The second round of the 2016 BTRA British Truck Racing Championship was held at Pembrey last weekend (April 23/24). But the visit to the Welsh circuit didn’t generate the points tally David Jenkins was looking for, despite the ‘MAN in Black’ often proving to be the quickest truck/driver combination on the track.
Despite running at the sharp end of the pack in virtually every race after a tough weekend of very fierce competition Dave went home with one second place trophy – and a total of 22 points. But the team was certainly encouraged by the new-found pace which saw Jenkins breaking the 1m.12 seconds barrier in the races – one of only two drivers to achieve those times.
The timed Qualifying session saw Jenkins post third quickest lap time – with a best lap of 1m.12.083ss (Average speed 72.71mph) – thereby securing a spot on the second row of the grid for Race One. The times of the top three drivers were incredibly close – under one tenth of a second (0.099s) separating Jenkins from the ‘pole’ position.
But Dave felt sure there was more to come from the machinery with some minor tweaks to the ‘set-up’ – and so it proved when the action got underway on Saturday afternoon.
The first rolling start proved interesting – as Stuart Oliver suffered a gearbox failure – and everyone had to squeeze past on the charge into turn one. Ryan Smith (MAN) led the charge but it was Jenkins who had made a flying start and soon took over at the front.
This pair were then engaged in a thrilling race-long battle with Jenkins maintaining a narrow advantage (of less than a second) for the entire 11 laps. At the chequered flag just 0.928s separated the pair – but it was Dave was crossed the line, first ‘on the road’. But unfortunately a post-race penalty saw Dave denied those hard-fought 10 championship points.
For race two – with the ‘Reverse Grid’ format in operation – Jenkins was once again the man to watch. Starting from the back of the grid the black MAN was really flying again – making up ground rapidly to hold 5th at the end of the opening lap. The next tour saw Dave overhaul Michael Oliver’s Scania to move into the top four – and by lap four Dave was on course for a podium place as he found his way ahead of the hard to pass Oly Janes (Freightliner). In the remaining laps Dave closed down the three second gap to the leading duo – and on the final lap both Dave and Smith overhauled race leader Stuart Oliver. Smith held on to take the victory – but runner-up Jenkins was just 0.633s behind at the flag, thereby securing nine valuable points.
That great performance meant that Jenkins found himself towards the back of the ‘Reversed Grid’ again for Race 3 on Sunday morning. But some further delicate adjustments to the truck meant that Dave was once more set to make impressive progress.
The black MAN stormed through into fifth place at the end of lap one and another two trucks were reeled in on the next lap as Dave moved up to third. He then set about chasing after the two men in front – Luke Taylor (Renault) and Mat Summerfield (MAN).
Posting fastest lap of the race Dave closed in on Summerfield’s machine – getting the gap down to just 0.2s. – and on the ninth lap Dave sliced his way into second spot.
Taking over one second out of the time set by Taylor, Jenks was rapidly right on the tail of the Renault – and keen to make his move. Diving inside into the Brooklands turn in a bid for glory there was contact with Taylor and unfortunately the two trucks spun out.
Of course that non-finish gave Dave another ‘handicap’ – as the Grid for Race 4 saw him placed right at the back, behind the race 3 winner, Steve Thomas.
Running 11th at the end of the opening lap it took Dave some time to get into his stride – but once again he was soon making up places, up to 7th by half-distance. The remaining five laps saw Jenkins involved in a tight three-way scrap with Thomas and Summerfield – and by the finish Dave had successfully moved his way up to 4th.
For the final outing of the weekend it was the same old story; heavy traffic in the opening laps giving the race leader a chance to break away while Jenkins had to fight his way through the midfield. There was then a tremendous battle in the final stages – with Dave up to 3rd at one stage. But his run of bad luck continued as a lapped backmarker collided with him, pushing him wide – so he had to finally be content with a fighting fifth.
There is now a break of over a month until the next event in the BTRA British Truck Racing Championship – which will take the heavyweights to Thruxton. The sweeping high-speed turns of the Hampshire circuit certainly intimidate some competitors – but Jenkins will be relishing the opportunity to show the real performance of his MAN on June 11/12.
“We’ve made some significant steps forward with the development of the truck – and if we can maintain the pace we had at Pembrey I’m sure I’ll be getting back on the top step of the podium at the next opportunity” said Jenkins.