DOUBLE PODIUM AND POINTS LEAD FOR WSR AND BMW AT HAMPSHIRE SPEEDBOWL
WSR and BMW remain ahead in the battle for the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship thanks to a double-podium finish on a hard day of racing at the UK’s fastest circuit, Thruxton almost a week ago (27/28 August).
Drivers’ Championship leader Colin Turkington and Stephen Jelley finished second and third in the last race of the day in their BMW 330e M Sports, keeping Team BMW ahead in the race for the Teams’ crown.
There was also a pair of fourth-place finishes for ROKiT MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill, ensuring that with two triple-header events of the 2022 season remaining, he left Thruxton closer to the points lead than he had been at the start of the day.
After a tough qualifying session, both Turkington and Jelley made excellent progress in race one from 15th and 16th spots on the grid.
Northern Irishman Turkington carefully picked off his rivals one by one to rise to tenth spot by the finish with Leicester ace Jelley right behind; results they repeated in the second encounter.
But it was the partially-reversed third race – for which Jelley was drawn on pole position with Turkington alongside – when both drivers’ fortunes picked up considerably.
Running in the top three throughout, four-time champion Turkington finished second to record his 11th podium of the season and leave Thruxton with a six-point championship lead.
His team-mate’s third place was the first Thruxton podium of his BTCC career and elevated him into a tie for eighth place in the standings – the highest he’s been in 2022. It also helped strengthen BMW’s lead in the Manufacturers’ title race.
Significantly, only twice in the team’s 26-year BTCC history has WSR scored more podium finishes in a single season than the 22 that have been achieved in 2022.
It was ROKiT MB Motorsport driver Hill who had been the quickest WSR racer – and the best-placed driver of a rear-wheel drive car in qualifying. The Kent racer started the opener from third and finished fourth after a strong drive aboard his 3 Series.
A repeat result in race two brought him to within ten points of the series lead, but an off-track excursion on the opening lap of the final contest – caused when he was squeezed off at Segrave by a rival – dropped him from seventh to 16th.
From there, he recovered well to climb to 12th by the chequered flag; a result that puts him fourth in the standings – 23 points away from the series lead with six races to go.
The penultimate triple-header weekend of the season takes place at Silverstone in little over three weeks’ time (24/25 September).
“It’s been a rescue mission,” admitted Turkington. “We were on the back foot from qualifying, but we knew the importance of getting the car inside the top ten, keeping scoring points and relying on the reversed grid. That’s exactly how it panned out too. We made the BMW faster all day. By race three, the car was the best it had been all weekend by a long way, so when there was a podium there for the taking, we had the pace to make it count. I’m pleased to leave Thruxton with the points I have when you consider where we were after qualifying. Everyone has a bump in the road in a championship like this, but we’ve come through it unscathed and we’re still leading. I’ll go home pretty happy.”
“It’s been a really strong finish to a pretty strange weekend,” added Jelley. “At Snetterton, we had fantastic pace with the BMW, and yet I’ve managed to score more points here when the car’s been well-balanced, but not the fastest car. Thruxton’s been a track I’ve never really got on with and never had a BTCC podium at before, so that’s a great monkey to get off my back. I’m very pleased with the momentum we’re building now as I’ve come up five or six places in the championship since the summer break and now I’m equal eighth. Building on this won’t be easy, but if we can keep plugging away and find more and more pace, we can have a really good end to the season.”
“It was a decent weekend, but it could have been even better,” reflected Hill. “When we got to the end of race two and I was only ten points off the championship lead, I was really happy. I knew race three was going to be tough because the reversed grid put me back in the pack, but I was still pretty sure I could minimise the points I’d lose. I struggled a bit to stay with the top three guys in race one, and WSR and ROKiT MB Motorsport made the BMW a lot better for race two so I was pleased there. I started well in race three, but I got put on the grass coming into Segrave on the first lap. From there, it was just a case of getting back whatever points I could. I’m closer than I was – only by a point – but it’s a small gain.”
“We leave Thruxton happy,” concluded Team Principal Dick Bennetts. “It’s a front-wheel drive circuit and we’ve come away with a couple of podiums and still leading all the championships. Having very good reliability with nine points finishes out of nine is exactly what we’d want, and Jake’s done very well to have the only rear-wheel drive car in a sea of front-wheel drives. The team worked very hard to make all three BMWs progressively better as the day went on and we’ve seen the impact of that with the points we’ve scored and ultimately our winning Manufacturers’ score in the last race. We have two rounds left and we have everything to play for.”