The majestic Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire lies in wait for BMW and WSR as the British Touring Car Championship reaches the midway point of what’s been a dramatic season this weekend.
With Team BMW drivers Colin Turkington, Stephen Jelley and Adam Morgan all winners at the circuit in recent seasons and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill a podium finisher there, an all-out attack for more trophies is guaranteed from the BMW 330e M Sport quartet.
Northern Irishman Colin has won 10 times at Oulton in WSR-run BMWs including in each of his record-equalling four title-winning seasons. After solidifying third place in the points at Thruxton, he is looking forward to racing at a track that should play to the strengths of the hybrid 3 Series.
Team-mate Stephen was victorious in two of the past three visits to Cheshire and lists the Parkland circuit as one of his favourites. The Leicester racer has a full helping of hybrid energy to use through practice, qualifying and Race One to boost his performance.
Adam was a winner in 2020 at Oulton Park and is chasing a landmark 40th career podium after finishing second at Thruxton last time out. As Oulton is the Lancashire racer’s local track, he is set to be one of the crowd favourites.
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill climbed to fourth in the points last time out and was one of the star performers at Oulton Park last year; charging through the pack to score solid points after being pushed off the track in qualifying and several times on race day.
With BMW just nine points off the Manufacturers’ Championship lead and Team BMW climbing to second in the Teams’ standings at Thruxton, Oulton Park represents an excellent opportunity to progress further and add to the one win and eight other podiums scored by WSR-run cars so far in 2023.
The ‘Top-10 Showdown’ qualifying format returns for a third time in 2023 at Oulton Park.
At the conclusion of the normal 30-minute session the 10 fastest drivers will have an extra 10 minutes to battle for pole position with their previous times reset.
The use of the series mandatory hybrid-electric power system has also been changed to create a greater reliance on strategy from drivers at the front of the field – who have had their access to the 30bhp boost reduced.
At Oulton Park, owing to championship positions, Adam and Stephen will be able to deploy hybrid power once their BMWs reach 115kph. Jake must wait until 130kph, while Colin will be locked out of hybrid deployment until his car has reached 135kph.
Colin will have five seconds of hybrid power available on each qualifying lap with Jake entitled to seven and both Adam and Stephen having 15.
In Race One Colin and Jake will be allowed to use hybrid on three and four laps respectively with Adam and Stephen able to use it on 12 laps each.
Finally the ‘option’ Goodyear tyre will be used at Oulton Park, creating an extra strategic question for teams.
Cars will predominantly use the control tyre, which is the soft compound this weekend, but must fit the option hard for one of Sunday’s three races.
For the first time in 2023 the BTCC weekend will feature coverage on ITV1 – the flagship channel of the ITV network.
The opening two hours of the broadcast – including Race One – will be screened on ITV1 from 1200-1400 on Sunday while the rest of the day will feature in its regular slot on ITV4 from 1400-1815. As usual, qualifying will be broadcast on the ITV Sport YouTube channel from 1530 on Saturday.
WHAT THEY SAID
Colin Turkington, Team BMW, said: “I’m looking forward to Oulton Park. It’s a track where we’ve won a lot of races in the past and where the balance and the traction of the rear-wheel-drive BMW has helped us more than at most other places. There’s also normally a good pocket of Northern Irish fans because it’s so easy to get to from there, so it feels more like a home race than anywhere else in the BTCC. We’ve started the season well and we come to Oulton with more points than we had at this point last year, but we need to keep pushing, try to improve on every level and stay consistent. Points are great, but podiums and wins are better so that’s the goal.”
Adam Morgan, Team BMW, said: “With Oulton Park being my local track obviously I’m keen to put on a good show for Team BMW and after finishing second twice already, the first win of the season is an obvious target. Scoring my first BTCC podium there 10 years ago and winning in 2020 are two of the highlights of my career. I definitely feel we’ve closed the gap to Colin and Jake over the past few events and we can do even more at Oulton. The support is always amazing so I’d like to give the local crowd a weekend to remember.”
Stephen Jelley, Team BMW, said: “I’ve had a lot of success at Oulton Park and it’s a great place to go and race. It’s a real driver’s circuit and our BMW seems to go well around there. Over the past few years I’ve had some good results, so while we’ve still got work to do to make it happen, it’s a track where we’re looking for a big score. It’s a handling circuit that has a relatively low top speed and a lot of technical corners, so a lot of driving ability and car balance comes into it, as well as having the right set-up to achieve it. The BMW has good drive off the hairpins which helps and Cascades is a corner where you can get on the power early in a rear-wheel-drive car, so there are benefits for us at Oulton Park that we don’t get somewhere like Thruxton.”
Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport, said: “This race weekend, I am determined to get back to the front and score as many points as possible to continue our championship fight! We had a positive weekend at Thruxton last time out so we need to build on that this week and get ourselves back on the podium. Our last trip to Oulton in 2022 was disappointing after I was taken out in qualifying, so this weekend I want to show what I can really do around this great circuit in my BMW. The whole WSR team has been working so hard to get us back to the front so we’ll keep pushing this weekend and hopefully reap the rewards for our efforts.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “Oulton Park is a circuit at which we’ve done very well with BMWs in the past and one that gives us a far better chance of getting back onto the top step of the podium than Thruxton did. We’ve worked extremely hard since Thruxton to dive into the data with the drivers and engineers and work out where we can extract a bit more performance in both qualifying and race trim. We should be in pretty good shape, though we probably won’t know exactly how it will shake out until qualifying. The ‘Top-10 Showdown’ qualifying seems to have suited us quite well whenever it’s been used and if we have a hot day on Sunday, that will help us too as the BMW is extremely good on its tyres over a longer distance.”