JELLEY TAKING POSITIVES FROM HOME RACE WEEKEND
Stephen Jelley had a busy race day at his local circuit of Donington Park last weekend (9/10 October) during the latest Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship event, as the Team BMW driver fought back from disappointment in qualifying to record three points finishes.
Heading to the Leicestershire venue in high spirits – having set a new personal best time in the London Marathon the weekend prior – qualifying on Saturday resulted in the 39-year-old starting Round 25 of the campaign from 17th on the grid, albeit just half a second from pole position in the highly competitive field.
Jelley started the opening contest well, running as high as P12 by mid-race. On lap ten, however, an excursion across the gravel to avoid a rival saw the #12 BMW drop down the order, before improving in the final laps to take 15th at the flag.
He made progress again in race two, mixing with Ollie Jackson for 14th and gaining a place from Sam Osborne, before setting his sights on the Hyundai of Chris Smiley. Finding himself unable to get past the #22 machine, Jelley stayed in 13th spot for the remainder of the race.
For the final contest on the 1.98-mile circuit, Jelley made another strong start and was sitting behind a close battle between title protagonists Tom Ingram and Ash Sutton before long, biding his time before stealing ninth from the former as he powered out of Redgate and snuck past.
Jelley will be back on track in little over a week’s time as the BTCC heads to Brands Hatch for its much-anticipated season finale and will be working to assist team-mate Colin Turkington’s title bid, as well as BMW in the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Standings and Team BMW in the Teams’ battle.
“It’s been a bit disappointing points-wise, I guess,” admitted Jelley. “The qualifying performance wasn’t strong enough basically – others seem to be able to turn the car on better for that one lap on new tyres. Our balance felt really good, and I just wasn’t able to maximise that for whatever reason. Our race pace has also been really strong, we’ve just been in the wrong position to capitalise on that. So there’s some real positives and some good overtakes but it’s so close in qualifying that a one-lap wonder can just pump you up the grid.
“The car balance felt good all weekend. We didn’t run a set of new tyres in free practice because we had shootout qualifying to think about, so we were going to save a set for that, but we didn’t get in. It’s so close I qualified 0.5s off pole and I was 17th – that’s blooming close! In another championship that might be second or third on the grid.
“I made progress in race one and then got shuffled back again. If you don’t quite make a move stick, then you fall out of the train. Race two I managed to move up a little bit and then hold it and then race three was really the highlight. The performance of all the cars on the grid is very close and directly in front of me in race three were cars that were had big weight from winning race two, so they were always going to be disadvantaged. We can still battle through, and I managed to get past Tom [Ingram] who won race two [on the road] and he was significantly slower with the weight. We can race but we need to qualify better at Brands Hatch and hopefully we’ll end on a high.”