Howard Fuller produced a sensational drive through the order during round six of the TCR UK Championship at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday, 3rd June, to secure a massively popular and very emotional maiden category podium with SWR – the team’s second rostrum visit of 2018.
Making a very welcome return to action with the Oxfordshire squad, having missed the second event of the campaign at Knockhill in Scotland, 25-year-old Fuller produced a fantastic drive through from 10th on the grid in the weekend’s second encounter to seal a tremendous third place finish.
Round five earlier in the day, where Fuller had scythed into the top six through the first few corners, was compromised after opening lap contact at Surtees pitched the Honda Civic Type-R off the circuit. Although recovering back onto the track, he had to settle for an eventual 10th place.
Determined to respond in style during round six, the Worcester Park-based driver did just that and with only five laps to go he was up into fourth position. Grabbing third with a great move at Druids on lap 32, the SWR racer brilliantly wrapped-up SWR’s second podium in as many events.
“I’m pretty happy with that!”, said the TDI North and RBC Project Management-backed racer, “I had a great start to the first race and having raced for so long, I sort of know how it’s going to go down at Brands – everyone goes for the same piece of real estate at the start so I tried some different things and they worked, until I was tapped off which was a huge disappointment.
“I knew for race two everyone would have wised-up, so it came down to good race management and looking after tyres. We had some good fortune too, but everyone had the same opportunities and we had to fight for everything. We’ve had loads of family and friends here, and potential sponsors, so this is the perfect way to thank them and also thank SWR for doing a fantastic job as always.”
Qualifying didn’t go entirely to plan For Fuller and he had to settle for 11th on the grid for race one of the weekend, having lapped with a best time of 49.674 seconds (87.54mph) during Saturday afternoon’s session – roughly half a second shy of the top six.
However, with Robert Gilmour’s Alfa Romeo withdrawn from the event post-qualifying and with a car issue for Stewart Lines’ SEAT Cupra at the start of the green flag lap for race one, Fuller started in an effective ninth place and he made a fantastic launch.
Gaining two places on the run into Paddock Hill Bend, Fuller positioned his Honda on the outside as he mounted a bid for sixth. Although still holding seventh through Druids, as some cars got a little too close for comfort out of Graham Hill Bend he was able to again challenge and edged into sixth.
Through Surtees, though, contact to the SWR car led to Fuller being pitched across the grass on the outside. While managing to get back onto the circuit without too much drama, although with some damage to the Civic, Fuller rejoined in 12th place but some seven seconds off the pack.
Producing pace just a couple of tenths of a second shy of podium performance, Fuller began to eat into the gap and by lap 10 he had reeled in Alex Morgan’s Renault Megane. Passing for 11th spot, Fuller then set his sights on Darelle Wilson and within three laps he was with the Vauxhall Astra.
On lap 14, though, Fuller had to take swift avoiding action into Clearways as he ran tight to the bumper of Wilson’s car and lost three seconds in the process. Redoubling his efforts, the SWR racer again closed the gap at a rapid rate and managed to force an error from Wilson on lap 19 at Druids, before sealing the pass into Graham Hill Bend to move back inside the top 10.
Due to the delays during the first half of the encounter, the gap to ninth stood at close to 15 seconds and while pulling well clear of Wilson there was nothing Fuller could do to bridge the gap over the remainder of the 36-lap contest.
For round six later in the afternoon, Fuller lined-up on the fifth row of the grid in 10th position and made another strong start as he looked to challenge for ninth into Paddock Hill Bend. Holding the outside line, though, meant he had to tuck back into 10th place.
Staying tight in the wheeltracks of the group ahead, Fuller made his move on lap six to take ninth from Ollie Taylor at Clearways and the next time around he grabbed eighth from Lewis Kent. With the Hyundai driver looking to hit back, Fuller defended perfectly and then, on lap nine, the SWR racer moved into seventh as a result of problems for Josh Price.
With three seconds to make up to the top six, Fuller pressed on and started to close the gap before then climbing into sixth when Finlay Crocker had a spin at Clearways on lap 13. By lap 22, Fuller had moved to within 1.7 seconds of the top five and as the trio ahead battled the Surrey driver was able to edge ever nearer.
On lap 26, a tangle involving Andreas Backman and Carl Swift at Druids led to left-rear damage for the former and Fuller swept by to grab fifth. Lapping quicker than Stewart Lines and Swift ahead, Fuller made the scrap over the final podium placing a three-way battle into the closing stages.
Dramatically, Swift retired into Surtees on lap 30 to elevate Fuller into fourth and the SWR driver set about pressuring Lines for third with just minutes left on the clock. Getting alongside the SEAT on lap 31 at Druids, Fuller then made the move stick the next time around on the inside at the hairpin to smartly grab third place, which he held to the flag on lap 35 over a second clear of Lines.
Next on the TCR UK Championship calendar is the fourth race meeting of the season, the midway point of the campaign, at Castle Combe in Wiltshire over the weekend 14th/15th July.