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MB MOTORSPORT FINDS HAPPY HUNTING GROUND AT CROFT

MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square enjoyed its best weekend of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season to date with a double podium finish and an impressive points haul at Croft, during the seventh event of the revised 2020 season.

Sporting a new Total Computers-inspired livery, thanks to the team’s channel partner activation with HP and Intel, the Honda squad headed into race day in a strong position on-track. After a successful Saturday, where Jake Hill put his #24 Civic Type R on the front row of the grid and team-mate Sam Osborne secured 17th, the team were confident of a strong Sunday at the North Yorkshire circuit.

Despite briefly dropping behind defending champion Colin Turkington at the start of the opening race, Hill quickly regained the position with an exciting move around the outside of the BMW driver to run in second place. Pushing race leader Josh Cook, Hill produced a fine drive on what was a greasy circuit to maintain position and take the chequered flag in second spot, marking his best result of the season to date and MB Motorsport’s best-ever finish in the BTCC.

Osborne had been hopeful of fighting his way forwards into the top-15 positions, but an unfortunate trip off track at the complex saw him forced into the pits to retire, leaving him down in 25th-place on the grid for the second race of the day.

That race saw Hill again starting from the front row and, despite carrying 54kg of success ballast, he held his position off the start before a brief caution period to recover Turkington’s BMW from the gravel at turn one. On the restart, Hill was under huge pressure from the Infiniti of points leader Ash Sutton, with the pair coming to blows on lap six when Sutton tried to make a move up the inside at the hairpin.

Luckily for the MB Motorsport Honda driver, Hill was able to continue without major damage but would slip behind Matt Neal in the closing stages before taking the flag in third place – marking the first time in his BTCC career that he has picked up two podium finishes from a single weekend.

A storming start to the race for Osborne saw him move up nine positions to 16th-place by the end of the opening lap, and he would then move into the points when Sutton was forced to pit. Battling ahead of Mike Bushell near the end, Osborne was rewarded with a 14th-place finish after making up eleven spots from his starting position.

The reverse-grid final race saw a difficult start for the #24 driver, as Hill slipped from fourth to eighth position on the opening lap. Although he would climb as high as fifth after an early safety car period, the 26-year-old had to settle for seventh place at the finish. Hill’s impressive weekend saw him collect the second-most points out of the field and now sits just a point outside the top-ten in the overall championship standings, and fifth in the Independents’ Trophy.

Osborne would run in the points throughout and looked set to match his race two result until the final lap when he lost a place, although he still picked up his first double score of the season with 15th. Crucially for Osborne, the strong results in the second and third races mean he is now up to third in the Jack Sears Trophy standings and firmly in contention for honours with two race weekends, and six rounds, left to run.

The team, who picked up the third-most points this weekend, now heads for Snetterton in Norfolk for the eighth event of the campaign at the end of the month.

“This has been our strongest race day of the season so far and Croft has proven to be a happy hunting ground for us,” said Team Principal Shaun Hollamby. “Jake has done an exceptional job to secure his first double podium and Sam also did well to fight back and score two points finishes himself after what happened in race one. We’ve now finished on the second and third steps of the podium this season, and will be pushing hard to make sure we finish on the top step before the campaign is done.”

“On the back of a strong day on Saturday, it’s great for the team to have picked up a first double podium,” added Mark Blundell, the squad’s Sporting Director. “Jake did a fantastic job on track and his talent has shone through, and Sam also did well to recover from race one with two solid points finishes. This has been our highest scoring weekend of the season and gives us a good platform to build on in the final two events.”

“I’m chuffed with the weekend, it’s been a great one for the team,” said Hill. “The car has been rapid and to get two podiums is fantastic. Had it not been for a bad start in race three, I think we could have been up there in the top four in the final race as well, but I’m not going to complain. It wasn’t a circuit where I expected us to be strong and instead it has been one of our best weekends of the season, which is a nice surprise. I love the two circuits that are still to come and am in a good place at the moment, so I’ll be pushing for that win.”

“This was only my fourth time at Croft and it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve,” said Osborne. “Things didn’t start too well in race one with the retirement and it was a case of mixed emotions as the data showed I was matching Jake, but I just carried too much speed into the complex; I think I ran out of talent a bit there! To make up eleven places in race two was really good and then we rounded it off with more points in race three, so I’m happy with how things ended.”

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