Interview Dave Newsham – King of the overtake
10th November 2015
Having gained no fewer than 108 places in his NGTC Ford Focus over the entire season, AmDTuning.com’s Dave Newsham won the Jack Sears Trophy, which recognises the driver that has achieved the greatest improvement from their respective grid positions during the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season. MSD caught up with him in search of some overtaking tips.
MSD: Finishing on top with the most overtakes against competitors like Alain Menu, Fabrizio Giovanardi and this year’s champion Colin Turkington is a major achievement. Is there anything specific that has helped you achieve this, any exact setup, for example?
DN: The Jack Sears Trophy is not something we set out to win this year. In fact, we only really looked at it after the penultimate round when we appeared second on the leader board. Even then we could have manipulated things going into the final round, but instead decided to just treat it like any other meeting, which was trying to get on the podium. We produced our best qualifying result of the year in tenth place, so we thought we might not win the Trophy, but as you may have seen, we were one of those involved in the first corner incident that took out a number of cars, including mine. What has helped us win this award is purely down to us struggling in qualifying. Our average starting position has been mid-pack around P16, however our race pace has been inside the top ten. We are missing a trick with the car setup. Others find up to one second on new tyres in qualifying, we find approximately three-tenths. However, they come back to our pace in the races.
MSD: Being awarded this Trophy shows your competitiveness this year. Does this give you more confidence for next year? What are your plans?
DN: I would dearly like to stay with AmD for next season. We have learned so much together this year that will stand us in good stead for next year. We must not, however, lose sight of the fact the Ford Focus is the first NGTC car AmD have run. We are a small team on a very tight budget up against some very big teams with a wealth of experience and settled quick drivers. Looking back, we could have done better, but we didn’t do too bad either.
MSD: Overtaking is very difficult in such a close championship, but what sets you apart from your competitors?
DN: As I have said, I think circumstances put us further back than our pace suggests, therefore moving forward during races has been easier than in other formulas, but what I am most proud of is my first lap pace. I have made up on average 2.5 places on the first lap of each race this season. That is something I have always been good at, and I guess it comes down to reading the traffic whilst cars are still packed together, and being committed.
MSD: BTCC is renowned for aggressive overtaking, so does this make you more aware of who you are trying to pass?
DN: Knowing the drivers you are racing with is very important. Some will defend very aggressively, others will give you just enough room to race. When you don’t know the driver well, it might not go so well. A good point in case was at the final round at Brands Hatch, where I tapped Chris Stockton into a spin on two occasions, something I am not very proud of! That was due to me not knowing the driver well enough. In race one I went down the inside of him into Stirling Bend, he didn’t see me there and pinched me as he went for the racing line. In the second race I was running very close behind him when he braked a little earlier than I was expecting, which caught me out, sending him sideways again. I would, however, like to think that my competitors see me as a clean driver, but also one who is not scared to get my elbows out either.
“I have made up on average 2.5 places on the first lap of each race this season. That is something I have always been good at.”
MSD: How exactly do you go about overtaking drivers?
DN: There are a few tools I call upon. One that is most satisfying is selling a dummy. The driver sees you and defends the inside line. I move to the outside making him think the corner is safe and he leaves a little room on the inside. Just before the braking point, a quick move to the inside and brake late, too late for a counter, and the corner is yours.
Another reasonably easy one that you see very often in BTCC is following another driver through as he overtakes. You just stay close to the overtaker’s rear bumper, leaving the other driver no room to get back in and he has to concede to you too. Some overtakes are purely instinctive, though, and you react immediately to a situation that opens in front of you.
MSD: When you out-brake someone, you could easily lose the position, so do you have to be careful where you position your car?
DN: You need to be absolutely committed to a gap when one appears. Brake very deep, but you still need to have faith and knowledge that you can slow the car enough for the corner without running wide. Having a good feel for the brakes and trail braking is essential. One way is to brake fractionally after the car you are passing brakes, but you still need to be aware of where you are in the braking zone, as the driver you’re passing could be braking too late.
MSD: You obviously had to defend this year too, whether it’s been a faster car or someone on better tyres trying to get past you. How do you prevent someone from overtaking you?
DN: If someone is catching me and clearly has more pace, unless it is towards the end of the race it is better to just let them go without defending. Too often drivers defend from lap one and this can ruin both your races as the pace drops off. If you are in a fight with a car on similar pace, then defensive driving is just as much a skill as overtaking. Often the best way to defend starts at the previous corner, backing them up mid-corner so they don’t get a run on you at the next corner. This way your pace will still be good and you can still attack drivers ahead of you. If they do get a run on you, simply hold the inside line, but you still need to brake late getting to the apex before your competitor. Then you are in control of the corner. This does, however, slow the pace down and can spoil any chance of fighting for positions ahead of you.
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