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MG Sport and Racing were testing the MG ZS EX259 Touring Car at Thruxton this week - a rare chance to run at the high-speed Hampshire circuit. We asked Warren Hughes about the test, and also the importance of pit-stops, a feature of the BTCC races the team are preparing to contest...

How was the MG ZS EX259 on its first visit to Thruxton - the quickest circuit you will visit this season?

Warren Hughes:
"The car was excellent from the moment we hit the track. Very well balanced, very stable - exactly what you need at a circuit as quick as Thruxton.

"It was mixed test so there were a lot of other cars out there and I never got a clear lap in, but we now have an idea about things like gear ratios - and found one very interesting thing in the changes we were making. The car is still very new to us and at times we're still learning what directions we need to take the set-up in.

"Times were really meaningless with the amount of other traffic - you were always catching someone just when you didn't need another car in your way, it was really just a free-for-all out there. We were pleased with what we did, and every time we run the car we find out so much more about it.

"The more we test the more confident I get. At Albacete last month we made big steps forward with the car, and there is still so much more to come."

You have driven a lot of different cars in your career, but the BTCC is the first series where you have had to deal with compulsory pit stops. How important are they in the race, and what do you do to prepare for them?

"The pit stops are really important! Even the BTCC Feature Races you have to drive like a flat-out sprint, and it's just as important to save tenths of a second in the pits as it is on the track.

"We've got a really good crew in the pits - the West Surrey Racing guys are some of the best I have ever worked with. Even if we are away testing we try to treat every pit stop as if it was a race stop, so that the crew can get as much practice as possible. The crew's approach is great - they are confident and competitive, and know that they what they do can effect the race result. That approach comes right down from the very top of the team - they are there to win, and aim to do that in a professional way."

How is the decision on when to stop made?

"To some extent it is pre-arranged. I'll plan with my engineer before the race when to stop, then we'll talk to the team to make sure the other car isn't due to come in at the same time.

"Sometimes it will depend on circumstance as events unfold during the race - in which case the car in front gets to make the call. At Brands Hatch last year I was ahead of Anthony [Reid] in the Safety Car queue and made a last-minute decision to come in - I was literally at the pit-lane entrance when I told them on the radio that I was on my way. That meant I took Anthony's slot and he had to stay out - but then he went on to win the race so it worked out OK in the end!"

When you do change your pits-stop plan is that your decision or are you working closely with the team?

"You can be flexible and make the most of events - but those decisions come with experience so I like to have a lot of input from the team on the radio. They usually have a clearer idea of what is going on the race and who else is about to pit or if the Safety Car is preparing to come out.

"I'm still learning the tactical side of the races, and I'm lucky I've got such a good team to rely on. There's a lot to learn, but it won't be long before I'm able to make the more tactical decisions. It takes time for these things to be automatic - but it's not rocket science and I'm learning all the time."

So you're confident about the team's chances once the season starts?

"I just can't wait! I know you could always do with more tests and more time to prepare, but my enthusiasm is so high right now that I want to get stuck right in.

"We know what we have to do, and I'm sure the MG will be competitive with the other teams - even against Vauxhall who dominated last year. There is a great atmosphere in the team, and we all know the car has so much potential - it's an exciting time!"

Looks as though CRASH NET & MGR have ann association. The same story also features on their site and WSR mail shots. All good publicity. :D
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