Hill shines at Thruxton
Hill shines at Thruxton

Kent’s Jake Hill took his season’s-best result at Thruxton taking a superb 2nd place in the opening BTCC race of the day, and backing that up with two hard-fought 4th places in the remaining races, leaving Hampshire in 4th place in the championship.

A stellar start to the 2021 season at Thruxton in May saw Hill take three third place finishes, and drive a remarkable race to lead on slick tyres in damp conditions, ending the opening weekend as championship leader, and on his return to the 2.36 mile circuit the #24 Ford Focus ST immediately looked strong, finishing P11 & P8 in the two, forty minutes practice sessions.

Qualifying provided high-tension, and as drivers began setting quick times Hill’s first run saw him in the top six, but on his second set of hard compound Goodyear Eagle slicks put in a superb 1.15.607 lap to take provisional Pole Position.

As the clocked ticked down it looked like Hill would claim his maiden BTCC Pole Position until a late lap from Dan Rowbottom in the Honda Civic Type-R pipped the 27 year-old by a mere 0.086 seconds….just over 11 feet at 100mph!

“Oh my word! I was digging deeper than ever for that lap – I actually did two laps back to back that would have taken Pole at the time, but fair play to Dan that’s a mega lap. Huge thanks to the MB Motorsport and Motorbase crew for an amazing job, now just got to make it count on race day”

The first of the 16 lap races saw Cook and Oliphant edge ahead at the start, with Butcher also putting pressure on, but Hill dealt with the Scotsman’s Toyota at the ‘complex’ on lap one, and edged past Pole-man Rowbottom before setting off to close on the BMW as the cars blasted up Woodham Hill at over 130mph.

In a sensational move, Hill braked incredibly late and dived around the outside of Oliphant and into P2 as they ended lap one.

As the race unfolded, Hill initially began to close slightly on leader Cook, but the BTC Honda just had sufficient pace, with Hill in turn edging away from Oliphant to seal a well-earned Second place finish – his best result of 2021 so far – and his fifth podium of the season so far.

“Not the best start, but I was determined to fight back and kept Rory (Butcher) at bay and then squeezed past Dan (Rowbottom). I knew the BMW would struggle for tyre temperature in the early laps so had to capitalise on that quickly – but I think that’s the latest I’ve ever braked for the chicane to get past Tom (Oliphant)! The car was great throughout, so again a huge thanks to the whole team for a fantastic job”

Hill now started P2 for the second race, and again saw Oliphant’s rear-wheel drive BMW edge ahead, and then a fierce battle with Butcher saw Hill just back ahead as the Toyota snapped sideways  as they headed out to the back of the circuit.

Somehow though Sutton found enough momentum to split Hill and Butcher and pass the pair, with Hill almost repeating his move on Oliphant and driving around the outside at the Chicane, ultimately not able to make it stick but just keeping Butcher at bay to stay fourth.

Hill then drove a determined race to close down the BMW, ultimately finishing fourth, just 0.55 seconds behind, to earn more important points.

“Solid start this time – but the BMW’s are always unstoppable – but then had to work to get back ahead of Butcher, but couldn’t do anything about Sutton. Pleased with the pace and great to have taken some more important points”

For the reverse-grid draw Hill would start 5th – with Morgan on Pole ahead of Proctor, Turkington, and Butcher, and this time a better start resulted in Hill three abreast into turn one with Oliphant and Butcher.

Almost edging around the outside of Oliphant into Campbell, Hill then had to squeeze back past Butcher on the exit of Noble and back into fourth place at the end of lap one.

Incidents involving Shedden and Edwards at the start, and later Smelt, and finally Hill’s team-mate Jackson who suffered suspension failure, meant the race had three separate Safety Car interventions, but each time Hill timed his re-starts superbly and kept pressure on third-placed Proctor.

Hill crossed the line once again in fourth place, taking his points tally for the weekend to 43 points, his best since his triple-podium at the opening weekend.

“My best qualifying of the season, my best result of the season, and two fourth placed finishes; that’s moved me back into fourth in the championship, and closer to those ahead, and we have some fantastic circuits for both me and the car coming up.  We’re pretty consistent now, but crucially we are getting stronger in qualifying too – I’m now only one point behind Colin (Turkington) in the Goodyear ‘Wingfoot’ award for best qualifier which shows how strong we are.

“A massive thanks to everyone on ‘my’ car – my engineer Craig has given me a superb car all weekend – and the whole crew – Ben, Rob, Adam, Ian, Brad – and everyone at MB Motorsport and Motorbase, for all their hard-work and support. 

“We also have some amazing partners – and we had some of them join us at Thruxton; it was great to see the folks from Uniserve, Liqui Moly and also my personal partners Racetruck, Logicall, CMC Civils, Ocean Fire & Security, Smarttrams and Bill Rawles Classic cars – hugely grateful for everyone’s support.

“It was lovely to see so many fans too – it really is back to it’s busiest best at BTCC now – and so many people wearing MB Motorsport team-clothing from Dread too!

“We are off to Croft next – I made my BTCC debut there with Motorbase in 2013 and Won the Jack Sears Trophy in a Ford Focus in my first-ever race. I’ve done 158 races now…it would be lovely to take another Win in the Ford Focus there – I think we’ll be in with a very good shout!”

Images courtesy of https://psp-images.photoshelter.com

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