HILL HITS THE TOP FOR MB MOTORSPORT ACCELERATED BY BLUE SQUARE
MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square enjoyed a fantastic day of racing at Thruxton yesterday (9 May) during the opening event of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, with Jake Hill securing three podium finishes from three races, and leave Hampshire at the summit of the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’/Constructors’ standings.
The team was confident that Sunday could provide all the ingredients needed for a successful day’s racing as Hill and team-mate Ollie Jackson lined up seventh and ninth on the grid respectively for race one.
As the opening encounter got underway, drama quickly ensued as Ash Sutton was sent pirouetting out of the lead following contact with Colin Turkington’s BMW. Hill and Jackson took the opportunity to carve their way through the order, with the former continuing to gain places throughout the first lap.
Jackson’s progress was abruptly halted after contact between his Ford and the Honda of Gordon Shedden, which saw the #48 machine forced to pit under the safety car.
As racing resumed, Hill climbed to the podium places, in third, and staged an excellent performance to keep the BMW of Turkington at bay for the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, Jackson fought back through the order after re-joining the back of the pack to finish 19th.
An opening-lap incident saw the second race immediately red-flagged following a multi-car collision in the midfield, necessitating extensive barrier repairs and a large clean-up operation. On the restart, Hill and the Hyundai of Tom Ingram were caught off the line and lost ground to Dan Cammish, Rory Butcher and series returnee, Jason Plato. The #24 Focus quickly repassed Plato before regaining third place after Butcher spun off the road. From there, he kept in touch with the two BTC Racing Hondas of Josh Cook and Cammish and recorded his second podium finish of the weekend.
Meanwhile, some decisive driving from Jackson allowed him to carve his way through the field with a series of close battles. Closing in on the top ten, the #48 finished in 13th spot, narrowly missing out on the top-12 reverse grid pole lottery.
The notorious British weather soon played its part in proceedings as rain began to fall shortly before the start of race three. Tyre choices soon became the key call for every team on the grid, with variations beginning to emerge. The majority of the field opted to run the Goodyear wet tyre whilst MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square went with individual strategies, with Jackson running the wet and Hill running the slick tyre.
The first phase of the race particularly suited the wet runners, with Hill dropping down the order while Jackson made a storming progression through the field from 13th into the top six. As conditions improved, 37-year-old Jackson held firm in tricky conditions to seal his first top ten finish of the season, completing a stunning recovery through the field.
In true BTCC fashion, the pendulum duly swung back towards the slick runners with the rain easing and the track beginning to try once more as the race reached the midway point. As a result, Hill began lapping up to five seconds faster than the race leaders and set about dicing his way back through the order. With five laps remaining, he’d blitzed his way past pole-sitter Sutton and into the lead of the race.
Once again, the rain increased in intensity and the momentum shifted away from those on slicks. Fending off the charging Sutton and Plato as hard as he could, the 27-year-old was powerless to stop the pair from demoting him to third place at the chequered flag.
The trio of podiums from MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square’s Hill saw Motorbase Performance/Ford complete a hat-trick of manufacturer victories, heading to Snetterton on June 12/13 leading the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship ahead of BMW and Toyota.
Hill’s solid points haul, meanwhile, puts him on top in the battle for the Drivers’ crown, a first in his BTCC career after a memorable day.
“I’m over the moon with our performances,” announced Hill. “We knew we had a good race car underneath us and the team have done an amazing job in getting it to this point. The win looked possible in the last race, but the conditions just went a bit too far to hang on to it.
“There has been so much work gone into everything behind-the-scenes over the off season by so many – I’m just delighted that those efforts have been rewarded. To leave Thruxton with the lead of both championships is just brilliant and I cannot wait for Snetterton to come around.”
“It was taken out of our hands in race one,” reflected Jackson. “But we have worked really hard as a team to recover with two points finishes and a top ten in race three. Obviously the first race set the tone for the day and gave us a lot of work to do but we knuckled down and made the progress we needed to. The car felt really good and I think we made more progress through the field than any other front-wheel drive car, which is a great sign.
“I enjoyed a few battles here and there throughout and was pleased to get myself into the top ten in race three. It’s been a great start to the season for the team so I can’t wait to push for more at Snetterton.”
“I think we can call that a very successful first day back at the office,” added Sporting Director Mark Blundell. “Both Ollie and Jake did themselves proud, as did the whole Motorbase Performance operation which was faultless from minute one.
“Ollie had to battle through the hard way but made his way through the field excellently and we know that he is getting on with the car brilliantly. As for Jake, I’m really pleased for him. After the start we had last year, we couldn’t feel any more different than we do now and he drove excellently. That was some performance particularly in race three, with changing conditions, but we can head to Snetterton in confident mood and ready to build on this weekend.”