Lea Wood showed his Houseman Racing squad’s hard work is paying dividends in last weekend’s British Touring Car Championship round at Donington Park (20 April) by securing three encouraging results at the Leicestershire circuit.Wood and his team faced a challenging season-opener at Brands Hatch last month as they got to grips with their brand new Toyota Avensis. A lack of testing made the event a leap into the unknown, though they were nevertheless able to rack up important mileage at the Kent venue.
The three-week gap between rounds allowed the team time to work on the Avensis, and their efforts were clear to see at Donington where Wood enjoyed much-improved pace and reliability.
Their weekend did not get off to an ideal start when a brake cylinder change restricted Wood to just two laps in opening practice and left the Avensis at the foot of the time-sheets. The second session brought better fortune as he was able to complete 19 laps and register the 26th best time, though the Hereford native felt there was still more to come. He then continued to climb the order in Saturday’s qualifying, where a lap of 1m11.255s placed Wood 23rd on the 31-car grid.
Come Sunday morning the traditional British Bank Holiday weather arrived at Donington, with rain falling ahead of the opening race. Combined with the famously combative nature of the BTCC that made for a bruising encounter, but Wood kept his cool and stayed out of trouble. He eventually brought the Houseman-Toyota home in a solid 15th spot to claim his first championship point of the season.
Race two would also be run in wet conditions, and saw Wood fight back following a first lap off. Attempting a move around the outside at turn one, the Houseman Racing driver got on to the marbles and was forced into the gravel, though fortunately he was able to keep the Avensis pointing in the right direction. Returning to the track towards the rear of the order, he then worked his way back through the pack to eventually take a hard-fought P17 at the chequered flag.
A dry track greeted the drivers for Sunday’s final race, which yielded Wood’s best result of the Donington event. Staying out of trouble once more, he produced a consistent pace to come home in 14th spot and earn his second points-paying finish of the weekend. To add to the team’s satisfaction Wood beat two-time BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi to the line, highlighting the progress his Houseman Racing crew have made since the season-opener.
Lea Wood: “Overall this has to go down as a good weekend for us. We managed our first clutch start and wet running with the new car, got points on the board, and generally made a lot of progress.
“One of the most pleasing aspects was the car’s reliability. We missed most of first practice, but that was to change the brake cylinders rather than any kind of problem. On Saturday we focussed on making the car more drivable, and that came good for the races. Securing three finishes, two of them in the points, was a great reward for the team’s hard work.
“While Brands was all about solving problems, here we were able to demonstrate what we can do and it was a big step forward. As the season goes on I hope that we can start showing our real potential and continue progressing up the order.”
Wood and the Houseman Racing team will be back in BTCC action at the popular Thruxton circuit in two weeks’ time (4 May).
Photo by Mike Hills