Independent victory for Hill
Independent victory for Hill

Jake Hill continued his superb run of form in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, taking his fifth overall podium of the 2020 season, and with it the team’s first Win in the fiercely competitive Independent drivers category at a chilly Snetterton.

Hill had marked his intent by setting the fastest time in free practice – the fourth time this season he has topped the practice times – then headed into the new format of qualifying confident of a strong showing.

After progressing through to the top-ten ‘showdown’, Hill put the #24 Honda Civic Type-R on Pole Position with less than 2 minutes remaining. However reigning champion Colin Turkington pipped the BRDC ‘Superstar’ to the top-spot, but Hill still took top qualifying for the Independent Category.

“So close! The car was great in practice and qualifying, so I’m confident we will be in good shape for the races.

For Sunday’s opening race overnight rain had left the circuit cold and damp in places, but sufficiently dry that the drivers would start on slick tyres, and at the start Turkington and Ingram starting on the racing line edged ahead of Hill into turn one.

Once the BMW had warmed it’s tyres, Turkington edged away and Hill reeled in Ingram’s Toyota, briefly passing into Hamilton but running wide and letting the #80 car back through.

Hill began catching again quickly, and then then on lap 5 a better exit from turn one saw Hill down the inside at Montreal, but Ingram ‘closing the door’ very late, resulting in contact, the Toyota sideways and Hill now up to P2.

However the 26 year-old from Kent sportingly decided to give the position back to Ingram to avoid repercussions afterwards with the officials, prompting discussions from several experts.

“I was quicker than Tom at this stage of the race, got a great run out of turn one then got along way down the inside of Tom. He came across very late, and the track was still damp on the inside hence the contact. In hindsight I feel it was a fair move, but at the time I thought it best to hand the place back.

As the race ran down, Hill managed the gap to both Ingram and a chasing Rory Butcher behind, taking a well-judged run to another podium, but crucially a first Independent Category win of 2020.

“So pleased for the team and my crew – shame I couldn’t get past Tom – but delighted to have taken that Independent Win.

Starting P3 and now with 48kgs of success ballast on board, Hill’s car ‘bogged’ down at the start, allowing Butcher, Sutton and Cammish to squeeze ahead.

The tricky nature of the 2.99 mile Norfolk circuit – the longest on the calendar – meant the top-six drivers ran close together for the duration, until on lap 11 Jack Goff’s accident at turn one brought out the Safety Car, resulting in a one-lap sprint to the flag.

Judging his exit from the final chicane superbly, Hill edged past Cammish on the line to take P5 by just 0.045 seconds!

“Crazy last lap, but I managed JUST to nip past Dan on the line. More all-important points, and again the car was great, despite the ballast, just a shame we struggled at the start.

For the reverse grid race Hill would start P6, and the race would provide the typical frantic action often seen in the day’s final race.

Plenty of bumping and boring saw several place changes, Hill losing out to Butcher and Sutton, but passing Cook and Cammish to end the lap in a fierce battle with Ingram, and still in P6.

Ahead the action got ever closer, and on lap 5 Smiley, Sutton, Ingram and Hill all squeezed through Hamilton – Hill being edged onto the grass and dropping to P8.

Now also behind Cammish, Hill lost out to a charging Cook, before settling into a rhythm that would result in a very hard fought P9 – taking points for the 17th time in the previous 18 races, his 16th top-ten finish of the season so far.

With these results, Hill moved from 11th to 8th in the overall championship – moving ahead of the newer Hondas of Cook, Neal and Chilton – and now only 2 points behind 7th placed Adam Morgan’s Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Hill also edged closer to Morgan in the Independent Driver’s points – still in 5th but now just 17 points behind going to the final event at Brands Hatch.

After his third front-row start of the year, maintaining his remarkable record of qualifying in the top-ten overall at every race so far in 2020, Hill is now only 4 points behind Butcher in the Goodyear ‘Wingfoot’ award for best qualifying drivers of the year.

“Considering the tough start we had with only one 10th place in the first six races, to now be in with a shout of finishing in the top-ten overall and top-five Independent Drivers is testament to the amazing job the team have done all season.

“Brands (Hatch) is my ‘home’ circuit – I am determined to go well there, and finish strongly so I will be doing all I can to work with the team to make sure we are in the best shape possible.

“It’s going to be freezing cold I’m sure, and pretty unpredictable as a result, but I love the circuit, the car suits the track and I will be trying harder than ever.

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey