Colin Turkington will start inside the top 10 at Oulton Park after a challenging day for BMW and WSR in British Touring Car Championship qualifying.
The four-time champion had just three seconds of hybrid power available to his BMW 330e M Sport by virtue of his third place in the Drivers’ Championship, less than all but two other cars on track.
But after falling outside the top 10 in both practice sessions, the Northern Irishman dug deep and produced a strong final flyer to snatch ninth spot and put himself ahead of all but two of the early-season title contenders.
Stephen Jelley, who had been faster than Colin in FP2, looked set for a similar result to his team-mate in qualifying.
But the Leicester racer’s hopes were thwarted when his best time was disallowed due to an incident elsewhere on track triggering a second red flag of the session less than one second before he was due to complete the lap.
That time would have placed the 2019 Oulton Park BTCC race winner on the fifth row and continued his run of top-10 qualifying performances, but instead he found himself 12th.
Jake Hill, who had six seconds of hybrid available due to lying fifth in the points, had been the fastest WSR driver in both free practice sessions, but the ROKiT MB Motorsport man saw his hopes in qualifying dashed by an incident at three-quarters distance.
Exiting the high-speed Old Hall corner to begin a flying lap with his new tyres in optimal condition, the Kent racer was forced off the track and onto the grass by a rival car that veered aggressively across the track after exiting the pitlane.
Racing downhill on the bumpy run-off zone, the grille of Jake’s BMW was filled with grass, causing him to abandon his run and pit. He starts Race One from 15th place.
Tomorrow’s opening two races will be screened live on ITV’s flagship channel, with coverage for Race Three switching to its regular home on ITV4.
Colin Turkington said: “That’s about where we are today, just inside the top 10. The BMW feels good and we’ve definitely improved that feeling across the day. The pace just isn’t quite where the leading cars are today. The lack of hybrid definitely effects you more here than any other track we’ve been to this year and having only three seconds available is definitely a penalty. The strategy for tomorrow is to get whatever points we can because coming through the field is difficult at Oulton. If we can get a bit of luck with the reversed-grid draw and get on the podium, that would be a strong result from where we are right now.”
Stephen Jelley said: “I should be starting in the top 10, but because of the red flag at the end – which came out when I was about 50 metres from finishing the lap – my time didn’t count, which is pretty frustrating as it would have been four top-10s in a row. One more second… I feel like I’m driving well at the moment, but the championship position doesn’t reflect what we’re doing with the BMW for one reason or another. It was quite a messy session with the two red flags and lots of traffic, which made things quite difficult to manage. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day, but we’ll all give it everything.”
Jake Hill said: “Ultimately my chances of qualifying up where Colin was were ruined because of the incident on my second run when [Tom] Chilton came out of the pits and came straight across the track and put me on the grass. My tyres were done after that, so my opportunity was gone. It hasn’t been an easy day and having so little hybrid compared to some of the other cars is really hurting us. Fifteenth isn’t a good position to start from, but I’ll stay focused, try to move forward as much as I can in every race and see if I can be in a position to benefit from the reversed-grid draw for Race Three.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “It’s been a challenging day on a track that’s usually good for our BMWs. We’ve improved all three cars through practice and into qualifying, but other cars have done the same. The championship leader is, at least, behind Colin, so that’s something that’s good for us, and the BMW is always a good car in race trim when conditions are consistent – as we expect them to be tomorrow. We’ll be focused on scoring good points with all three drivers and seeing what we can do with the reversed-grid race.”