MAJOR improvements in pace unfortunately went unrewarded for Simon Belcher at Knockhill after three challenging British Touring Car Championship races at the home of Scottish motorsport, in Fife on Sunday .
Heading into the weekend the Swindon driver made good on the improvements found with his Toyota Avensis with a season-best showing in the second Knockhill free practice.
Frustratingly, driveshaft failure in qualifying on Saturday set the tone for three trying races. Although Belcher did manage to steer his Handy Motorsport-run car to within little more than a second of the top 20 in the opening encounter on Sunday morning.
“We had promising pace this weekend, but no luck,” said the 40-year-old.
“Second free practice went incredibly well for us, we were really looking strong going into qualifying but then the driveshaft broke which wrecked any hopes of a good starting position for race one.
“We were lapping with much better pace overall this weekend and we have made a big step forward with our competitiveness.
“The results this weekend didn’t show that, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Belcher delivered his most competitive showing of the year so far in the second free practice session, with the 16th quickest time.
Confidence was high from the Handy driver in qualifying, on a drying track, but his hopes were shattered when the driveshaft on his Toyota failed on the out-lap from the pits. The part was replaced quickly but there wasn’t time left to set a representative lap.
Lining-up 29th on the grid for round 19, Belcher made a very good start and gained a couple of places off the line but fell back to 30th position at Duffus Dip on lap two.
His recovery was halted on lap eight when he was forced to come to a near-standstill reacting to a collision in front of him.
That crash and a late appearance from the safety car meant Belcher could only gain a fistful of places over the last few laps, taking the flag in 21st position.
Beginning round 20 from his race one finishing spot, the Wiltshire driver opted to run the softer compound Dunlop tyres but wasn’t able to make them count after being shuffled back several places on the opening lap.
Then, an excursion required a visit to the pits to remove grass from the radiator, ultimately he managed to recover to 24th place.
Starting in 22nd position for race three, Belcher didn’t make the launch he needed or wanted and the sluggish getaway dropped the Handy car to the tail of the field.
He recovered well, though, finishing in 23rd position.
The next three races in the British Touring Car calendar, rounds 22, 23 and 24 set to take place on September 6 and 7 at Rockingham.