Donington Park is the next stop on the British Touring Car Championship calendar as WSR and BMW prepare for the latest bout in what is becoming a hard-fought title battle.
This will be the second race event for Team BMW and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport at Donington this year but takes place on Grand Prix circuit; the first time this layout has been used since 2002.
BMW lead the Manufacturers’ points in search of a record-breaking 10th title; the BMW 330e M Sport having won seven times from the opening seven events of the season.
Double wins at Oulton Park and Knockhill – two of the past three events – have launched Kent’s Jake Hill into title contention for the second year in a row.
The Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport driver scored a pole position and a race win on his debut weekend with WSR last year on the shorter ‘national’ layout, but hopes his recent momentum, which has brought him to third in the standings, will continue this weekend.
Momentum is not something Team BMW’s Colin Turkington brings to Donington after being cruelly denied a strong set of results at Knockhill through no fault of his own.
The four-time champion has won in the East Midlands four times in the past five years and qualified on pole position twice in that time. He’s looking for more of the same as he aims to move up from fourth place in the points.
For Stephen Jelley, a second event at Donington means a double-helping of his home circuit for the first time in his BTCC career.
The Leicester ace returned to the podium at Knockhill last time out as he scored his two best finishes of the season with third and fourth-place results.
Team-mate Adam Morgan finished second on the national layout at the opening round of the season in April.
After a season’s-best qualifying result at Knockhill gave way to a disappointing set of raceday results – again through no fault of his own – the Lancashire racer’s aiming to re-establish himself as a contender for race wins.
Sunday’s three races will be broadcast live on ITV4 with coverage beginning at 1115. Saturday’s qualifying session will be shown live on the ITV Sport YouTube channel (UK viewers only).
WHAT THEY SAID…
Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport, said: “We’re all excited and motivated for Donington Park. Heading into the final three rounds, the year is reaching its crunch point and it’s time to maximise every session and every race. Knockhill was a fantastic weekend and the goal this weekend is to keep that winning momentum. The GP layout is going to be a new challenge but one I’m really excited for and I think the layout will suit the characteristics of our rear-wheel drive BMW. WSR and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport have had the car dialled-in recently and my BMW 330e M Sport is feeling fantastic so a big thank you to them for their efforts!”
Colin Turkington, Team BMW, said: “It’s all-out attack from this point on as we try to get everything we possibly can from the BMW for the rest of the season. Donington looks as if it could be a strong track for the 3 Series, which blends good balance through the medium and high-speed corners, with excellent traction through the two hairpins, which we don’t use on the shorter layout we’re used to. Although I haven’t raced on the longer track since my first season in the BTCC, we tested here in the summer and took away some good information, which we intend to use to bounce back from a disappointing score at Knockhill.”
Stephen Jelley, Team BMW, said: “It will be a nice contrast racing at Donington Park after a long trip north to Knockhill last time out and being able to go home at the end of each day. It will be the first time I have raced on the full GP circuit since 2010, so that will be interesting, but we had the tyre test in July to get familiarised. Adding two big braking zones mean there’ll be good opportunities for overtaking and given how strong the BMW was at Knockhill I am optimistic we’ll be up there in the mix again this time out.”
Adam Morgan, Team BMW, said: “Although Knockhill didn’t go our way results-wise, the BMW was fast in qualifying and I was able to start on the third row. That potential is there for Donington and the two hairpins should help us to be even more competitive than we are on the shorter track. I’ve had four podiums at Donington including my first for Team BMW in April so I’ll be aiming to at least repeat that this time. The test in the summer was decent for me but if the weather is as variable as it was at Knockhill, that might not count for too much.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “Although we’ve raced on the GP circuit many times during the nineties and early noughties, there’s not much information we can use from that time to help us. The Goodyear tyre test in July left us with some useful takeaways, but others will have gained similarly, I suspect. We have four drivers who are potential race-winners this weekend, which is a strong position to be in as we continue to fight for the championship on all fronts with BMW. After what happened at Knockhill, we’re all hoping for some consistency with the weather; wet or dry.”
The standard qualifying format returns at Donington Park, meaning a single 30-minute session will determine the starting grid for Sunday’s opening race.
The amount of the series’ mandatory 30+bhp hybrid-electric power system has also been re-set for Donington based on championship positions.
Adam and Stephen will be able to deploy hybrid power once their BMWs reach 115kph. Colin must wait until 130kph, while Jake will be locked out of hybrid deployment until his car has reached 135kph.
Jake will have five seconds of hybrid power available on each qualifying lap with Colin entitled to seven and both Adam and Stephen having 15.
In Race One Jake and Colin will be allowed to use hybrid on only three and four laps respectively with Adam and Stephen able to use it on eight laps each.
Finally the control Goodyear tyre, which is the medium compound this weekend, will be the only tyre used at Donington.