Team BMW/West Surrey Racing scored points in all three races in the first event of the British Touring Car Championship season, run at at Thruxton, finishing the weekend second in manufacturers’ points and fifth in team points. WSR has won the manufacturers’ championship in the series for the last five consecutive seasons.
This year, the team’s three 330i M Sports are being driven by four-time series champion Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant, returning to the team after last season, and Stephen Jelley, who ran for the team in 2008 in his first year in the series, but in recent years has been racing a 125i M Sport for Team Parker Racing.
Turkington, who qualified third on Saturday, ran among the front runners in race one, finishing fourth on the circuit despite contact with other racers. He was penalized for a contact incident and dropped to tenth in the final standings. Oliphant fell back, spinning after contact with Turkington, but recovered to finish fifteenth. Jelley ran as high as eighth, but retired with a transmission problem. The win went to Josh Cook in a Honda Civic Type R.
In race two, Turkington finished seventh, Oliphant was tenth, and Jelley was eleventh. Cook was once again the overall winner.
Race three began and ended in wet conditions, with a dry period in between. Turkington, who started on wet weather tires, finished sixth, while Oliphant, who started on slicks, appeared to be headed for a podium spot until the rains came again late in the race. He finished fifth on the circuit, but was penalized for an out-of-position start and was classified seventh. Jelley started on wet tires and ran in the top three early in the race, but an overheating tire in the dry left him unable to capitalize on his wet tires late in the race; still, he finished tenth.
Team principal Dirk Bennetts said, “We’ve scored points eight times from nine starts today with our three BMWs and the drivers have each brought them home in one piece, which many others didn’t today. There’s been lots of little things today that could have turned out totally differently, and that went against us. If it hadn’t rained a second time in race three, for example, Tom would have almost certainly finished second after a very good drive. If Stephen had finished race one, he was on for a good points score. We’ll be working very hard to make sure we’re in podium shape again at Snetterton.”
The Snetterton event will be run on June 12–13.—Brian Morgan
[Photo courtesy Jakob Ebrey/BMW.]