A storming lap from Jake Hill put WSR and BMW on the front row for the latest round of the British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone.
The Kent ace set three laps all good enough for second place on the grid aboard his ROKiT MB Motorsport BMW 330e M Sport, getting within just 0.037s of pole position at the Home of British Motor Racing.
Crucially for Jake, who is 23 points away from the series lead with six races left, his sixth front-row start of the year gives him a terrific opportunity to add to the nine podiums he’s already scored in 2022.
The jet-black BMW was able to complete three laps at near identical speed; Jake improving fractionally on his final run and doing so without a tow from his stablemates.
Remarkably this was achieved without the on-site presence of Race Engineer Craig Porley, who is unwell, but was providing support remotely as part of a collaboration with Team Principal Dick Bennetts and Data Engineer Rob Davidson.
Team BMW’s championship leader Colin Turkington arrived at Silverstone without the use hybrid power for practice and qualifying; a disadvantage estimated to be worth as much as 0.3 seconds to some of the other cars on the grid over a lap.
The Northern Irishman, who is chasing a record-breaking fifth title this year, qualified 10th; just 0.331s away from pole, at the circuit where he claimed a podium finish last year and a win in 2020.
Colin was cruelly denied a faster lap when the session was red-flagged for a stationary car at half-distance at exactly the time when the four-time champion was receiving a two-car tow from both Jake and Stephen Jelley.
Team-mate Stephen Jelley had earlier served notice of his speed by setting the second best time in the second free practice session.
But he was not able to repeat that achievement in qualifying; the Leicester racer not able to maximise the benefit of a two-car tow from Colin and Jake and then not finding a suitable tow in traffic after the red flag.
Tomorrow’s three races will be screened live on ITV4 with coverage from 1100.
Jake Hill (ROKiT MB Motorsport) said: “I’m ecstatic. We extracted the absolute maximum from the BMW given how little hybrid we had here compared to most of the cars around us. Huge thanks to WSR and ROKiT MB Motorsport for a fantastic BMW. To do this with my Race Engineer Craig [Porley] not here because he’s not well is quite an achievement, but I have to give him huge credit for making sure the car was set-up perfectly before we even came here, and to Dick and Rob for looking after me here plus Craig for his input on the phone. The aim for tomorrow is to score big points and I’m sure we can do that. It’s exactly what we need to close right in on the championship lead before the final round at Brands Hatch.”
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “Ultimately Silverstone, with long straights and only four corners, is the worst circuit in the BTCC to come to with no hybrid for qualifying. That was always going to make it tough today and qualifying 10th isn’t where I want to be ideally. It was pretty unlucky that the red flags came out while I was on my hot lap with a tow from Stephen and Jake – and already faster than I’d been before – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Race One is going to be tough because I only have hybrid for six laps and the cars around me have more, but the target will be the same as ever; hang in there, score points and see if we can get something out of the reversed-grid draw for Race Three.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “I’m a bit disappointed that I was second-fastest in FP2 and then went slower in qualifying. I felt the balance of the BMW had shifted a bit since practice – probably due to the way the track had evolved – and I fell out of synch a bit with our plan for towing, so that didn’t help either. We’ve had the Carrera Cup cars out just before us at the past few events and the fact we didn’t have that here left the track in a different situation grip-wise to what we’ve been used to, and I didn’t quite extract everything from the car as a result. I’m very happy with the BMW in race trim, but the times are so close that moving forwards tomorrow is going to take some very carefully planned moves.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “It’s been ultimately a very good session for Jake and and more of a mixed one for Colin and Stephen. With Craig unwell, we really had to pull together on the engineering side with Jake’s car, but Craig’s been on the phone and WhatsApp all day making sure Rob and I stay on track with things and it’s worked out pretty well today. We suspected that being without hybrid was going to affect Colin here more than at most other tracks just because of the nature of the circuit with long straights and medium-speed corners. Despite this, if we hadn’t had the red flag and he’d completed his lap with a tow, he’d probably have been in the top six, so we can be pretty confident that we have strong race pace from all three BMWs heading into Sunday.”