DOUBLE TOP TEN FROM CHALLENGING RACE DAY FOR MB MOTORSPORT
MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square picked up a brace of top ten finishes from what would prove to be a challenging second race day of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.
The team headed into the weekend seeking to bounce back from a tough season-opener at Donington Park a week earlier, with Jake Hill seeking to put his first points on the board and Sam Osborne looking to add to his tally after a personal best of seventh.
Saturday saw both cars running well on the team’s home circuit, with Hill topping both free practice sessions and qualifying a personal best fourth, and Osborne heading the Jack Sears Trophy runners in 16th having improved his lap times across the course of the day.
When the lights went out in the first contest, Hill lost a spot to the fast-starting BMW of Colin Turkington, but was quickly in the groove and ran a solid fifth through the opening half of the race before coming under increasing pressure from Tom Ingram.
Ingram was able to make a move stick for position on lap 12 just before the safety car was called to remove a stricken car from the side of the circuit, and Hill would eventually take the chequered flag in tenth having struggled with the handling of the #24 Honda in the closing stages.
It would be a tough opening race for Osborne, who saw his chances of points end after contact forced him to make an unscheduled pit-stop, resulting in a 24th-place finish.
From tenth on the grid for race two, Hill made up two places on the opening lap and was running a solid eighth when the race went behind the safety car after an incident further down the pack.
Making up a place at the re-start when Tom Chilton’s Honda slowed to the pits, Hill made a fine move on Tom Oliphant’s BMW to rise into the top six, but then the engine in his car suddenly let go heading onto the GP loop, forcing him into retirement and leaving the team with work to do ahead of race three.
Starting on the penultimate row of the grid after his race one dramas, Osborne made a storming start in the sister car to climb five places on the opening lap, and had worked his way into 17th before the safety car period.
The #4 Honda would continue to charge forwards after the re-start as Osborne fought his way into 14th, but he was forced to contend with overheating issues in the final laps and slipped to 16th, despite showing the pace to more than match the top six.
Seeing the strong speed in the Honda, both drivers went into race three confident of pushing for points, with the team working hard to replace the engine in Hill’s car so he could take up his place on the grid.
From 21st, Hill rocketed up into the points on the opening lap and had climbed into the top ten before contact with Matt Neal at Graham Hill Bend caused a puncture – a hugely frustrating outcome to a race in which his Civic had been one of the quickest cars on-track.
For Osborne, however, the weekend would end on a positive note as he secured tenth place in the sister car, building upon the encouraging pace he had shown in the opening rounds to pick up his second top ten finish of the campaign.
The team now heads for Oulton Park in Cheshire for the third event of the season on 22/23 August.
“As at Donington Park, we left Brands Hatch frustrated that we weren’t able to pick up the results that our pace deserved,” said Team Principal Shaun Hollamby. “We showed how quick we were on Saturday and it’s unfortunate that things transpired against us on race day as we could have secured some really strong results. We have a short break now to regroup ahead of Oulton Park and hopefully we can fight for some silverware there.”
“Similar to the opening rounds, we have seen the way in which motorsport can be full of highs and lows and it is unfortunate that we weren’t able to score some top results at the weekend,” echoed Mark Blundell, Sporting Director for the squad. “Both Jake and Sam are driving well and the team is doing a great job but we haven’t had luck on our side, and that is a big part of racing. I have no doubt that we will come out fighting at Oulton Park and can push for the results we are capable of.”
“Qualifying on the second row, I was hugely confident going into race day and was sure we could go away from the weekend with some good points on the board,” reflected Hill. “The first race proved to be more difficult than I expected as the handling of the car wasn’t quite there, but we were still in a good position ahead of race two to add some more solid results and get our season on-track. To then have two retirements that were outside of our control was massively frustrating and doesn’t reward the team for the fantastic work they have done over two challenging weekends to start the year. We know the Honda is a quick car and we’ll be ballast-free at Oulton Park, where hopefully my luck will change for the better.”
“I’m pleased to end the weekend with a top ten – if you had offered me that earlier on, I’d have bitten your hand off,” added Osborne. “We played the long game after a difficult start and it paid off in the final race. It was a bit chaotic with a lot of things happening on-track, but I was rewarded in the end and it’s great to have scored points in both events so far, even if we could have picked up even more. Last year, I only just managed to scrape a top 15 finish and that was in a race where everything fell in my favour, so it’s great that I’ve picked up two top ten finishes already this season.”