The 2023 BTCC season returned in earnest at Donington Park as Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport and Jake Hill battled challenging weather conditions to collect a podium finish and a healthy haul of points to leave round one of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship third in drivers’ standings.
The first competitive outing for the new look Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport team on Saturday was kickstarted on a high with Jake Hill finishing both free practice sessions of the weekend in third place, setting the tone for the upcoming qualifying session.
A stellar qualifying performance from Jake behind the wheel of his #24 WSR-run BMW 330e M Sport saw him claim third place in the ‘Top-10 Showdown’ as he narrowly missed out on a second consecutive pole position by 0.1 seconds to take third spot on the grid and with it, a fantastic starting position for race one on the Sunday morning that would follow.
Gloomy skies and wet, blustery weather would set the scene for race day and a fantastic start would see Jake challenging both Sutton and Rowbottom towards the first corner, with the latter making contact with Jake, sending him into the side of Sutton as a result.
Taking the lead of the race, Jake began building an impressive gap to the chasing cars, before a safety car would bring a halt to his superb race start. Carefully managing the restart, Jake would lead the field away once more at the green flag followed by the pursuing Cammish and Ingram respectively.
With the tricky conditions suiting the front wheel drive Ford of Cammish, Jake would defend valiantly as the pressure continued to mount, and he would lead the race until the closing stages, where Cammish was able to sneak past into the lead. Jake would ultimately take the chequered flag in second place, getting the season off to a fantastic start.
An unfortunate post-race grid penalty for the contact with Sutton on the opening lap would see Jake start race two from fifth place on the grid as the weather conditions took another turn.
The unpredictable weather for the start of race two would see multiple drivers at the back of the grid take the gamble on the wet weather tire in dry conditions, with those at the front opting to remain on dry tyres to retain track position. Jake would hold onto fifth position for the opening stages of the race, as the closely-knit leading pack battled its way through the rapidly changing weather. Soon, the gloomy skies quickly gave way to pouring rain and the treacherous weather conditions would see the front runners forced into the pits to fit new rubber.
After emerging from the pits outside of the points, Jake would cross the line in P17 to bring an end to a chaotic race two.
Race three would see Jake mount a phenomenal charge through the field from 16th on the grid as the wet conditions remained. A combination of calculated overtaking and great racecraft would see Jake storm up the order to the top-ten, before a brief safety car period to remove a stricken car would interrupt his progress.
At the restart, Jake would continue his mighty performance, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process as he rapidly caught the leading group of cars. The four championship protagonists from 2022 would go wheel to wheel for the remaining laps, battling nose to tail in a superb display of racing. On the penultimate lap of the race, Jake would pass WSR stablemate Colin Turkington to claim P4, a mere 0.113 seconds from the podium places. Jake had gained an incredible 12 positions at the fall of the chequered flag and secured valuable championship points in the process.
Commenting on the opening round, Jake Hill said:
“To secure a podium and valuable championship points in the opening round of the season is a great way for us to kick on as we head to Brands Hatch for the next round. We showed some great pace from the very start and the car felt incredible to drive across the whole weekend and grabbing second place in race one was a great way to start!
The weather really threw everything it had at us this weekend and race two was very unfortunate for us, but to bounce back from P16 to P4 in race three was a fantastic way to end the day! A massive thank you to WSR and Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport for their brilliant support and we go again at Brands Hatch in two weeks time.”
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport Sporting Director, Mark Blundell added:
“It’s the testing weekends that define the outcome of the championship, not the good ones, and to secure a healthy haul of points has kickstarted our season as we look to build upon the momentum. Jake did a fantastic job in the tricky conditions and his performance in race three is testament to his talent and dedication. All the focus now shifts to Brands Hatch, where we will look to build upon this weekends result."
This valiant race three performance would see Jake end the day in third place in the drivers standings with 32 points. Next up for Jake is his home circuit of Brands Hatch on the weekend of 6-7 May, where the Kent-based driver will resume battle on the undulating and technical Indy circuit.