BMW and WSR begin the new British Touring Car Championship season this weekend at Donington Park aiming to secure yet another spot in the history books.
Four proven race-winners with 84 BTCC race wins between them will ensure the hybrid BMW 330e M Sports of Team BMW and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport are contenders for strong results from the Donington triple header onwards.
With an exceptional line-up of Colin Turkington, Stephen Jelley, Jake Hill and Adam Morgan behind the wheel of 3 Series race cars this year, the Sunbury-on-Thames team have set their sights on adding to their 16 BTCC titles – more than any other current team.
Having tied the all-time record for Manufacturers’ championships in 2022, BMW could become the first marque to win 10 titles this year; a target the entire WSR-run team is focused on achieving.
Colin Turkington, one of only two drivers to win four BTCC titles, is eyeing his own piece of history this year after his 2022 title hopes ended on the final weekend of the season.
The Northern Irishman starts the season with a visit to a track where he’s won seven times in the BTCC and where last year he was a front-row qualifier and a podium finisher.
His team-mate, for a third season in a row, is Stephen Jelley, the Leicester racer who begins the season at his local circuit.
Stephen returned to winning ways at Oulton Park last year and played a key role in the Manufacturers’ title successes in 2021 and ’22.
Completing Team BMW’s expanded three-car line-up is last year’s Independents’ Championship runner-up Adam Morgan, who is driving for a Manufacturer supported team for the first time.
While the Blackburn ace is new to Team BMW, he is no stranger to the BMW 330e M Sport and took the most recent of his 11 BTCC wins last year in a WSR-built car run by his own family team.
Filling the fourth and final car is Jake Hill, who begins his second season with WSR aboard the Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport BMW at the scene of a pole position and a race win in 2022.
The Kent racer was the revelation of last season as he scored three wins, 13 podiums – more than any other driver – and two pole positions to end the year a career-best third in the points.
Jake’s 2022 began with pole position and victory at Donington – the first driver to win on his WSR debut weekend since 1999 – and was a precursor to winning the Goodyear Wingfoot Award as the year’s best qualifier.
All the races will be broadcast live from 1045 on Sunday on ITV4.
The ‘Top-10 Showdown’ qualifying format, which has been trialled since 2020, returns for five of the 10 events in 2023 including this weekend’s Donington opener.
At the conclusion of the normal 30-minute session the 10 fastest drivers will have an extra 10-minutes to battle for pole position with their previous times reset.
The use of the series mandatory hybrid-electric power system has also been changed so as to create a greater reliance on strategy from drivers at the front of the field – who have had their access to the 30bhp boost reduced.
Finally the ‘option’ Goodyear tyre returns, creating an extra strategic question for teams. At all events bar Thruxton, every driver must use the option (usually softer) compound tyre in one of the three races.
At the Snetterton and Croft rounds, three different compounds – a hard, medium and soft tyre, must be used on raceday.
Colin Turkington (Team BMW): “We’ve had a strong pre-season and we’ve made as much progress with the BMW as we can reasonably expect given the rain (and even snow) we’ve encountered. We’ve gone through a big list of test items and settled on a package I’m happy with, so I feel in a really good place in terms of a set-up that should be easy to refine for the demands of each circuit. Last year at Donington we were very fast and should have scored more points than we did, so this time the target will be the same as always; maximise the opportunity, take the season one event at a time and get to Brands Hatch in October with a chance of winning the title.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW): “It’s great to start the new campaign at my home circuit and it seems a long time since last season came to an end. We were quick at Donington Park last year but didn’t quite get the luck that we needed. I’m going into this weekend confident of a strong showing. The championship is going to look a little bit different, plus there are a few unknowns and some new faces, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be right on the money. Hopefully, we’ll have something to celebrate on Sunday afternoon!”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW): “I’m excited to start the season and feeling confident about what I can potentially achieve now I’ve joined the most successful team in the BTCC. Testing has been a bit mixed with the great British weather affecting our plan, but we had two good days at Brands Hatch to work on set-ups with the BMW and everything feels good. We were quick at Donington last year and had three top-six finishes in the 330e M Sport so I’m targeting a repeat at the very least. Being at Team BMW and being able to focus just on driving, rather than the additional jobs associated with running your own team seems a bit odd, but it means I come into the season feeling revived, prepared and ready to go.”
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport): “I can’t wait to get back out there and get the season underway. Everything has gone smoothly in pre-season. It’s my second season in the BMW 330e M Sport and that is the first time in my touring car career that I’ve gone into a season with a year’s worth of knowledge and experience in the car underneath me. It is a new chapter for the team as we get our Laser Tools Racing journey underway and I hope we can start the season as we mean to go on. Historically, things have gone well for me here at Donington so if everything goes to plan, I’m confident that this weekend will be a successful one.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal: “Another season is here and, as always, the target is to win the Drivers’, Manufacturers’ and Teams’ titles for BMW, our sponsors, technical partners and loyal supporters It’s the first time we’ve started a BTCC season with four race winners in WSR-run cars so that bodes very well for the hopes of both Team BMW and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport. We’ve made some steps forward with the BMW 330e M Sport over winter and despite our test programme being affected by the weather, we’re reasonably happy with where we are speed-wise. We have been working with Cosworth to improve reliability from the control parts, such as the hybrid system, which will be key as any dropped points will be extremely difficult to recover in such an intensely-competitive series.”