Jake Hill and Adam Morgan scored podium finishes for BMW and WSR as the 2023 British Touring Car Championship burst into life at a wet Donington Park on Sunday.
Both Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport and Team BMW drivers were among the fastest drivers in the ultra-tough weather conditions in their hybrid BMW 330e M Sport race cars to leave 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.
Jake made the best start in the opening race as the Kent racer 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 as his rear tyres began to fade. A second-place finish ensured a 32nd career podium and the Winning Manufacturer award for the race for BMW.
A terrific fightback – which included a bonus point for Fastest Lap – in similar conditions in Race Three brought him from 16th on the grid to fourth by the flag, just 0.113 seconds away from a podium, and put him third in the points table.
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 turned on the style 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 magnificently climbed to second and fourth by the chequered flag.
Lancashire racer Adam 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.
Local hero Stephen – who is from Leicester – also suffered misfortune in Race Three as he was pushed off the track and into a spin by a rival and finished outside the top 20. He was 22nd in Race One after a solo spin and sits 13th in the points.
Four-time BTCC champion Colin Turkington’s day was badly affected after he was pushed off the track by another car at the Old Hairpin and dropped from second to 17th.
He 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.
The BTCC continues in two weeks’ time at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent; traditionally a happy hunting ground for WSR’s BMWs.
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) said: “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. 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.”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “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. There’s definitely some things I’ve learned by working as one of four drivers in a top-quality team like this, but there’s more to come as well.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “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, but someone else pushed me into a spin and that was that.”
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “It’s been quite a difficult day. I was nerfed off on the first lap of Race One and lost a lot of ground 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. 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.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “To come away third, fifth and sixth in the championship is actually pretty good, considering where we were at some points today. It could have been better if it hadn’t been for some bad driving from others. All four BMWs were very good in Race Three, which is pleasing when you consider the conditions. Usually when it’s damp we lose out, though we’re fine in the full-wet conditions. Today though we were pretty good in the damp. We’ll move on to Brands Hatch and look for more.”