The opening round of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) took place at Donington Park in England, a sweeping, eight-turn, 1.98-mile circuit where BMW has been very successful in the past. This year is the first of the new “hybrid era” in BTCC, in which each car uses the same electric motor to give a boost in performance, while the motor is also used to control the balance of performance. Each driver gets fifteen seconds per lap to use the electric boost, but success in the series will lead to reduced boost time in order to even out the playing field.
There are five BMW 330e M Sport cars entered in BTCC, with two from Team BMW for drivers Colin Turkington and Stephen Jelley, one car from Rokit MB Motorsport for Jake Hill, and two cars from Cicely Motorsport for Adam Morgan and George Gamble. West Surrey Racing (WSR) runs both the Team BMW and Rokit MB Motorsport programs. Jake Hill put his Rokit MB Motorsport 330e on the pole for race one (there are three races per WTCC weekend), but was disqualified after finishing third due to a post-race ride height infraction that resulted from hitting a tire barrier. Team BMW driver Colin Turkington made it onto the podium in second place in race one as the best of the BMW drivers, with Morgan in fifth, Gamble in sixth, and Jelley in seventh.
George Gamble was the best of the BMWs in race two, finishing a strong third on the podium with teammate Adam Morgan in fourth. Hill had to start from the back in the second race but put in a strong drive to finish ninth as Turkington finished fourteenth after having a clutch issue and Stephen Jelley had a DNF with a propshaft failure.
Hill saved the best for last with a win in race three after starting from pole and broke the series lap record at Donington in the process. “To get the win and pole for Rokit MB Motorsport home on my first weekend with WSR and BMW is such a great feeling,” said Hill. “The car was strong in race two to come through from last to ninth and as soon as my name was chosen for race three pole, I knew that if I got off the line well, I could control things and that’s exactly what happened. It was a clean race and we got it done. I’m delighted.” Morgan finished sixth in race three, followed by Turkington in eighth as the only two other BMWs to make it into the top ten.
BMW sat third in the manufacturer standings after the first three rounds at Donington. They race again at Brands Hatch on May 14–15. Click here for more information on the BTCC.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy West Surrey Racing.]