Jake Hill stormed to a magnificent double win for WSR and BMW on a day of high drama for the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill.
With Stephen Jelley adding another podium finish, it was a highly memorable day for the organisation, which maintained BMW’s lead in the Manufacturers’ standings amid bright sunshine and heavy rainshowers at the Scottish circuit.
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport driver Jake was in imperious form aboard his BMW 330e M Sport during the opening two races.
Running third as part of a multi-car battle for the lead of Race One that featured seven cars as rain began to fall at one-third distance, he moved up the order after switching to wet tyres and claimed his third win of 2023.
He doubled his tally for the weekend with a 10th career win in Race Two; the Kent racer resisting intense pressure from behind for the final five laps. Contact restricted him to 14th in Race Three, which was held in heavy rain that began just as the cars were sat on the grid.
Jake, who scored the 330e M Sport’s seventh win from seven events this season, is now the highest-placed BMW driver in the Championship, holding third spot with Team BMW’s Colin Turkington one place behind.
Leicester racer Stephen Jelley set a strong pace initially in the dry conditions at the start of Race One, but gained significantly from being the first driver to pit for wet tyres after the heavens opened.
Leaping up the order as the rest of the field followed suit, he finished fourth and then broke his podium duck for the year a few hours later with a commanding drive and result that means all four WSR drivers have now finished inside the top three in 2023.
Having used his option ‘medium’ tyres in the opener, he was set to benefit from the faster softs in Race Three from fifth on the grid, but contact from behind in the wet encounter restricted him to 19th.
Four-time champion Colin Turkington, who was third in the standings coming into the weekend after wins at the past two events, endured a frustrating day.
Forced to stack-up behind team-mate Adam Morgan during the Race One tyre changes, the Northern Irishman’s pitstop was delayed as a result and he finished a lapped 11th, having fought back from 19th.
He was on course for points in Race Two – again recovering from 19th after being elbowed off the track at the hairpin – when he was punted into a tyre barrier by a rival driver on the penultimate lap. From 25th on the Race-Three grid he finished 17th.
Adam’s day was even more challenging. Having equalled his season’s-best qualifying performance with sixth spot on Saturday, he was hit at the chicane in Race One while lying sixth – right behind Stephen – and sustained a puncture, dropping him to 18th.
The Lancashire racer climbed into the points in Race Two before a turbo pipe came loose and forced two additional pitstops that cost several laps and left him unclassified. He was 18th from the back of the grid in Race Three.
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) said: “Races One and Two have been amazing today. The first race was extremely challenging with the mixed conditions, but it’s great to come away with the win. In Race Two I really had to defend hard to get the win, but it was a good battle and I got it. Race Three didn’t go the way I’d hoped, but the pace in both wet and dry was strong from the BMW so I got to Donington looking for even more.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “I’m very happy to get back on the podium for the first time this year and with the number of points I’ve scored, but the BMW felt mega in wet or dry so I’m a little bit disappointed we couldn’t get even more out of the day. Even in the changeable conditions, which haven’t always been our strong point, it’s felt great so thanks to the team for giving me such a great car, which gave me confidence to push on, even in the wettest of the conditions.”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “If I don’t laugh about today, I’ll cry. I was running so strongly in Race One when I was taken out by another driver who completely ruined my day. I was more or less where Stephen was so without that I could have been on the podium in a BMW that was working well in the wet and the dry. In Race Two we had a small mechanical issue and Race Three wasn’t too bad pace-wise, the visibility early on made it quite risky though, especially into the first corner. The pace we had in the dry gives me confidence for Donington though.”
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “I’m disappointed to leave Knockhill with very few points. We were set up for a pretty good day after qualifying eighth, but there’s been some difficulties. I didn’t have the luck in Race One with the timing of the pitstop, but there was a good opportunity to go forwards in Race Two and I’ve come out the other side of some bad driving that’s compromised the race and made life impossible in Race Three. Starting at the back is hard enough, but trying to come forwards when the visibility is so bad is so difficult.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “I’m very pleased for Jake for his two wins and to see Stephen on the podium for the first time this year, but it’s been a bad day for Colin and Adam, which could have been very different if they hadn’t been taken out by other cars. We’ve maintained BMW’s lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship, which is extremely important, so we’ll be looking to extend that at Donington next time.”