‘LOTS OF POSITIVITY’ FOR JELLEY AFTER THRUXTON
Stephen Jelley opened the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship with a pair of points-scoring finishes on a tricky weekend at Thruxton, as he made his racing return with West Surrey Racing driving under the Team BMW banner.
With the circuit drying after a wet morning, the quickest times in qualifying on Saturday afternoon were set in the closing moments of the session as drivers switched to slick tyres. Unfortunately, Jelley suffered a gear linkage problem which necessitated a trip to the pitlane, costing him the chance of a slick-shod lap time, leaving him starting from 18th position for race one.
Making his almost customary lightning getaway, the Leicester-native made up a remarkable ten places on the opening lap and was running well, before the technical issue from qualifying returned to haunt him, forcing the #12 machine in retirement.
The non-finish left him starting from 27th on the grid for race two, but Jelley fought back, making up 16 places to finish 11th. His efforts were rewarded not only by kicking off his points tally for the campaign, but with the 39-year-old then being drawn on pole position for race three.
With wet weather making an appearance just ahead of the final contest, tyres became a gamble, with the team opting to stay on Goodyear’s blue-walled wet rubber as the forecast called for more rainfall. That looked to be the right move as Jelley got off the line well to lead the opening lap, before slipping back to third when Ash Sutton muscled past and team-mate Colin Turkington also nipped through.
However, the rain held off in the middle stages, allowing those on slicks to seize the advantage and causing those on wets to lose the tread of their tyres, before the rain returned, making it a challenging finish for everyone. With his rear left tyre well past its best, Jelley held on as best he could to take tenth place, bagging a second points finish for himself, Team BMW in the Teams’ Championship, and BMW in the Manufacturers’ standings.
Jelley and Team BMW will return to action in the BTCC over the weekend of June 12/13, as the series travels to Snetterton in Norfolk.
“Qualifying could have been good, but we didn’t get to run on slicks because of a slight mechanical problem, otherwise we’d have been inside the top ten,” said Jelley. “During race one, I gained ten positions in the opening lap and was running eighth but then the gear linkage broke, which meant I had to start 27th for race two. I managed to pick my way through the field to get to 11th for that one and that got us the pole position for the reverse grid, which was a nice moment and the first time I have had a reverse grid pole.
“We decided to go on wets on the grid for race three. It was a 50-50 choice – all the weather apps said it would keep raining and unfortunately there was a dry spell in the middle of the race which killed the left rear tyre. Once that happens, even if it rains again, you’re on a mushed up wet and it’s dead, so I was just hanging on to it at the end. If it had been last year, we wouldn’t have got any points in that situation, so to get a few doesn’t look that impressive but there is a lot to be positive about and in the right conditions the car is ballistic, so I have that to look forward to.
“We were unlucky with a few little niggles which meant we lost the back half of qualifying then race one, but there are a lot of positives to take from the weekend too. We’ve had the toughest conditions you could have and have been fighting for a podium, so there’s lots of positivity for the rest of the season, and I have no doubt in my mind that we are going to win races this year.”