BMW and WSR head North of the border this weekend as they continue their British Touring Car Championship title challenge at Knockhill, Scotland.
Four wins from the past six races means BMW arrive at the Fife track at the head of the Manufacturers’ Championship, which they are aiming to win for a record 10th time.
They have also propelled Team BMW’s Colin Turkington into third place in the Drivers’ standings; the four-time champion having won at both Oulton Park and Croft.
Northern Irishman Colin is a two-time race-winner at Knockhill and was a double podium-finisher last year in his BMW 330e M Sport, at the narrow and undulating 1.3-mile circuit, which sits in the hills above the Firth of Forth.
Jake Hill, who is fourth in the points, was the star performer at Knockhill last year as the Kent racer won from pole position in his BMW and collected two further podiums to score a magnificent 59 points from a possible 67.
The Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport driver did even better at Oulton Park this year with a double win and 62 points, and he’s hoping to use the memories of those two events to help him close on the series lead this weekend.
Stephen Jelley was a podium-finisher at Knockhill with Team BMW in 2021 and has also been a front-row qualifier at the track.
Following a pair of strong top-10 finishes at Croft, the Leicester racer believes the succession of slow-speed, traction-dependent corners at Knockhill will play to the strengths of his BMW 3 Series.
Adam Morgan endured a tough weekend at Croft but has been a podium finisher at Knockhill in the past and, after qualifying on the second row last year, has already proven his ability to extract superb performance from the BMW 330e M Sport at the track.
The Lancashire racer has three podiums to his name from the opening half of his debut season with Team BMW and is aiming to add to that total this weekend.
Race day will be, as usual, screened live in its entirety on ITV4 from 1115 while qualifying will be broadcast on the ITV Sport YouTube channel from 1500 on Saturday.
WHAT THEY SAID…
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “Two wins in the past two events have helped us close the gap to the championship lead and reducing it again this weekend has to be our target. That’s going to be tough, but the BMW has been a winning car here for me previously and we’ve done a good job of being near the front everywhere this year. Knockhill’s a fantastic circuit and you must be really confident with the kerbs to get a good lap time – especially in qualifying. The spectators are so close to the track it feels like they’re on top of you, and there’s always a good healthy number of fans from Northern Ireland too, so it feels like a home race.”
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) said: “Since departing Croft two weeks ago, Knockhill has been all I can think about and I can’t wait to hit the track this weekend. Croft was not the weekend we wanted and there were some valuable lessons learnt that will make us stronger as we enter the final few rounds of the season. Knockhill in 2022 couldn’t have been much better, so we are pushing hard to replicate that success this weekend. We know the competition is tougher than ever and achieving those results are going to be a much harder task – but myself and the team are feeling extremely pumped and we’ll be working our hardest to deliver some strong results for the team, our partners and fans!”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “I feel refreshed, ready for the rest of the season, and I’m looking forward to heading to Knockhill. We need to keep working on doing the very best that we can and making the most of every opportunity we get, as Colin did with his Race-Three win at Croft. We’ve gone well at Knockhill in different BMWs, getting a podium with WSR and Team BMW in 2021, finishing fourth last year, and qualifying second in the 125i M Sport back in 2018, so I am hopeful we can continue those performances this time out.”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “I’m raring to go for Knockhill. The track’s mega and the atmosphere is one of the best, if not the best, that we experience in the BTCC. We had some decent momentum building towards the Summer break with the podiums at Thruxton and Oulton Park. While we didn’t continue that run at Croft – a track I’ve never had good results at – we’ve been working hard back at base to make sure the performance there is just a blip and that we can get back to where we were previously at Knockhill.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “Knockhill has some very happy memories for us as a team, having won there 13 times, but it’s not the rear-wheel-drive track some people think it is and the records back that up. We had a very good weekend last year with the BMW with both Jake and Colin, but a lot’s changed since last year with performance of some of the cars on the grid, so we’ll all have to be at the very top of our game to repeat that success. We’ll leave no stone unturned in our efforts to do just that.”
The ‘Top-10 Showdown’ qualifying format returns for a fourth time in 2023 at Oulton Park.
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 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.
At Knockhill, owing to championship positions, Adam and Stephen will be able to deploy hybrid power once their BMWs reach 115kph. Jake must wait until 130kph with Colin will at 135kph.
Colin will have five seconds of hybrid power available on each qualifying lap with Jake entitled to seven and both Adam and Stephen having 15.
In Race One Colin and Jake will be allowed to use hybrid on seven and eight laps respectively with Adam and Stephen able to use it on 12 laps each.
Finally the ‘option’ Goodyear tyre will be used at Knockhill, creating an extra strategic question for teams.
Cars will use the soft compound this weekend, but must fit the medium compound for one of Sunday’s three races.