BTCC: Happy not to be last

British Touring Car rookie Simon Blanckley will continue on his amazing motorsport journey this weekend as his independent sibsport team take on the championship's stars at Rockingham.

British Touring Car rookie Simon Blanckley will continue on his amazing motorsport journey this weekend as his independent sibsport team take on the championship's stars at Rockingham.

And the aim for the man who famously bought Matt Neal's touring car when it was on sale at a motorsport show on a whim with the proceeds from selling his house - "I had £150,000 burning in my pocket and just said let's do it," he recalls - is the same as always: to not finish last.

He said: "I don't want to be a mobile chicane. If that happened and I was finishing last and being dangerous - like drivers sometimes are - I would just pack up and go home.

"I went to the first race of the season at Brands Hatch with that aim and I also didn't want to get lapped, which I didn't. In fact, I was the one doing the lapping. It's not that I'm a really competitive person or anything - if anything I'm really modest. I just always said the only way I'd take part in the BTCC is if I could be sure I wasn't going to be last.

"Saying that, though, at Brands Hatch we were trying to save tyres - because they cost £1,000 a set and you use a lot of sets during the weekend - and my team were going to run old tyres for race three. But in the heat of the moment I said no, stick a new set on."

It has been an unbelievable journey for the 39-year-old who has been racing saloons for six years, starting with a Peugeot 205 in the Northern Saloons series based at the Croft circuit.

While racing in the championship, Blanckley had a major accident, ripping the front of his car off and leaving him injured. But after a period he describes as "waiting for my limbs to grow back," he returned to the track in an ex-BTCC Honda Accord Super Tourer in the IMA Euro Saloons championship.

And after watching touring car races in the early 90s the irrepressible driver couldn't resist the opportunity to line up alongside his heroes.

"It's just awesome to be there, just outrageous," he said. "The other drivers have been spot on with me as well, especially Mat Neal, whose old car I am obviously driving.

"He's a champion but he's so down to earth it's amazing. He comes to sit in my trailer and asks if I need any advice about lines around corners - he's a real help."

After his first outing, however, drivers may think Blanckley doesn't need any help. And the success of his debut BTCC race, which saw the team finish all three rounds with two 16th-place finishes and one 14th place, has given the Durham-based driver real hope for the rest of the season.

"I really think if I hadn't messed up the start of race two I'd have finished in the top ten and that's given me a lot of heart," he said.

"And at Rockingham we could finish in the top ten - it's so weird because every track is different and the person who came first at Brands Hatch could be last at a different track.

"It's mad at Rockingham because you're going flat out into the first corner - about 150mph - and as you go round it your wing mirror is scraping the wall, so if you let off the gas you go into the wall. Your brain is telling you to slow down while your heart is telling you to carry on."

Meanwhile, having won two out of the opening three races at Brands Hatch, Jason Plato is out to extend his lead in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. His biggest rival over the weekend could be SEAT Sport UK team-mate Darren Turner who is aiming to qualify on pole and duplicate Jason's previous race wins.

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