Number 69 can out accelerate a Porsche 911, and consistently outperforms its championship counterparts. To shift its five and a half tonnes at speed, which tops out at 160kmph, the numbers have to be incredible – 1150 brake horsepower and a colossal 5300 torque – but to do it nimbly, and effectively, the driving has to be too.
That’s why the man behind the wheel of Number 69, Dave Jenkins, is a standard setter for truck racing’s elite. It’s a shame last year’s streamlined British Truck Racing Championship (BTRC) season didn’t give him as many opportunities to fasten his six-point seatbelt and show them how it’s done.
“We were so fast at Snetterton, blindingly fast,” says Dave, who finished second overall in the championship, just four points behind the winner when the scheduled season finale at Brands Hatch got cancelled.
“It’s a long, technical circuit and the results were proof that our pre-season work was advantageous – we were top point scorer, with the fastest lap.”
Delayed, and reduced from nine rounds to three, it was only one bad race at Thruxton, through no fault of his own, that broke Dave’s consistent finishing pattern, and ultimately cost him the championship. At the time, no one knew it would be the last race meeting, “we were ready to go to Brands Hatch and win.”
In order to make a safe return to the BTRC after a nine-month hiatus, Dave scaled down his team to a core group of six to meet covid-safe race regulations. Although supportive of the measures, it’s a selection process he hopes he never has to repeat.
“It was difficult having to tell people that we’d normally take with us that we couldn’t. It’s not nice having to be discriminative, at any level. As much as we wanted them there, as much as we wanted their help, we couldn’t,” explains Dave, who is mindful that volunteers and fans should get the recognition they deserve. Their work and their support, he believes, is crucial in both the good times, and the bad.
“It makes the achievements so much better when there’s people there that enjoy it with you. It’s not just about the crowd in the grandstand, it’s about the people mooching about saying hello to you in the paddock area and stopping for a chat. I miss that interaction, as a society that’s what we’ve got to be working towards, getting back to being allowed to go and do what we want to do.”
Managing the unpredictability of racing during the pandemic, as well as running a business and taking care of his family has been a life affirming chapter for Dave.
Referencing his team’s reaction to the eleventh-hour decision to cancel the BTRC closing weekend as something he can draw strength from, 2020 was a year for digging deep to find the positives when negativity could so easily have prevailed.
“It was dinner time on Thursday afternoon, we were loaded up and completely ready to go when the call came. We were ready for the moment when I would say ‘come on boys, we’re going to go and win the championship this weekend’ but we never got the chance. That’s never happened to us before, everybody was physically, visibly, disappointed.
“I did take some strength from that. It was a nice feeling to think that as much as it was disappointing, everybody was up for it. I’m quite confident about what I do, but sometimes I lack a bit of self-belief. Sometimes I wonder if people come and help because they feel obliged to do it, but everybody was bang up for going to Brands Hatch, and everybody was disappointed that we couldn’t. Last year proved to me how much support that I’ve got from the team around me.”
Morale at championship weekends was also given an extra boost by the presence of the Morris Lubricants Racing Ambassador’s newborn son, George, who joined Dave’s partner, Hayley, and big sister, Flossy, in a covid-safe spectator area.
“Knowing that there was someone extra there cheering for me was a really special feeling. My little girl is the last one to wave me out of the awning and the first one to wave me back in – whether you’ve done well, or not done well, she just wants her daddy.”
As the first sponsor to pledge their support for Dave’s 2021 season, Morris Lubricants is proud to reveal that, true to form, Dave is already making sure he’ll be well ahead of the rest when the time comes.
With fellow Racing Ambassador Guy Martin on board to help out with his winter testing campaign, which began in December, Dave has already seen significant gains in Number 69’s performance after making a radical change to the position of the rear axle.
“It completely alters the way the truck feels, and requires a change in driving style in order to be able to maximise that change,” he says.
“We’ve made a further leap forward and can really push on and sort the pace out. The truck is running faultlessly and we’ve seen gains in lap times already. As a team, we’ve come up with some good engineering solutions, it’s the bulk up that we all needed to bounce us into the winter, and we are absolutely champing at the bit to go testing and racing again.”