Double podium for WSR and BMW as BTCC kicked off at Donington Park
Both WSR and BMW secured a podium finish in the opening event of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park (22/23 April).
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) and Adam Morgan (Team BMW) were among the fastest drivers in the ultra-tough weather conditions, and left the East Midlands third and fifth in the Drivers’ Championship.
With four-time title winner Colin Turkington in sixth spot overall and Stephen Jelley also showing strong wet-weather pace, the reigning Manufacturers’ Champions had plenty of reasons to head back to base with optimism.
Hill made a competitive start in the opening race, as the Kent driver burst through from third on the grid to grab the lead on wet tyres in greasy weather conditions.
He clung determinedly until two laps from home, when he ceded the advantage to NAPA Racing UK’s Dan Cammish. A second-place finish ensured a 32nd career podium and the Winning Manufacturer award for the race for BMW.
A fightback from 16th on the grid in similar conditions in Race Three brought him to fourth by the flag, just 0.113 seconds away from a podium, and put him third in the points table.
“To be third in the points is a nice surprise, but I was pretty happy with what we learned about the BMW – in the last race especially. We were really storming through what was quite a clean race in really difficult conditions”, said Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport).
“The car was great so huge credit to WSR and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport. We’ve scored good points, had a car quick enough to get Fastest Lap in Race Three, but just made a collective error to stay out too long on slicks as the rain got heavier in Race Two. We’ve proven we can be quick in wet conditions and that’s a great takeaway.”
WSR debutant Adam Morgan drove a solid opener to finish seventh from eighth on the grid, but he and Team BMW team-mate Stephen Jelley used tyre strategy to their advantage in Race Two, as the pair pitted on the formation lap to switch from slick tyres to wets as light rain began to fall.
This proved an inspired decision. The tyre changes dropped the pair outside the top 20 but with the rain intensifying and other drivers needing to follow suit soon after, they climbed to second and fourth by the chequered flag.
Lancashire racer Morgan briefly shared the lead of the championship as a result, but fell to fifth by the end of the day as a spin in Race Three dropped him down the order.
“Getting a podium on my first weekend with Team BMW is obviously the highlight of the day and to do it coming from a pitlane start is even better. I’m happy with that but also not 100 per cent happy with the results today because there was a good result there and potentially the championship lead in Race Three but I hit a kerb and spun so that’s my mistake and one I’ll have to move on from,” Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said.
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) added, “I’m pleased with the recovery in Race Two and the overall pace in the last race, but disappointed with the results today. On the formation lap in Race Two there was no grip at all so I knew I had to make a gamble on tyres, so I did that and the BMW was bang-on; coming through to fourth wasn’t difficult.
“There was always going to be a safety car with the conditions as they were so that made it less of a gamble to switch early. I feel pretty good with the BMW in the wet now and certainly in Race Three – with quite a few changes – the car was very good. We found more in the car and I found more in myself.”
Four-time BTCC champion Colin Turkington’s day was affected after an incident at the Old Hairpin that dropped him from second to 17th.
Turkington climbed to 12th by the finish and climbed into the top five in Race Two before pitting to change from slicks to wets. The time loss dropped him to ninth but he recovered to form part of a four-car battle for second in Race Three; eventually finishing fifth.
“It’s been quite a difficult day. I lost a lot of ground on the first lap of Race One and that was really difficult to recover from. The rest of the day has been about trying to make up for that. We made the change to wets in Race Two just about early enough that we could still recover a good result and then Race Three sort of saved the day,” said Colin Turkington (Team BMW).
“We were hanging on a bit with the tyres at the end, but points-wise fifth was okay. We didn’t get the BMW into the performance window that I needed, but we’ve scored a decent number of points in changing levels of wet and we’ll move on to Brands Hatch looking for a lot more.”
The BTCC continues in two weeks’ time at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent (6/7 May).