Four-time British Touring Car Champion Colin Turkington recorded Team BMW’s first victory of the 2023 season at Brands Hatch on Sunday.
In a scintillating Race One performance, the Northern Irishman recorded his sixth win on the 1.2-mile ‘Indy’ layout of the Kent track, and the 64th of his illustrious career; a result that put him a clear second on the the series’ all-time winners’ list.
The win was also the 30th BTCC triumph for the current generation of the WSR-designed-and-built BMW 330 M Sport race car (in both i and e variants) since it was introduced to the series in 2019.
Having started the opener from the outside of the front row, with weather conditions mercifully better than they had been in Saturday qualifying, Colin shot into the lead and never looked back, having opted to use the soft Goodyear tyre straight away.
He followed that performance up with a feisty third in Race Two and then added fifth – having started ninth on the partially-reversed grid – to close the day.
His 47-point day elevated him to fourth in the Drivers’ standings and contributed to BMW’s second position in the Manufacturers’ points – just 16 off the championship lead.
The points haul might have been even greater but for the misfortune suffered by Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport driver Jake Hill, who was deprived of a podium challenge late in the final race due to a puncture.
Until that point, Hill, who had started Race Three on the soft tyre, was chasing down third position, having started eighth in his BMW 330e M Sport.
Jake had looked set to build on strong fourth-place finishes in the opening two races. The Kent driver leaves his home circuit fifth in the standings, just 12 behind Colin.
WSR new boy Adam Morgan delivered storming drives in Races Two and Three. An accident in qualifying forced the Lancashire racer to start near the back in Race One, and he was then innocently caught up in a collision that also eliminated Team BMW team-mate Stephen Jelley on the opening lap.
Both BMWs required significant repairs, but while Stephen was forced to sit out Race Two, Adam was able to get back out on track, delivering an outstanding drive to finish 16th after starting from the pitlane. He then converted 16th place on the grid into sixth in Race Three with another excellent charge.
Unfortunately, Stephen’s luck was not to improve after his Race One elimination. Thanks to brilliant and efficient work by the Team BMW mechanics, his car was back in full working order for Race Three and the Leicester racer duly set about racing through the field before he too suffered a puncture that ended his impressive charge.
The BTCC continues in two weeks’ time at Snetterton in Norfolk, where Colin took two clean sweeps (pole position, victory and fastest lap) from three races last year.
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “It was a really strong day. We haven’t had the fastest car, but we still scored really well with the BMW and winning is excellent. We’ve got good points in the bag. It’s so difficult to set expectations because it is so competitive. So all we can do is prepare well, keep working hard through the weekend and just grind it out. We maximised the opportunity of starting on the front row in Race One by using the soft tyres when we had the most hybrid boost. That started the day well with a win and that makes it easier to stay at the front. We were clever with strategy and we worked it well. That’s been the key.”
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) said: “To have a puncture in the final race is a disappointing end to a very strong weekend for us. I think I’d have been on the podium, and possibly had a shot at the win. I was catching Bobby [Thompson] quickly and obviously the two leaders were fighting hard, so I was pretty certain I would have been among it. It’s a real shame, because up until then we’d had two strong fourths. I feel gutted, but we’ll pick ourselves up and go again.”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “When you look at how qualifying and Race One went [with the two accidents], just to bag some points was the aim of the day, and we had some decent pace in the last race. To go from 16th to sixth… I’m happy with that. The lesson learned is that qualifying is imperative and we need to be out of the way of all the trouble. We had the pace for a very good weekend, but unfortunately we started on the back foot. A big thanks to Team BMW and WSR for the incredible work they put in to repair the car, after qualifying and again after the crash in Race One.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “What a day. The team worked so hard to get the car out in Race Three after the accident in the first race, and then we suffered a puncture as I was racing back! I was absolutely on the limit, and passing cars on the outside, inside, every side! And then ‘bang’ the tyres goes… I thought ‘I can’t give up now’, so I went back out and tried to set the fastest lap and ended up missing out on that by a tenth. The car was biblically fast today, we’ve just had no luck at all.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “A good day for Colin with a win, a third and a fifth. He’s strong here, but he’s strong at most circuits and he uses his head. Disappointing for Jake, who was running fourth when the puncture happened. We need to analyse what happened with the left-rear punctures on Jake and Stephen’s cars because Colin was alright on the soft and so was Adam. It’s frustrating because it cost us some points in the Manufacturers’ Championship, but there is a long way to go in the championship. It’s very competitive this year, and we came away with some good points.”