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EXCELR8 heads to second round of the BTCC at Donington with high hopes.

EXCELR8 Motorsport heads into the second round of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park this weekend with high hopes of progressing up the order after a solid start to the campaign.

While the rain-afflicted opening round of the season at Brands Hatch yielded a top-20 finish during what was a learning weekend for the entire team, Donington Park offers the chance to get back on track and hunt for improvement.

Both drivers ­– Rob Smith and Sam Osborne – are well acquainted with the Derbyshire circuit, and head into the weekend with additional knowledge about the setup and behaviour of their MG6 GTs, courtesy of a productive day’s testing at Thruxton recently.

During the series’ official tyre test at the Hampshire track, both drivers got the chance to rack up some more miles at the wheel, and test settings on a fast and flowing circuit ahead of the three races at Donington this weekend.

Collectively, the drivers logged just shy of 100 laps with the MGs during the day, allowing the entire EXCELR8 team some vital extra experience.

With Donington being a much quicker track than the start-stop Brands Hatch Indy Circuit that hosted the opening round, it is likely to better suit the characteristics of the MG and provide the team with a chance to fight for its maiden BTCC points.

Rob Smith, who narrowly missed out on a points finish on his maiden BTCC weekend, said: “We made the cars pretty safe at Thruxton because we used the day purely for myself and Sam to get our eye in and work on learning the feeling and tricks of the cars, especially at high speed. It was useful ahead of Donington, where the first part of the lap – especially the Craner Curves – is all flat-out, big bravery stuff.

“I’m looking forward to Donington. The first race weekend was about getting the nerves out of the way and now we know roughly where we are in the pecking order, but we also know that there’s plenty more to come. With the MG having a longer wheelbase than a most of the grid the medium-speed corners at Donington should suit it very well. I’m just excited to get going.”

Sam Osborne added: “Thruxton gave me a good two hours in the car, and while that might not sound like much, any mileage at this point is hugely useful for the learning curve. I’m learning about every little bit of the car and trying to build up the processes to be more of a natural reflex, so I can improve my driving and just do things without thinking about it.

“Brands Hatch was basically like a test, just to get used to how the weekends work and how the races would be, and it was good to be out there and able to get into the mix with other cars for the first time. I’m always hoping for more. It’s tough to make prediction in a 30-car grid that’s as tight at the BTCC, but I need to be aiming at the top 20, and see where I can progress from there.”

EXCELR8 team manager Oliver Shepherd added: “We used Thruxton to give the guys a chance to learn about what the MGs will be like at high-speed tracks, and it also highlighted the areas we need to focus our attentions on for improvement when we race at that track later in the year.

“I think Donington will suit us better than Brands did. It’s logical that a quicker, more flowing track plays toward the MGs’ strengths, but until we get there we don’t know what everybody else has got. It will take some work getting the drivers comfortable and the cars setup and settled for the high-speed corners, but that will be the key that unlocks some real progress for us. Ultimately, any clean result is a good result and we’re solely focused on progression during these early rounds.”

BTCC qualifying at Donington Park will take place at 15:15 on Saturday, with race one scheduled to begin at 11:35 on Sunday. All races will be shown live via ITV4 and live timing is available via www.tsl-timing.com.

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