SOLID POINTS FOR TEAM BMW AT THRUXTON
Team BMW kicked off its 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign with a solid points score on a tough day at Thruxton in which changeable weather put the entire 29-car grid through its paces.
Drivers Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant and Stephen Jelley collected eight points finishes from a total of nine starts to leave BMW second in the Manufacturers’ standings as they bid for a record-breaking sixth-straight crown.
Four-time champion Turkington bagged the best finish of the weekend with sixth in race three, the Northern Irishman having opted for wet tyres on the grid as rain began to fall at the start.
Following a back issue on Saturday, he had earlier finished fourth on-track during the opening contest, before a 17-second penalty saw him relegated to tenth, and secured seventh in race two, and now sits seventh in the points as a result.
Oliphant was hugely unfortunate to be forced into a spin on the first lap of the opening race and fell from fifth to 27th; inspiring a fightback to 15th spot, which he added to with tenth in race two.
Drawn second on race three’s reversed grid, he chose to stay on slick tyres and it nearly paid off; the Leamington Spa racer falling to 19th, but then climbing back to second before late rain caused a drop to seventh.
Jelley, who climbed from 18th to eighth early in race one, was forced to retire with a transmission issue that put him 27th on the grid for the next race. A majestic recovery to 11th became pole position for the finale, courtesy of the reverse grid draw.
Like Turkington, the Leicester racer chose wet tyres and ran inside the top three until the track dried and played into the hands of his slick-shod rivals. An overheating rear tyre meant that he was unable to take advantage of the late rain and finished tenth.
He leaves Thruxton 14th in the points with Oliphant ninth and Team BMW sixth in the Teams’ standings.
“The goal for the weekend was three points finishes, and we achieved that,” said Turkington. “Race three, especially, was tough with the changing weather conditions. I chose wet tyres because they were the lower-risk option and I honestly don’t think slicks would have got me more than one place higher, so I was satisfied with the result there, especially given that I had a back issue [on Saturday].
“We’ll go to Snetterton – a track where we had an incredible weekend last year – with minimal success ballast and that should put us in a good position to really use the BMW to the maximum.”
“I’m sure I had the pace in the BMW to finish on the podium in all three races, but because of an incident in race one that was no fault of mine, the day became all about fighting back,” added Oliphant. “I’m pleased with the speed of the BMW that meant I could come up from last to 15th in race one and then up to tenth in race two. I went for slicks in race three and if it wasn’t for the second rain shower near the end, I’d have been on the podium easily.
“The car was so much better than two years ago when I tried the same thing here, so it shows the progress we’ve made in that area. Considering this is my least-favourite circuit, I’m going to go to Snetterton with a lot of confidence of doing well.”
“Considering everything that’s happened this weekend, I can take a lot of positives away,” concluded Jelley. “I’m really comfortable with the car, made up ten places in a lap in race one and I was on for an easy top ten when I had a mechanical issue that put me out.
“Top drivers see carving through the field as ‘what has to be done’, so now I’m in a top team, that’s my attitude too. I took wets in race three and leant a bit too hard on the left-rear tyre when the track was at its driest, so when it rained again I had very little grip and I dropped back. But I’ve learnt enough to feel like I can fight for a win at Snetterton.”