Double podium for Hill
Double podium for Hill

Kent’s Jake Hill drove superbly all weekend at Croft in North Yorkshire, with a double podium finish.

Taking a season-best finish of P2 in race one, following up with another podium in race two, and then a battling drive to take P7 in race three, and with it achieve a career-best weekend points haul.

After taking P5 & P3 in practice in dry conditions, a wet circuit in qualifying saw the 26 year-old BRDC ‘Superstar’ briefly take Pole Position, before an incident put him off the road, and after dropping to P4 was subsequently promoted to P2 as both Ingram and Proctor were excluded from qualifying for technical issues.

“We had a great car from the outset – in both dry practice and the wet – I felt we could have taken Pole but the incident putting me off the road damaged our tyres so that was that. Then we benefitted from Tom and Senna’s exclusion so we start P2.

On a still damp circuit, Hill was jumped by the fast-starting BMW’s of Turkington and Oliphant, but in a brave and committed move swept around the outside of first Oliphant at turn one, and then Turkington at turn two, moving back to P2 and chasing leader  Cook.

“I wasn’t giving that place up! It was really sketchy, but getting Colin was really edgy, but that was a move I’m proud of!

Hill then set off chasing down leader Josh Cook’s BTC Honda, the pair exchanging fastest laps – Hill missing out by a mere 0.09 seconds – and after pressure from current BTCC Champion Turkington gradually edged away from the BMW, and kept charging to the final corner, taking a season-best P2 just 0.653 seconds behind Cook.

“The car was really strong all race, it was great to edge away from Colin and I was SO close to being able to have a real go at passing Josh. Fair play he drove really well, I’m so pleased to have got my best result this season – thanks to all of my crew at MB Motorsport – Shaun, Rob T, Craig, Ben, Rob O, Dan, Charlie and Ian – as always they have done a fantastic job.

Starting race two again in P2 – this time with 54kgs of success ballast on board – Hill tucked in behind Cook at the start and braking for turn one was thumped into by Turkington who had locked his front wheels, ending up in the wall and out of the race.

Undeterred Hill charged after Cook, chased by championship leader Ashley Sutton’s Infiniti, the three moving away from the pack early on.

Sutton – renowned for his aggressive overtaking style – drew alongside Hill into turn one, but Hill stood his ground and held position. However on lap 6 Sutton dived to the inside of Hill into the final hairpin, clattering into the #24 machine, lifting the car into the air and damaging the Infiniti’s front wing, and immediately giving Sutton a front-right puncture.

Hill charged on – now with a damaged car – and as the race ran down was caught by a charging Matt Neal who edged by at Sunny, and with Ingram chasing hard stayed clam to take a second podium of the day in P3.

“Wow! We dodged a couple of bullets in that one! First corner I had a massive thump from Colin and only just hung on to it, then Ash came from way too far back way too late and we were lucky not to get damage that put us out. The car was pretty lairy after that so to take P3 took a major effort. I’ve never had two podiums in one day – especially having had 54kgs of ballast in the car – and again it worked really well. Really pleased.

For the final ‘reverse grid’ race, Hill was drawn P4 on the grid, and   a good start was slightly bettered by Neal, then as Hill charged into turn one was edged wide and lost out to Cook , Oliphant and Proctor.

Then on lap 2 Bobby Thompson’s TPC Audi S3 suffered a frightening accident, sliding sideways and then barrel-rolling several times, immediately bringing out a Safety Car, with a shaken Thompson clambering out of his car unharmed.

At the re-start Hill immediately caught Proctor, slicing past at the hairpin and then charging after Cook, and on lap 9 charged by into Tower Corner and now up to P6.

Continuing his progress Hill quickly caught Oliphant and swept past the BMW and now up to P5. Catching Neal quickly, the Team Dynamics Honda proved tougher to pass, Hill finding his brakes starting to fade as the race progressed.

Brake issues saw Hill run wide at the hairpin, with Oliphant barging back through and taking Sutton with him.

Managing the brake issues to the end of the race, Hill kept cool and held Cook back to take more points and finish P7.

“Firstly I’m so glad my mate Bobby is ok. That was massive and again shows how strong these cars are. It’s a shame I lost out on lap one, but the car was great again, I pulled off some good moves and think I could’ve maybe had another podium, but unfortunately the brakes were fading from mid-race onwards.

“This has been a brilliant weekend though. I made my BTCC debut at Croft back in 2013 and stood on the podium with Matt Neal as I won the Jack Sears trophy – today I’m up there with him again, this time challenging for race wins. Massive thanks to all my amazing partners for making this journey possible, only two weekends left now but they’re tracks I love so let’s see.

Hill’s qualifying saw him maintain his remarkable record of qualifying in the top ten at all seven race weekends so far – one of only three drivers on the BTCC grid to have done so this season – and move back to P4 in the Goodyear ‘Wingfoot’ award.

Despite a difficult start to the season with 5 retirements in the opening 6 races, Hill has now scored points in 14 of the last 15 races, including taking 4 Podiums, and has moved up to P5 in the Independent Driver’s category.

“It’s been fantastic, the car is great, the team are doing a mega job and I’m loving it! Snetterton and Brands Indy left and I lover both tracks, and the car is strong there so let’s aim for more silverware.

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey