Steve Whitelegg, the 2018 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Vice-Champion, said he’ll be on cloud nine for a very long time to come after enjoying an ‘awesome’ British Touring Car Championship test debut at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit yesterday, Monday, 12th November.
Earning the incredible opportunity to get behind the wheel of Rob Austin’s podium-finishing DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing Alfa Romeo after topping a special prize table which runs separately to the main Legends Cars title battle, Bury-based Whitelegg certainly made a terrific impression.
Driving the Northamptonshire venue’s full GP track for the first time, and also having his maiden outing in a front-wheel drive race car, Whitelegg initially experienced a number of passenger laps alongside Austin before being unleashed behind the wheel himself.
While the track was wet to begin earlier in the day, for Whitelegg’s laps on his own in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta the circuit was dry and he was able to sample the full capability of the stunning car on slick Dunlop tyres.
Also joining the Vice-Champion at the track to experience ‘hot laps’ alongside Austin, and gain a key insight into touring car racing, were fellow Legends Cars competitors Sean Smith (High Wycombe), Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) and Nathan Anthony (Horley) who finished second, fourth and fifth in the prize table. Third placed John Mickel (Horsham) couldn’t attend due to work commitments.
“This test has been, in a word, awesome!”, said an ecstatic Whitelegg, “In every sense of the word the whole experience was awesome, absolutely brilliant. I’m lost for words to be honest, everything was better than I could have even imagined. The braking of the car, the acceleration, the handling and balance, everything was superb.
“I had a spin on my first lap, at The Loop, but I got going again without any problems and then just continued to build and build every lap. Rob [Austin] had told me the left-rear tyre would be cold and, sure enough, it was! I just played myself into it steadily, built up the speed, and by the end I really felt I was on it. The Alfa was handling superbly, the HMS Racing guys have done an amazing job.”
Whitelegg added: “The Becketts sequence is unbelievable in a top-line touring car, I’ve no idea how the F1 drivers go through there like they do. I’d never driven the GP track before, so the experience was incredible – I had visions of Mansell passing Piquet!
“I’m so grateful to Simon [Belcher – DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing team principal], Rob [Austin] and the entire team who were fantastic all day, plus Phil Cooper at Legends of course, for an amazing day I’ll always remember.”
Reflecting on the test, Simon Belcher said: “The day went really well and everyone had a great time. Obviously, Steve has been in Legends for a long time and he’s continued to up his game every year, he’s done a great job and really deserved this prize. There were a couple of runs at the start as a passenger, to get a feel for everything and take advice from Rob, and then he had his run.
“He doesn’t have any front-wheel drive experience at all, so to get behind the wheel of a podium-finishing BTCC car for the first time Steve had a lot to learn but got up to speed quickly and did a very good job. He did everything we could have asked, brought the car back in one piece and had a huge smile on his face!”