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Herbert hints at long-term BTCC future

He might have notched up his first points in the hotly-contested HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) on his series debut at Silverstone, but Johnny Herbert is adamant that he wants more, far more, when the circus resumes at Rockingham in just under a fortnight's time – as the former British Grand Prix winner hinted at a full-time tin-top switch.

After qualifying 17th on his BTCC bow – less than a tenth adrift of the sister Team Dynamics entry of Dave Pinkney – Herbert finished 13th in the day's opening encounter following an entertaining and energetic late-race duel with the VX Racing Vauxhall Vectra of Andrew Jordan, before breaking his points duck with a strong eighth in the wet/dry race two.

Indeed, the 45-year-old was looking good for more points in race three after starting on the front row by dint of the championship's reverse grid format, only to find himself turfed unceremoniously out of contention by apologetic former champion Jason Plato. Subsequent engine woes may have brought a premature conclusion to Herbert's weekend, but overall, he insisted, he was pleased with progress.

“It was to be expected,” he quipped of his 'initiation' into the rough-and-tumble of BTCC warfare, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio, “and surprise, surprise it would be Jason! It was a shame, because the main thing really that I wanted to do was try and get a good start, and the start actually from my data wasn't bad – it's just unfortunate that I was surrounded by BMWs who seemed to be very good at it! Then I was in the mix of it all, and I just wanted to learn from those guys' lines and what they do and everything else, but of course I got taken out and I lost that opportunity.

“The day was a bit frustrating to be fair. In race one we lost a lot of actual track time with the pace car, in the second race it was pretty much dry but then it started to rain so I lost track time from that – though the result was okay and I had a good old fight, passed a few cars and was in the mix – and then in the third one we had an engine problem as well.

“All-in-all, though, I enjoyed it. I moved forward for sure, though there are still things I need to calm myself at – like going into Copse and getting onto the throttle about 20 yards earlier than I should be doing! I've just got to slow down, and it's little things like that – very simple things – that will make a big difference at the end of it. It was good to have a mixed bag of weather and it was good to get that eighth position, so overall I can't be too disappointed.”

One area in which Herbert knows he can unquestionably find more pace is in getting used to the left-foot braking style he needs to adapt to for the BTCC, something with which the fans' favourite has always struggled since his horrific leg-breaking accident in International F3000 at Brands Hatch back in 1988. That, he contends, is arguably what prevented him from making it into the points in race one at Silverstone too.

“Left-foot braking has always been a problem since my accident,” he explained. “I never did it in Formula 1 or sportscars because I could never get any real feel, but I seem to be able to get a bit more feel with left-foot braking now in these touring cars. The issue I had with Mr Jordan was that a couple of times I was in the wrong gear, so I went to shift to go down, but my foot was on the brake so I kept pushing the brake instead of the clutch and he kept passing me.

“Then I'd pass him back, then I did it again and then I passed him again – I kept making a silly error on that one, but again it's little things that because I haven't done any of that left-foot braking stuff, I've got to learn to think about it. I'm doing everything still my natural way, and normally I'm hovering over the clutch. It's just little things that I need to adjust to, but it's within the realms of possibility.”


by Russell Atkins



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