WSR and BMW qualified on the second row of the British Touring Car Championship grid in a closely-contested session at the UK’s fastest circuit, Thruxton, on Saturday.
ROKiT MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill continued his excellent recent run of form to put his BMW 330e M Sport third on the grid; a result that gives him a chance to close-in significantly on the lead of the championship on Sunday.
The Kent racer, who lies third in the standings, had been the fastest of the three WSR drivers in both practice sessions at the Hampshire track and set a blistering pace on his first flying lap of the 30-minute qualifying session to secure the result.
Impressively, it was his seventh top-six result of the eight qualifying sessions held in 2022.
Stablemate Colin Turkington, the championship leader, endured a frustrating session, which was disrupted early on when the presence of a rival car in the middle of the track caused him to go off at the Complex early on.
The Team BMW driver – whose status as points leader means he was not allowed to use any of the series additional hybrid power in the session – rebounded with his fastest time of the session with just 90 seconds remaining; a lap good enough for 15th place on the grid.
Team-mate Stephen Jelley was one place behind and only four thousandths of a second adrift of Colin.
The Leicester racer had been a top-six runner in practice and is optimistic of adding three more strong points finishes on Saturday, which will be crucial to Team BMW’s hopes of increasing its Teams’ Championship lead.
Sunday’s three races will be broadcast live on ITV4 with coverage starting at 1115 am.
Jake Hill (ROKiT MB Motorsport) said: “It’s a huge plus to qualify third here, especially with Colin and Tom [Ingram] – the two drivers I really need to take points away from – being outside the top 10. The BMW’s been in a good place all day and I feel like we’ve maximised it, so a huge thank you to WSR and ROKiT MB Motorsport for the job they’ve done. This puts me in a great situation for tomorrow. The aim is definitely to add more podiums and have three good points finishes. If I can do that, I’ll almost certainly close in on the lead of the championship and maybe even have it myself.”
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “Fifteenth is not where I want to be on the grid, but I was missing grip over the whole lap. We’ve been chasing the set-up all day and we have made some progress. I just thought we’d be in better shape for qualifying than we were able to show. I was disrupted quite early on when another car blocked the middle of the track and I locked up and went off at the Complex, but I’d still have hoped to be higher. We’ll work on things overnight and I’m sure we’ll have a good racecar, so the aim will be the same as always; score as many points as possible and hope to get a bit of luck with the reversed grid.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “It’s been a weird day. The balance of the BMW is really good – probably better than I’ve ever had it at Thruxton – and the laptime felt better than when I qualified third at Snetterton a few weeks ago, so it was quite a surprise to see where it put us in the order. It seems like some of the TOCA-engined cars have made a big gain since Snetterton, which has made it more difficult, but I haven’t been over-driving at all, and I could see some others were while I was out on track. The fact that the balance is good is a positive for the races tomorrow, and there are definitely some drivers in unusual places. We can go forwards from there.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “Thruxton has always been a circuit where the front-wheel-drive cars have an advantage in qualifying, so we weren’t expecting to be on pole, but Jake’s proven the pace of the BMW today and done a very good job. The BMW is always a strong racecar, so tomorrow, where it’s what you do over 16 laps rather than one that counts, we should be in good shape. We’ll look carefully at what happened in qualifying for both Colin and Stephen and make sure both are in a position to make some big gains tomorrow.”