Battling display for Hill at Brands Hatch
Battling display for Hill at Brands Hatch

Kent’s Jake Hill had a battling weekend at the latest round of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at his home circuit of Brands Hatch.

“Frantic!” was how MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square’s Jake Hill described his superb performance in Round 3 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, qualifying a season-best 3rd, taking 4th place in race one of the weekend, and a spectacular drive from P27 to P13 in race three, recovering from a puncture-induced issue in race two.

After struggling with the balance of the #24 Ford Focus ST in practice on Saturday, a huge re-think by Hill’s engineer Craig Porley and Hill himself saw the car transformed for qualifying, Hill immediately topping the times with a 48.179 second lap, despite carrying 39kgs of success ballast, and was only bumped to P3 by the Team Dynamics duo of Rowbottom and Shedden late on in the session.

“That was incredible!’ smiled Hill “We were all over the place in practice, so an amazing job by Craig and the team to give me such a good car. I really thought I had my first BTCC Pole Position there, but fair play to Dynamics for a job well done.

Staring P3 for race one on a slightly damp track, Hill got an excellent start, only to be boxed in by a slow-starting Rowbottom and be passed by Oliphant and Mofatt’s fast-starting rear wheel drive cars, ending lap one P5 but on a charge.

A slick move on Ashely Sutton “I did a Sutton on Sutton!’ saw Hill now P4, losing a place to Rowbottom’s charging Honda a lap later, but now closing down on Moffat whom Rowbottom also passed.

Braking for Clearways Hill saw the smallest of gaps inside Moffat, and managed to edge through into P4 – ironically with a little help from Moffat’s team mate, Sutton.

“Aiden just left a little gap, I thought I could get through but my mind was made up for me when Ash gave me a shove, and then we both managed to get through!

Under pressure from current Champion Sutton to the end, Hill maintained a small gap, but on the final laps his tyres lost performance, and Sutton charged around the outside at Graham Hill, the pair side-by-side into Clearways, with the 27 year-old from Platt’s Heath just hanging on to P4 at the line.

“That was hard! The car was really good for about 18 laps, then the last part of the race I was struggling. Good scrap with Ash again, and some very important points.

Race two Hill starting now with an additional 18kgs of ballast, another strong start saw Hill dive alongside Shedden into Paddock from there start, the Scotsman turning in and then spearing sideways and down the order.

Ending lap one in P4 after Sutton was pushed wide at Druids, Hill set after Ingram’s Hyundai, and gradually began edging closer to his former rival from Ginetta Juniors more than 10 years ago.

Closing into Clearways, a late move saw the pair side by side all the way into Paddock Bend, Hill moving ahead into P3, and immediately beginning to close on the leading pair of Oliphant and Rowbottom.

“The car felt really strong – despite the extra weight – and it was a great move to get Tom – unfortunately we rubbed wheels as I passed and then a few laps later ‘BANG!’ the front left tyre exploded and I was out. Gutted is not the word – I am certain we had enough pace to Win the race, but it wasn’t mean to be.

Finishing a lapped P27 Hill knew the final 24 lap race would provide a stern test, however the BRDC ‘Superstar’ proved yet again why he is considered one of the most exciting drivers on the grid.

A fiesty opening lap saw him pass Hamilton, Neate and Butel, then blast pass Edwards, Butel and Smelt on lap two, followed by a spectacular pass on Boardley on the back straight, despite being edged onto the grass saw him now into P19.

Next up a battle with Chilton, followed by the toughest battle of all, with Shedden and Turkington.

A tough battle with the Honda driver saw Hill ahead by lap 8 then gradually closing on the BMW of the four time champ.

Eventually Hill found a way past, and now into the points in P15, then catching Taylor-Smith and in the most spectacular pass of all, caught the Irishman napping with the latest of late braking moves, swiftly followed by a hit from behind, knocking Hill sideways, but hanging on to P14 and still charging.

On the very last lap, Hill caught race one Winner Oliphant’s BMW,  and passed him in another committed move to end the race in a very, very hard-earned P13, with more all-important points in the bag.

“So you can’t overtake at Brands?! I think today I’ve passed the drivers who’ve won every BTCC championship back to 2014 over the three races! Huge thanks to my MB Motorsport guys, and of course the Motorbase squad for giving me such a strong car. To leave here only 3 points behind Colin and still fifth in the championship is incredible.

“We have two days testing at Oulton Park next week, so I’m confident we’ll be even stronger from here on in. We also had some of our amazing partners here this weekend – Diamondbrite, CMC Civil Engineering, Logicall Wifi, Scoriatech, Point CNC, Smarttrams – along with friends and even my Mum for the first time in ages! Hugely grateful for all the support – I really needed it after race two – and it means so much to have them behind me.

The two day Goodyear tyre test takes place on 7/8th July at Oulton Park, with a five week break now until the next event, also at Oulton Park, on the 31st July and 1st August.

“Another track I love, and I can’t wait to do some testing, and really get stuck into the rest of the season.

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey