Hill stars in Skyline at Spa 6 Hours
Hill stars in Skyline at Spa 6 Hours

Racing ‘my favourite Touring Car ever’ the Ric Wood Motorsport-prepared Calsonic Nissan Skyline R32 GTR, at the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hour Historic meeting, BRDC ‘Superstar’ Jake Hill enjoyed a superb weekend, racing both in the Historic Touring Car Challenge, and in the Spa 6 Hours in Lee Penson’s Lotus Elan.

Invited by Wood to race alongside him in the Skyline, Hill impressed with a dominant performance in qualifying, taking Pole by 2.6 seconds ahead of the STP liveried Skyline of team-mate Simon Garrad.

Wood started the opening 30 minute race on Saturday morning, battling hard with Garrad and the Ford Sierra RS500 of Matt Ellis, handing the car over to Hill at half-distance. Hill quickly worked his way to the head of the 18 car field, setting fastest lap and ultimately taking an emphatic victory  by 24 seconds from Garrad.

“I haven’t been at Spa for a couple of years, and haven’t raced here since British GT’s in 2015. I can’t tell you how much I love this car on this circuit, so a massive ‘Thank You’ to Ric (Wood), Graham, Mark and the whole crew for this opportunity. And that’s my hat-trick – three wins in three weeks; two BTCC wins and now this one!”

Hill then turned his attention to qualifying for the Spa 6 Hours, racing Lee Penson’s Lotus Elan S1 alongside Penson and WEC star Alex Brundle.

Frustratingly for the team though, engine issues meant the car failed to complete a timed lap, meaning the trio would be forced to  start the race in 86th…and last place.

“Such a shame for Lee and the team – fortunately they have sorted a replacement engine so we will get to race –  it’s a long race and I’m sure we can still get amongst things”

The Setford & Company crew that were running the Elan, along with the other drivers decided that Hill should start the race, and run for around two hours to see what progress could be made.

It proved to be an inspired decision; Hill had progressed up to a remarkable 48th place in just four of the 7km laps, rapidly working his way forward so that by the end of the first hour he was in 20th place overall, 2nd in the GTS10 class and only 16 seconds behind the class-leader’s  similar Lotus.

“Wow – that opening hour was just crazy! I was learning the car with every lap – although I’ve raced Elans a fair bit and driven a few, this was my first laps in the car – so it was a bit of a learning curve! The car’s chassis and set-up was fantastic, so I just got stuck in”

As the race continued into it’s second hour, Hill took the class lead and set the fastest lap of the race, and by 120 minutes into the race, the Turquoise Elan S1 ran 6th overall, and led the class by 1m 28 seconds.

“I wanted to try and edge away sufficiently to hand over to Lee with a good gap, and everything was running well until I lost the clutch pedal, meaning I had to be super-careful with the gear shifts, but the car was still rapid and I could still make progress”

After driving for just over 2 hours and 35 minutes, Hill was called in and in an outstanding performance had got  up to  P2 overall – making up a staggering 84 places – and leading his class by over 2 minutes as he headed for the pits.

Handing over to Penson, the team first bled the clutch which cost a significant amount of time and dropped them to 22nd place, but more woe came later as an intermittent electrical issue eventually forced the team to retire the car during the 5th hour of the race.

“I’m certain that Lee and Alex would have been right up there to the end, and that a class-win, and overall top-ten finish was absolutely on. A big thanks to Alex (Brundle) for inviting me to join the team, and to Lee and the whole Setford & Co crew for having me on board – it’s been a blast!”

Heading back to the hotel for some much needed rest, Hill was back on ‘Skyline’ duty once again for the second of the 30 minute Historic Touring Car Challenge races,  the following morning, with Wood once again starting the race.

After a spirited battle with Garrad’s Skyline, Wood handed over to Hill mid-race, who once again moved into the lead, setting a scintillating fastest lap almost 6 seconds faster than his rivals.

However as he headed down the famous Kemmel straight on the final lap, the Skyline’s 2.6 litre engine coughed, slowing suddenly and forcing Hill to crawl around the lap, ultimately finishing a disappointed 4th overall due to fuel pump issues.

“Can’t believe it! Last lap and it was all looking so good. So pleased we Won race one, and I’m pleased for Simon (Garrad) in the other Ric Wood Motorsport Skyline to have won – and my best mate Matt Ellis sharing Paul Mensley’s ‘Cossie’ finished 2nd. I’ve had a brilliant weekend, and can say I’ve won at Spa now. Thanks again…now back to BTCC action next weekend at Donington”

Hill will return to BTCC action next weekend, practice and qualifying at Donington Park on Saturday 9th, with qualifying live on line at itv.com/btcc at 2.35pm, with all three of the 16 lap races live on ITV4HD on Sunday 10th  at 11.55am, 2.35pm and 5.20pm.

“I love Donington, and think the car should be really strong, so I’m confident we will go well – and it might rain so that could spice things up!”

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography