Johnny be good

Ex-F1 driver Johnny Herbert is all set for his British Touring Car Champs debut at Silverstone this weekend. But before talking about that, we had to ask him how he feels Jenson Button is getting on, after a seeming slump in performance of late.

“He’s not working so well at the moment. It’s Rubens who’s proved he’s in the right shape to win,” says Herbert. “Jenson was lucky in Valencia, because both McLaren and Ferrari helped him, and Red Bull finishing out of the points did too.”

The 45-year-old thinks Jenson’s main rival, going towards the end of the season, is now his Brawn teammate.

“Rubens will be on a roll. It’s the right time for him, and the wrong time for Jenson, who needs to get back to his winning ways. We need the Jenson that we saw at the beginning of the year. The pressure’s right on him from now on, and this weekend’s race [at Spa in Belgium] is key. He needs to up his game.”

HerbertLMSBut away from F1, Herbert’s focus is on the BTCC. He’s driving a Team Dynamics Honda Civic for the final three rounds of the season, replacing James Thompson who’s committed to the WTCC and Australian V8 Supercars series.

But Herbert’s involvement came about quite by chance.

“[Team Dynamics boss] Steve Neal asked me to drive one of his Civics up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed,” he says. “Later in the day he asked me if I’d driven a BTCC car before [in anger], which I hadn’t because I’ve been rather spoilt.”

Herbert says he never felt right in front-wheel-drive cars before, but was intrigued enough by the Civic to ask if he could attend an afternoon test session at Rockingham.

“I said I’d have a go, and that if I felt comfortable in it then we’d discuss the prospect further. I was surprised by how much grip there was, and so said I’d race for them as long as the next test at Pembrey was successful. That happened on Monday, and it was all good.”

He had a steep learning curve at Pembrey, getting an understanding of how the car worked, and tried many different set-ups for wet and dry conditions. And he had to change his driving style, too.

“I learnt left-foot braking! It was the first time I did that since my karting days. I’ve had limited feeling and movement in my ankle movement since my accident [in F3000, breaking both legs], but you don’t need much pressure on the brakes in the Civic, so it’s OK.”

And there’s no secret neck injury that will keep him out of the car at the last minute, either. “No, there’s none of that. I haven’t fallen off of a motorbike recently,” he laughs.

But what he’s preparing himself for most is the regular paint-swapping that goes on in the BTCC, more so than in any other form of motorsport.

“I always came off the worst in karting from physical contact. But if they start with me here, then I’ll have to do the same. All the drivers are good at it.”

Herbert says that like with anything he’s done, he’s aiming for a win this weekend.

“I’ve won in every Formula I’ve driven, so hopefully that’ll carry on. I know how difficult it is from when Nigel [Mansell] had a go, but I’d love to get on the podium. And to get a pole!”

You’ll be able to catch Johnny Herbert and all the BTCC regulars this weekend at Silverstone, or come back here next week to find out how he got on.

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I’ve been watching BTCC a few times this year and love the short races and great unpredictability between the cars. Seeing someone like Plato start at the back of the grid and then finish in the points in the space of 20 laps is really enthralling where F1 is exciting at the start and maybe during the pitstops but the rest of the time you don’t need to concentrate that hard as a viewer. I wish they would do something about that to make the F1 races more exciting. At least Spa is a good overtaking circuit so we’ll hopefully have a bit more real racing this weekend instead of overtaking during a pitstop.

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Good on Johnny – always was a real racer. Can’t wait to see him back again at Silverstone, home of his British Grand Prix win. Tickets only cost 23 quid in advance, too – far cry from F1 prices.

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I will watch to see if he can cope I hope he does cuz he’s a good guy herbert is

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Anyone know which international channels it will be on? I never see these races because of my position

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Herbert and Plato!
Chevrolet Vs Honda
Lacetti vs Cicic
This will be good!

I want Jasonm to come in first in every race and for Herbert to come 2nd to prove that he’s better than Mansell, who crashed in 1992

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He is an ex-F1 driver and he says that he had to learn how to left-foot brake because he hadn’t done it since he was racing karts. I thought F1 drivers always used left-foot braking… He raced from 1989 to 2000, did F1 cars have manual gearboxes during that period so that drivers used their left foot to operate the clutch pedal?

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pfft…if he can win at this then he can at anything

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Looking forward to this. I love a bit of all day BTCC action, shame its Spa this weekend too.

Raaaagen try, it might work Google a uk proxy IP if you need to or try

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Stigs Irish cousin – So true what u are saying.

Shames its on this wekkend, will have to watch the races on the itv website after the F1 race. should have time to watch the final race though.

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“He’s not working so well at the moment. It’s Rubens who’s proved he’s in the right shape to win,” says Herbert. “Jenson was lucky in Valencia, because both McLaren and Ferrari helped him, and Red Bull finishing out of the points did too.”

“The 45-year-old thinks Jenson’s main rival, going towards the end of the season, is now his Brawn teammate.”

So Rubens proved he’s in the right shape to win by, er, winning and McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull helped out in Valencia by not, er, winning.

Also Button’s nearest rival is the person who’s second behind him in the championship.

Thanks Jamie and Johnny – without this massive insight I just don’t know how I would have made head nor tails of the current state of teh championship.

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Well I want Colin Turkington to do well this weekend, as I am supporting him for the title.

Just hoping that Plato doesn’t get too excited and start punting people off the track as he sometimes does!

Some contacts fine. Punting someone off the track for his own advantage IS NOT! Hopefully Herbert will remember this.

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Rixelieu (6), I’m pretty sure they still had the foot clutch back then, and they used at the starts and also in the turns to control the power on the exits, even with sequencial gears. I could be wrong, my F1 driving experience is quite little… or imaginary one might say.

Anyway, I’m also surprised about the comment, because I assumed all categories even amateur used left foot brake in one moment or the other.

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@ raaagaaaan I watch it on itv 2

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