James Kaye Q&A

James Kaye has served his time as a works BTCC driver for Honda and twice won the series' Independents' Cup. Now he's comfortably in the lead of the BTC Production class. The 38-year-old Hampshire-based Yorkshireman told autosport.com's Nick Phillips about life in BTCP with the Honda Civic and a unique racing team Synchro Motorsport

James Kaye Q&A

"The basis of the car has been fantastic. I first tested it in Italy in February. I did one day with JAS and since then we've used the settings here and hardly changed it at all. We could have developed and developed and developed, but we decided to start off with just going for points. It's quick enough so we've concentrated on that rather than affect its reliability. Now that we've got the extra weight [Kaye personally carries a permanent 30kg success ballast] though we are looking to develop new things to make it quicker. We've got a very good points lead, but you can't rely on that - you've got to keep on winning races. We've only actually won three races this year. We've been consistently quick though and we've thrown two wins away - gearbox problems and me. Yeah, we'll win every race we can. Everyone keeps saying that the Civic is quicker and better than everything else. The first thing you've got to say about that is that it is the only new car in the class. Yes it is the best car, but everyone else has access to them as well. It doesn't have the best engine -it is a very, very good, safe reliable engine, but it's not the quickest. You can see from the speed traps that the Alfa Romeo is at least as good, probably better than ours. But we have a good package and I'm an excellent driver."

"I have driven a Touring class car, I've driven Super Touring cars and I've driven top-level Super-Production or BTC Production cars and I would say that they are the most difficult thing to drive. First of all, you don't have a sequential gearbox, you have an H-pattern shift. You don't use the clutch and you're flat-out, so if you miss a gear, that's the engine gone - it's an added thing to think about. In the tourers they've got it easy they just bang the gears up and down. You've got similar sort of straight-line speed to the tourers, but smaller tyres and brakes, so you've go to think all the time. And in the feature race we've got a 30-lapper most times and without a pit-stop, so you've got try and conserve the tyres, touring class drivers have the luxury of a tyre stop."

"They're not easy to race, because everything is a compromise on the car. You're basing it around a Super Touring chassis, but with Production running gear. Our shell is as stiff as the Super Touring Accords which JAS built in 2000. As for the opposition, as we get further into the championship, I think that a lot of the drivers who've come into it are learning a lot and it's becoming racing rather than Sunday night down at Wimbledon. A lot of the silliness - touch wood - has gone out of their antics. Norman Simon is anyway a very experienced driver and a very good racer. Gavin Pyper has matured through the year. I would say that some people though have stood still. A lot of people think that Spencer Marsh is doing a very good job, he's very consistent. I'm a little bit disappointed in the Lotus champion Mark Fullalove. That Peugeot is a championship-winning car, potentially, but he doesn't seem to have grasped that to win races you've actually got to finish. Other than that there's nobody that really stands out, though having said that Jim Edwards Jr, seasoned professional, is in a car which really shouldn't be doing what he's doing with it.

"I've won lots and lots of championships and to be honest this championship and the way it's set-up suits my life-style at the moment. I have a very busy job [working for former Triple Eight boss Roland Dane] and there's no testing involved in this championship. It really is something that any racer graduating out of top-level national racing can do, which is what the organisers wanted. The ethos of the class B was that and it suits me. Really I have to make a step forward and go to Touring class. I could have done it this year or two years ago, but I haven't wanted to. Next year I think that's what I'll have to do, or give up altogether, or go racing in Europe."

"I won't decide it. It will depend on what Synchro and Honda Europe want to do next year. We're already looking at options out of production, so we'll see. Touring or Europe. This car will build into a European class touring car, whereas it won't build into a BTC Tourer. But the new Accord is being produced at the Swindon factory and should be out at the end of the year, I believe, and people are looking at that for touring next year. We have a very funny situation between this team, which is a Honda-owned/run team and the Civics you see run by Arena. There's no talking, swapping information, nothing. That's UK and this is Honda manufacturing. It's absolutely incredible, nobody talks to anybody."

"The car wasn't just the work of JAS. Synchro was involved too because they had the access to all the root information which was required on the car - they could find out anything that was needed. The kit of parts though basically comes from JAS."

"In brief. They are all amateurs, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all. It's just that they all work in the factory, they have shift jobs, every one of them. They all pay for their own fuel to get here [to circuits], they all pay for their own food, and their hotels and they don't get paid to be here. So it is purely for the love of it. So that is a very difficult thing to manage, because you can't shout at somebody for doing something wrong if you're not paying them. They've been running now for seven or eight years and found the best people to work with each other and they have a very, very strong engineering background and they know the car inside out, because they build it on the assembly line and the atmosphere in the team is like no other - very relaxed. But that is the only way they cam work to get the results and they are 100 percent behind the Civic, the Honda product. The money to run the car is found by the team too. Honda provides the hardware - the basic parts before you bring in the performance specialist parts and everything else is found by the team. There is no direct Honda money - like a works team, though they do provide a place for them to work at the factory, so that does take a lot of the overheads out of it, but the on-circuit running costs are all found by the team and if we couldn't find enough commercial sponsorship, I can guarantee they'd have a whip round to be here. It's completely different. I am the first non-Honda employee to be involved in the team and they've taken a lot on by doing that and hopefully they are going to learn from my experience with other teams. To be honest they have got the basics, it's just the things that they would have taken a long time to learn without someone with my experience. It's like putting David Leslie in that Proton."

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