Darelle Wilson competed in one of the most recognisable cars of the first ever season of the TCR UK Series, where he drove the family-run Vauxhall Astra TCR in its bright green livery.
Whilst preparations are underway to compete in the 2019 season, Wilson himself has opened up about how his journey to joining the TCR UK Series took place. The TCR Talk Blog will be sharing this journey on a regular basis.
In this final part of the story, the Vauxhall driver explains his overall performance in the second half of the first season of the TCR UK Series as well as what he learned about the car after the season ended and his future.
Rounds 4 and 5: Castle Combe and Oulton Park
After the team visited VMax Engineering in Germany, the constraints of running on a tight budget hit home as they had to make some tough decisions in the following weeks.
Darelle explains the situation further.
“After the expense of the visit to Germany we were short on funds and the decision was made to wait until qualifying at Castle Combe to put new tyres on. The car was running fine and we were only two tenths off the pace and looking forward to an improvement in qualifying,” explained Wilson.
“Unfortunately the tiniest brush with a tyre wall at the final chicane broke the steering rack and sent the car careering across the track, deep into the undergrowth where it hit a long-forgotten piece of armco. With no spare that was that for the weekend.”
With the team needing to repair the car, they realised that budget constraints meant that unless finances improved considerably, they wouldn’t make it to the end of the season.
With this in mind, the tough decision was made to not race at Oulton Park.
Round 6: Croft
The penultimate race weekend of the season took place at Croft in Yorkshire and the team returned to the series with a repaired car. However, they faced another challenging weekend.
When an issue on track caused the front splitter to break, the team were faced with trying to make repairs whilst they also looked to source a replacement at the same time. After struggling in Free Practice and Qualifying, a new splitter arrived for race day, offering hope of some improved performances.
Darelle takes the story from here:
“After a very good start in race one, disaster struck again. The smallest contact with another competitor caused the steering rack to break again,” he explained.
“We now knew that there was a weakness in the design from the car builders. This meant that we would make sure to carry a spare in future but again that was the end of our weekend.”
Round 7: Donington Park
The final round of the series took place at Donington Park in Leicestershire in a weekend of changing conditions that would challenge the team as they looked to end the season on a high note.
With the car showing good pace during Free Practice and Qualifying as Darelle was posting times good enough to be in the top six, things seemed to be on the up. Despite the difficult conditions, Darelle felt good in the car and was ready to have a good end to the year.
Darelle explains how the season ended:
“As the grid for race one formed, the expectations in our garage were high. The start lights went out and…nothing! A drive shaft had snapped and our race was over after five yards,” Wilson explained.
“Despite being the only Astra in the paddock we could not find a spare although I have to give to credit off to the other TCR teams who offered all kinds of help and suggestions to help get us out on track for the final race.”
“Josh Crogan, a VW Cup competitor in one of our cars and part of our race crew, rang somebody he knew who could repair the part. By the time the part was back at the track, the grid for race two was already formed and it was lap three before we could get the Astra back on the ground. Unfortunately, the driveshaft failed again and we had to push the car back into the garage to record another retirement.”
Despite the many challenges and issues faced last year, Darelle ended the season in tenth place overall in the driver’s championship.
Darelle’s thoughts on last season…
Both Darelle and the team learned many lessons during the season which have given them great confidence for this year.
In November, they were present at the MotorSportDay event at Silverstone where they found a great improvement in the cars handling. Darelle summarises his thoughts from last year.
“Being the only Astra on the TCR UK grid was very difficult and we realised that if we’d have been using a Volkswagen Audi Group TCR car (Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR, CUPRA TCR or Audi RS3 LMS TCR) we could have raced at Castle Combe, Croft & Donington as the other teams could have helped us out,” he said.
“The lesson we learnt is to budget for the necessary spares package to keep in the running all year. As the teams using the Opel Astra in Germany where on a different brand of tyre they couldn’t offer much assistance so we had to plug away at the issues on our own.”
“This year, ADAC TCR Germany are also running on Yokohama’s so I am sure we will be in a position to share information with them to help out each other. What we do know is: the car is fast and I am a capable driver of getting so much more out of it!”
Darelle has made it very clear that without the support from Martin Depper, Taylex Display & Exhibition and his other backers that it wouldn’t have been possible for him and the family to run the car in 2018. To everyone involved, he passes on his heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
My thanks to Darelle for sharing this journey with me and opening up on how difficult it can be to go racing in any series with a new car.
I will be keeping things up to date on here as well as in The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group where members will also be sharing their thoughts and any news from The 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series, The 2019 TCR UK Touring Car Championship and other Domestic & Regional TCR Series from around the world.
Until next time, all the best!