STEPHEN JELLEY PUTS TEAM BMW BACK ON THE PODIUM
Stephen Jelley got his season back on track with a superb first podium finish of the campaign for Team BMW on a frenetic day of Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship racing at Oulton Park.
Avoiding the type of incident that forced two of the day’s three races to be red-flagged, Jelley’s second-place finish in race three, coupled with fifth and seventh spots earlier on, made the BMW 330i M Sport driver one of the top scorers of the weekend.
A 37-point haul was his best of the season and helped move the Leicester racer up five spots in the Drivers’ Championship to tenth place overall. It also helped maintain BMW’s lead in the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Standings.
But while the Leicester racer enjoyed his best weekend of the year, his West Surrey Racing-run team-mates were far less fortunate as both Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant were involved in incidents on an attritional day at the Cheshire track.
Turkington’s race day hopes were dealt a severe blow just two corners into the opener as contact from the Infiniti of Aiden Moffat saw him run onto the grass, dropping the #2 BMW from seventh to last as he drove across the grass before rejoining.
The four-time champion recovered impressively to finish 18th and made further gains with a ballast-free BMW in race two as he claimed a solid points finish in 12th.
Starting 12th on the partially reversed race three grid, the Northern Irishman again progressed to finish eighth, less than three seconds away from a top-four result.
The visit to his home circuit certainly didn’t go the way of Oliphant, as a race one incident in which his stranded BMW took blows from two unsighted drivers saw the Tarporley racer retire from the encounter with significant damage.
While his car was unable to be fixed in the short period before the second race of the day, incredible work by the WSR team and Willie Poole Motorsport meant he was able to start race three from the back of the grid.
Showing all his grit and determination behind the wheel, the Brands Hatch race winner climbed to 14th by the flag and sits 12th in the Drivers’ Championship leaving Cheshire.
Turkington and Jelley occupy top ten spots in the Standings, while Team BMW is currently fifth in the Teams’ battle. Turkington, the inaugural winner of the Goodyear Wingfoot award, also leads the qualifying-based contest after a run of consistent sessions for the 39-year-old.
The team now turns its attention to Knockhill, in just over a weeks’ time (14/15 August).
“It feels great to get my first podium of the year,” said Jelley. “It’s the first time I’ve really felt that I had the pace to convert a favourable reversed-grid position, and that’s largely down to a big step forward we made with the set-up at the tyre test at the start of July. I could push 110 per cent on every lap and it paid off. Even in race two with Ash [Sutton] right behind me, I felt I had the car underneath me to keep him behind at all times. It’s a nice feeling to have. I’m leaving very pleased.”
“The race one incident ruined my weekend,” stated Turkington. “When you get pushed off the track like that and drop to the back it becomes so difficult to fight your way through, especially with the pack as closely-matched as it is now in the BTCC. The one silver lining is that we now go to Knockhill – traditionally a track that suits rear-wheel drive cars like the BMW – with almost no success ballast, and that can only be a benefit as we try to start fighting back in the championship and taking points off the others.”
“While I’m naturally very disappointed with what happened in race one, I want to focus on the two big positives from today,” said Oliphant. “Firstly, I want to thank the marshals that were on the scene in double-quick time after what were two very big hits. Secondly, I can’t even begin to imagine how the WSR mechanics and Willie Poole’s team were able to fix my car in time for the third race. They did an incredible job because I was expecting to be back at home to watch race three when I saw the damage I had. Two points feels like a bit of a victory after that.”
“Firstly, I want to congratulate the WSR team and Willie Poole for moving heaven and earth to get Tom’s car back out for race three,” concluded Team Principal Dick Bennetts. “It looked like an impossible job, but they got it done and Tom was able to score points too. Secondly, huge congratulations to Stephen, who drove very well to get his first podium and set himself up for even more at the next few events.”