PODIUM FINISH… AND NEARLY A WIN FOR LUKE TAYLOR
After the successful debut of the Rooster Racing Team MKR Renault at Brands Hatch over Easter the team again had plenty to shout about after Round 2 of the BTRA British Truck Racing Championship at Pembrey.
The Welsh circuit hosted the heavyweights on April 23/24 – and the weekend provided plenty of action and some extremely close competition – with Luke Taylor and the Rooster Racing Renault right at the heart of the action.
Luke Taylor qualified his MKR Renault a strong 5th fastest – clocking a best lap of 1m.13.314s (Average speed – including the notorious and very slow Hatchetts Hairpin – of 71.49mph) – less than half a second behind reigning BTRA champion Mat Summerfield.
In the opening race on Saturday Luke netted a superb 3rd place.
He made a good start, initially running 4th and chasing hard on the heels of Summerfield for several laps.
But the No.1 MAN then had a freak gear linkage problem – Summerfield missing a change up at a vital moment exiting the hairpin for the seventh time. Luke under – full acceleration – just clipped rear corner of the MAN but other than losing his front panel the truck was OK – and he was now up to 3rd.
In the closing stages Taylor was kept busy holding off Shane Brereton – the MAN driver just 0.447 s behind after 11 hectic laps… but that was really an encouraging start to the race weekend for Luke.
With the ‘Reverse Grid’ format coming into play for Race 2 Taylor found himself near the back for rolling start of Race 2.
The Renault ran 9th on first lap but Luke eventually reeled in Michael Oliver (MAN) to finish a credible 8th – close behind Summerfield. He’d been matching the multiple champ on lap times for most of the race – and finished half a minute clear of next driver home, Luke Garrett (Renault).
Sunday’s race 3 was the ‘One That Got Away’… or was snatched away –as Luke looked set to give Rooster Racing their first win in the premier division of UK truck racing.
At the rolling start Luke blasted from row two of the grid to the front, heading the pack out of the hairpin on lap one… and he then proceeded to lead for the next 9 laps.
Fending off the early attacks from Summerfield – the Rooster Renault was still setting the pace and heading the field – with just five laps to run.
Then hard-charging Dave Jenkins passed Summerfield – and rapidly closed in on the race leader.
Unfortunately Jenkins was a bit too impatient to make his move and bid for glory – and made an immediate passing move as Luke turned into a corner… and inevitably there was contact and both trucks spun out (forcing Summerfield to take avoiding action too).
By the time Luke had returned to the tarmac a lot of valuable time had been lost – and several place –as he now found himself down in sixth spot – over 20 seconds behind the new leader (Steve Thomas) and over five seconds adrift of the next man on the road.
As Luke regained his composure Oly Janes (Freightliner) also barged his way past – leaving Taylor to salvage 7th spot at the chequered flag.
Still another 4 valuable championship points – but the ten for the victory along with the winners trophy would have been much better!
Jenkins impatient manoeuvre hadn’t done him any favours either – as he was classified as a non-finisher!
Taylor was soon back in action once more – as he lined up for Race 4. He again started strongly and was running 4th before being passed by Ryan Smith (who went on to win).
Then mid-race the Renault got relegated as Oliver blasted past soon followed by the trio of scrapping MANs (Thomas, Jenkins and Summerfield). So Luke crossed the line in 7th again – behind Janes – but well clear of Michael Oliver (MAN).
The Rooster Renault again showed it’s pace in the final outing of the day. Race 5 was Taylor making a flying start to get to the head of the pack, slotting alongside Garrett’s Renault at the hairpin – but Taylor was on the outside line, so found himself pushed wide onto dirt.
But by the second lap Taylor was in front – leading the field for a couple of laps before conceding the place to Summerfield.He then ran a strong second for the next three laps before being passed by Jenkins and Smith (on a charge to front again)Later in the race Luke dropped back behind Oliver – but he battled hard to hold off Thomas to finally secure 6th.
That brought Luke’s weekend tally to 24 points in total – and he now lies 7th overall in the BTRA Division one classifications.
The next outing – at Thruxton Circuit June 11/12 – will provide an opportunity to really stretch the legs of the rapid MKR Renault and show it’s outright speed on the sweeping turns of the high speed Hampshire circuit.