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TEAM BMW CONTINUES TITLE PUSH AT BRANDS HATCH

Team BMW will continue its push for the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship title this weekend (26/27 June) when the series makes its third stop of the season, with rounds seven, eight and nine taking place on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.

Pole position and a race win last time out at Snetterton helped BMW move into the lead of the Manufacturers’ title race as the trio of WSR-run 330i M Sports all performed impressively during the weekend.

Having risen to second in the Teams’ standings, the momentum is certainly gathering for the 14-time series champions as the driver tine-upof Colin Turkington, Stephen Jelley and Tom Oliphant all aim to continue their recent form.

It was on the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy Circuit where the BMW 3 Series, which was designed and built by WSR, won on its debut race weekend in 2019.

Two years on, Turkington returns to the scene of his maiden BTCC victory in 2003 eager to add to his four career wins at the Kent circuit and bolster his bid for the Drivers’ title.

Having climbed to third in the standings with his Snetterton success, he carries 57kg success ballast into the weekend; making his BMW one of the heaviest cars in the field.

The Indy Circuit will always be a special track for Jelley, who scored his first BTCC pole position there in 2008 during his rookie season in the series.

The Leicester racer was last on the podium on the short layout in 2019, and fresh from his best-ever Snetterton weekend last time out – where he finished in the top five twice – he arrives at the Kent venue in fine form.

Oliphant arrives on a high for a very different reason; his engagement to partner Gen last week. The Leamington Spa-based racer made his WSR debut on the Indy Circuit in 2019, and last year scored his first series win on the longer ‘GP’ layout.

The 30-year-old has a ballast-free BMW at his disposal due to his 11th place in the standings, giving him a potentially crucial head-start on the field at the circuit where he also set his first ‘fastest lap’ in the BTCC.

After the Top Ten Showdown was used on Saturday at Snetterton, qualifying will return to its regular 30-minute format for this weekend’s event.

In another significant change, this weekend’s race coverage will switch to ITV3, with all three races streamed live in HD on Sunday.

“Brands Hatch is all-action,” said Turkington. “Like Snetterton, there are some fearsome corners, like Paddock Hill Bend and the fast left-right at Surtees. The rest of the lap is pretty slow speed, but not easy to get right. Car set-up is critical as you need a good change of direction for a good run off Graham Hill and Clearways.

“We’re using the medium tyres here in all three races – like in 2020 – so won’t have the luxury of a soft option and running a different strategy. Qualifying will be congested so there’s a lot to think about. You can have the best car and still not thread traffic well and be outside the top 15. We just need to remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint and keep our noses clean.”

“Snetterton was the ideal response after a challenging weekend at Thruxton,” added Jelley. “Jumping up to seventh in the championship gives us something to build on as we had a quick turnaround ahead of the races at Brands Hatch. I was mega there in pre-season testing and it is one of my favourite circuits, where I have had podiums in recent years, so I will be going there with the intention of making my Snetterton performances even better and challenging for the top three.”

“While neither Thruxton, nor Snetterton, went the way I’d hoped for, there’s obviously pace in the BMW – as the ultimate performance of the car in qualifying has proven,” reflected Oliphant. “Basically, the pace has been there all the time.

“I got engaged last week so I’m on a massive high because of that, and I’d hope that some of that can rub off on me at Brands Hatch. The past two years it’s been wet, so we haven’t really had the rub of the green, but if it’s dry we should be in good shape and coming in without ballast will definitely be handy.”

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