BTCC Snetterton — May 20-21
Strong qualifying and great race results for Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport at the Norfolk circuit.
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport and Jake Hill enjoyed a strong Snetterton qualifying performance as they notched their third consecutive second-row start as the team looked ahead to Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship held over the May 20-21 weekend.
The qualifying session was disrupted due to a fellow competitor dropping oil on the circuit, creating a hazardous situation for the frontrunners. However, Jake Hill showcased his skill and car control to navigate through the oil spill in the final sector (many other didn’t, with cars spinning off the track as they hit the oil). A red flag was declared, the session was temporarily halted but resumed after a delay. Unfortunately, just as Jake was gaining momentum, another red flag was raised, causing further interruption.
When the session resumed again with approximately ten minutes remaining, Jake swiftly got back on track to set a representative lap time. His first flying lap was impressive and elevated him into the top four. However, his subsequent lap, which appeared to surpass his WSR stable-mate Colin Turkington and secure third place, was invalidated due to track limits.
As the session concluded, Jake finished in fourth place, securing his third consecutive second-row start of the season for Laser Tools Racing. Jake commented: "It's been another decent day here at Snetterton. The boys and girls at WSR helped me work through a really productive morning to get a good understanding of the tyres as we use all three compounds here. Then into qualifying, we've ended up P4 which puts us right in the mix. It did look like we had secured P3 but our time was deleted due to track limits which was a shame. But P4 is good enough and we can go and get it tomorrow!"
Starting from pole, Ashley Sutton quickly established a significant lead over the other drivers. Within just three laps, he managed to create a three-second gap between himself and the pursuing pack. With all three tyre compounds (soft, medium and hard) to be used across the three races, Jake elected to use the softs in the opening race and used them to his advantage as he got a fantastic launch off the line. Passing Tom Ingram into turn one, Jake moved into third place as he ran three wide into the hairpin alongside Ingram and Turkington.
As the race progressed, Jake made a clever move at the Bomb Hole curve to overtake Turkington and secure second place. Now in second, Jake began to display impressive speed in the final laps, rapidly closing the gap to Sutton's Ford Focus. However, despite Jake's pace, he ultimately ran out of time to catch up to Sutton, but as the chequered flag waved to signal the end of the race, the gap between them was incredibly close, with only 0.270 seconds separating them. What a race!
So an excellent P2 for Jake: “You can’t think about what could have been and only on what there was — and what happened was a great ending! P2 and lots of points on the board again. Especially after my puncture during Race 3 at Brands Hatch, it’s nice to come to Snetterton and have a good start.
“When we were catching Colin [Turkington] we had a really good couple of sectors there onto the back straight, and used all the hybrid. Colin saw me late I think, and it put me on the grass which wasn’t ideal, but we hung on in there, got the move done and went after Ash [Sutton]. It was a nice chase at the end there, I’m hopeful it made good viewing for everyone!”
Again, Sutton had a dominant performance in the race, leading from the start until the finish. Throughout the race, he was never challenged by the other drivers, indicating that both Sutton and his Ford Focus were perfectly suited for the track at Norfolk.
Behind Sutton, Jake and Colin Turkington maintained close proximity to each other throughout the race, resulting in Hill and Turkington securing the remaining podium positions.
Another impressive P2 for Jake: “I was best of the rest so I’m happy. Another P2 on the board is great and once again big thanks to the team for making it possible. Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport have given me another good car. You just have to race your own race and not worry about what you cannot control.
“Ash [Sutton] being far up the road is not ideal, but we cannot control that. Let’s just see what happens in the future – we are doing a good job and we will just keep going.”
With the BTCC reverse-grid system, for the start of Race 3 Pole position and P2 went to Team BMW drivers Stephen Jelley and Adam Morgan, with Jake Hill on P5 and Ash Sutton right behind him on P6. Add to the mix the fact that most of the front runners were running on the hard-compound tyres (including Jake) that did not bode well for the rear-wheel-drive cars, as these tyres really need some track time before they warm up enough to provide optimal grip. This was demonstrated early on as Dan Rowbottom (running medium-compound tyres) had carved his way into the lead by the second lap. Tom Ingram (who started in P7) was also running mediums and had gained the lead by lap 5.
Jake was clearly disadvantaged by being on the hard tyres and fell back a little from his initial P5 but still finished in the top ten and bagged a useful 40 championship points making this a very worthwhile weekend for Jake and the Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport team. Jake remains in 5th place in the drivers’ championship standings on 98 points.