Perfect ten for BMW 3 Series
A tenth victory of the season was the highlight of another strong weekend on track for the new BMW 3 Series as the British Touring Car Championship season resumed at Snetterton.
Team BMW pair Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant, as well as BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan, headed into the sixth event of the season looking to add to an ever-growing collection of silverware – the trio having enjoyed a solid two-day test at the Norfolk circuit over the summer break.
The team utilised the two Saturday practice sessions to work on set-up at a circuit that has traditionally favoured front-wheel drive cars. Defending champion Turkington headed the BMW challenge in qualifying despite the additional 55 kilograms of success ballast in his car thanks to his position as championship leader.
Colin secured a fine fifth place on the grid with Andrew directly behind in seventh place, although a track limits penalty for Tom meant he lost his fastest lap in the session and was left in an unrepresentative 20th place on the grid.
A regulation change for the Snetterton weekend required drivers to run all three compounds of tyre – soft, medium and hard. Colin and Andrew both elected to run the medium tyre for the opener.
Colin enjoyed a trouble-free run to fourth place as the best placed driver on the medium-compound tyre, with Andrew following him home in fifth after battling his way ahead of Jason Plato in the closing stages. Given his starting position, Tom elected to run the least suited hard-compound tyre, but was still able to progress to 16th place, just missing out on the points.
Both Colin and Andrew elected to then run the preferred soft-compound in race two, and both made up places on the opening lap. Colin jumped into second and Andrew into fourth. The latter then fought his way ahead of the Honda of Dan Cammish, with the two BMWs chasing down the race-leading Toyota of Tom Ingram.
Colin made his move at Wilson on lap seven and was able to get ahead into the lead, easing away from the pack behind to secure his fifth victory of the season. Andrew joined him on the podium in third, whilst Tom – who also selected the soft – was able to work his way up to 11th place, missing out on the top ten by just a tenth of a second.
The reverse grid draw left Andrew as the best placed BMW on the grid for race three and he capped the weekend with a solid fifth place finish. Colin sealed ninth as the pair produced solid drives on the hard tyre.
It would prove to be a tough end to the weekend for Tom however, as he was forced to retire with damaged suspension after multiple bouts of contact.
At the conclusion of the action Turkington had extended his advantage at the top of the Drivers’ standings with Jordan maintaining second overall. Oliphant is 12th. BMW and Team BMW top both the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ tables.
Colin Turkington said: “That was the plan. I wasn’t particularly confident beforehand as in the BTCC you never know. You should be faster on the softs but you can never be sure. I knew it was switched on from turn one and I had to be patient to make the right move and get the traction on exit from the 3 Series BMW. I don’t think it’s any more than I did in 2014. The 1 Series was very strong back then too. The guys made a decision to up the game still for this year. We wanted to be better and we built a faster car – we’re reaping the rewards. The points lead is slightly larger than it was before so we move on to Thruxton aiming to keep this momentum going.”
Tom Oliphant, Driver said: “Qualifying killed my weekend. I should have been top-10, or even top-five, but I lost the lap because of track limits and that put me on the back foot. It was the right choice to take the hard tyres for Race One and I was quite pleased with the progress I made on the hard and the soft. Race Three was tough, because although I was on the medium tyre, everyone around me was on soft and that meant they were faster. It still should have given me decent points, but I was hit by Matt Neal and spun off the track at The Esses, and then had broken suspension when Mark Blundell came into Aiden Moffat and me at the hairpin. Thruxton’s next and we’ll all be hoping for a better weekend.”
Andrew Jordan, Driver said: “It’s been a strong weekend given that we came here with a lot of success ballast and with some of the other things beyond our control coming into this event. But we’ve come out in more or less exactly the same place we started in relation to Colin Turkington, and further ahead of the rest. I’d say we went cautious on the tyre strategy, but that this was the right decision because there’s no point trying to be a hero at this point of the season; we just needed to match what Colin did and try and get ahead of him on the track. I’m a bit frustrated about Race Two because I thought the move for the lead on Tom Ingram was on, and it just didn’t quite work out, but I’d try that move around the outside again. Back to Thruxton next, where we won twice last time. I’d expect us to be strong again.”