VICTORY THEN HEARTBREAK FOR HILL IN OULTON PARK BTCC THRILLER
An absolute rollercoaster of emotions was an apt way to describe 25 year-old Jake Hill's BTCC weekend at Oulton Park. Hill, who was hugely proud to have been inducted into the British Racing Driver's Club (BRDC) this weekend, was keen to build on another superb top-ten qualifying in his Trade Price Cars Racing Audi S3, and looked to have scored his debut Win in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship.
After making progress in practice, Hill put in a solid lap to qualify P10 for race one, but contact early on in the race saw Hill's #24 machine hampered, hence a P12 finish was a pleasing result.
"The conditions were very different to qualifying, on top of which a major hit from behind meant the car was pretty lairy, so to finish P12 and score more points was great in the circumstances."
Starting P12 for race two, some fierce action saw Hill gain and lose positions over the course of the race, with Safety Car interventions presenting further challenges - and another major hit massively affecting the car's balance. Additionally like many other drivers Hill had chosen the 'Soft' tyre for this race, meaning a like-for-like comparison was difficult to achieve.
Finishing P12 meant Hill was in the mix for the 'Reverse Grid' lottery - and fortune saw that his number was pulled out - therefore resulting in his and Trade Price Cars Racing's first-ever BTCC Pole Position start.
A superb getaway and a strong first couple of laps saw youngster Hill lead a BTCC race for the first time in his career, with 52 year-old 3-time BTCC Champion Matt Neal's manufacturer-entered Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type-R closing, Neal utilising it's superior chassis and engine performance.
Neal barged past Hill into Old Hall corner starting lap three, with Hill attempting to cut-back and re-pass the veteran driver. However Hill slightly misjudged his move, and tapped Neal into a lurid spin, with several other drivers being compromised as a result.
This left Hill's Aston Lark-supported Audi with a strong lead over AmD Tuning stablemate Rory Butcher, who had started to edge away from Team Parker Racing's Stephen Jelley's BMW.
As the 15 laps counted down, Butcher demonstrated blistering pace and progressively closed in on Hill, and by lap 13 the Scotsman's Honda Civic was within a second of Hill.
However a small mistake at Island Hairpin saw Butcher run wide, leaving Hill ahead of Team Parker Racing's Stephen Jelley.
Driving calmly to the end of the race, Hill crossed the line to take his first-ever Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship win, to the unbridled delight of his team, sponsors, fans and family!
"I cannot believe it! A frantic race - a tangle with Matt (Neal) early on and then Rory (Butcher) was on me, forcing me to use all of my race craft. When he ran wide I had a good enough gap to Stephen (Jelley) and managed to bring her home first! - I cannot thank my team Trade Price Cars Racing and AmD Tuning, my incredible partners and of course my family for giving me this opportunity. To stand on the Podium as a Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship race winner - after trying so hard for so long - this is an incredible emotion! Thank you everyone who has ever supported, helped and believed in me!
However not long after spraying Champagne on the podium with Jelley and (Tom) Oliphant, Hill was advised that the lap three incident between Hill and Neal was to be investigated.
This resulted in Hill being given a 20 second time penalty, this resulting in him being relegated behind not only Neal, but also Chilton and Jackson, and now finishing P14.
"I am so thankful for the incredible job Trade Price Cars and AmD Tuning have done, and the opportunity they have given me. They gave me a Winning car today, and as disappointed as I am that we have been penalised, nothing - - will ever take away the raw emotion I have experienced today. A huge thank you also to all of my wonderful partners, sponsors and friends and family - plus of course the always-awesome BTCC fans. I'm genuinely sorry to Matt (Neal) - I made a mistake and the officials have recognised that. I am also pleased that the driver who has now Won is Stephen (Jelley) and it's Team Parker Racing - great people all round. I feel sure that we will be able to take a Win in this fantastic series very soon."
The series now takes a break during July, with the next race weekend at Snetterton in Norfolk on the 3/4th August
NOTE: Photos attached are of Jake immediately post-race after race three at Oulton Park, including Parc Ferme and Podium - our sincere apologies to Stephen Jelley, Tom Oliphant and Sam Tordoff.