with today being my first experience of front-wheel drive too, but I’ve absolutely loved it.
“We’ve made progress throughout the day and I’ve grown in confidence with each stint. I had no real idea what to expect in terms of pace today but I think I’ve surpassed any expectations I did have, which is a real positive!”
All photographs courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography - JEP