BMW trio quietly confident as new 3 Series’ race debut nears
The new BMW 3 Series will make its competitive debut this weekend (6/7 April) when the 2019 British Touring Car Championship revs into life at Brands Hatch – and drivers Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant and Andrew Jordan are quietly optimistic about their prospects.
The new 3 Series officially broke cover last week to great acclaim. Following a short shakedown at Brands Hatch, the car took pride of place at Hever Castle for the BTCC’s annual Season Launch before returning to the Kent circuit’s short ‘Indy’ loop for its first proper test alongside all of its competitors the following day.
The car proved to be both fast and reliable out-of-the-box, with BMW Pirtek Racing’s Jordan placing fourth on the timesheets amongst the 30 high-calibre contenders, barely a tenth-of-a-second shy of the outright benchmark. Spearheading the Team BMW challenge, defending BTCC Champion Turkington was not far behind in seventh, with stablemate Oliphant – a new addition to the team this year – a competitive 12th first time out.
Between them, the trio covered some 330 laps – a neat coincidence given the car’s 330i M Sport moniker – leaving all three in cautiously confident mood ahead of this weekend’s season curtain-raiser.
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Colin Turkington, Driver, Team BMW, said: “The Brands Hatch test was really positive. The guys inside the team have worked immensely hard and the cars were only finished the day before Season Launch, so they were literally box-fresh. It was all about getting familiar with the 3 Series while beginning to explore the limits. Time is tight and there are obviously a lot of things we still want to try, but I think we’ve got a good base and we seem to be in the ballpark pace-wise. As a race car, the 3 Series has all the right attributes but it’s hard to know what to expect at Brands Hatch – we’ll find out in qualifying what our relative form is. What is certain is that there are a lot of very fast driver/team combinations, so it’s going to be as closely-fought as ever. Everybody’s a contender, and we’ll focus on trying to score some good points through the first few weekends and then building a campaign from there.”
Tom Oliphant, Driver, Team BMW, said: “We all went to the Brands Hatch test expecting to encounter the usual teething problems you get with a new car, and the fact that we didn’t is pure testament to everybody involved in the project. I felt comfortable in the BMW 3 Series straightaway – it’s back to what I’m used to, which is front-engined, rear wheel-drive and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s the best-handling car I’ve ever driven. It’s based on a fantastic road-going model and has all the right characteristics to be a fast BTCC car, and I was blown away by the sheer quality, balance and level of grip. I feel truly honoured to drive it. It’s difficult to set targets at this stage. I think we should be quite competitive in qualifying, and while the races are more of an unknown, I’m quietly confident we will be stronger over long runs. Last year, I didn’t score well early on, so I’m aiming for three points-scoring finishes at the first weekend to start on a positive foot.”
Andrew Jordan, Driver, BMW Pirtek Racing, said: “It really is tremendous credit to WSR and BMW for rolling all three cars out at Brands Hatch last week – we genuinely thought getting just one ready on time was going to be tight. Everybody has done an absolutely phenomenal job and out-of-the-box, I’m very happy – the longer wheelbase is definitely an advantage in certain areas. From the moment it turned its first wheel, the 3 Series ran well and reliably, and I already feel comfortable. We were able to try out a lot of set-ups at the test; some worked and some didn’t, but that’s all part of building up a bank of knowledge and data. In a way, going so well does shift the goalposts a little but at the same time, I feel we need to manage expectations somewhat. Can we challenge for pole at Brands Hatch? I think there’s a chance, but the focus has to be on the three races – we need to be aiming to score in them all. In this championship, it’s all about playing the long game.”