TAG Racing’s BTCC driver Jake Hill had ‘one of my toughest weekend’s yet’ when the series made it’s annual visit to the sweeping Knockhill circuit in Fife, frustrated to have had dramas in all three races , but still scored Independent drivers points in two races.
After free practice was held in mixed weather conditions, an encouraging P11 in the first session gave the team a base-line to work with for qualifying later that day. Heavy rain fell just before the 30 minute session, and Hill and his Team HARD team-mates worked hard to put in quick laps, and after a stoppage mid session all drivers went to slick tyres, and after a storming late charge Hill went on to qualify 16th after a brave and committed lap.
“That was pretty wild! Conditions changed every lap – I got held up by a couple of people late-on otherwise I think we could have gone faster, but we can race from there and maybe get into the points” said Hill.
Race one saw BRDC Rising Star Hill and his crew gamble on a set-up based on free practice and it was to prove costly. Hill’s car working his tyres way too hard over the 24 lap blast, and being edged back into the pack to finish a frustrated 21st.
“We didn’t really have a definite way to go, we thought this would work but it destroyed the tyres and that was that.”
Race two saw a major change of set-up, and after a chaotic first lap saw a five-car accident and the race stopped, Hill had threaded through the carnage and up to 16th place, but would have to take the restart from 21st.
However with several cars damaged and a strong opening lap, Hill was quickly battling in 16th place – just outside the points – when starting lap four driveshaft failure ended his race prematurely.
“The car was loads better. I picked my way through the mess but then the car was really good early on. So frustrating as I’m certain we would have taken some points, but at least we know we’ll be out for race three”
Starting 25th and on the ‘Option’ soft tyres, a storming opening lap saw Hill past Goff and Smiley, and soon after profit from dramas for Taylor-Smith, Chilton and Whorton-Eales, and then edge past team-mate Epps when he was forced wide. With Jackson tangling with Hill’s other team-mate, Will Burns, Stuart Lines was also demoted, Hill had by now charged up to 16th place behind Brett Smith, who defended 15th position very stoutly.
On lap six Hill set his personal best lap of 52.667 – the fourth fastest lap of the race at that stage – benefitting from the grip of the softer ‘Option’ Dunlop SportMaxx tyre, and despite losing a place to a charging Jordan, was still looking very good to take some championship points.
However Smith continued to block and a safety car allowed the pack to close in, and when Hill’s team mate Burns crashed heavily at the hairpin – fortunately emerging unhurt – another safety car saw a frantic battle between Smith, Hill, Austin, Jelley, Proctor and Taylor-Smith.
As Proctor and Taylor-Smith nudged their way past, Hill got a run back on them into Clark on the final lap, and as everyone tripped over each other Hill hit the back of Proctor’s Astra, pushing him wide and damaging both cars.
Ultimately Hill crossed the line a hugely frustrated 22nd, and was to learn later that officials had ruled the contact with Proctor was avoidable, putting 3 points on his race licence and fining him £500, with the even more disappointing result that the ‘totting-up’ process sees Hill demoted to the back of the grid for the opening race at Rockingham in two weeks.
“We changed the set-up, and we were on the soft tyres, and the car was really good for the first half of the race. We set what was ultimately the 10th fastest lap, which showed what we could have achieved with more fortune. As always I am super-grateful to the TAG Racing crew and TAG for their support, and it was great having our guests of Ecoflam, Sportif Cars and Brisky Racing with us, and the support from Rolec, AWS Appliance Spares, Bill Rawles Classic Cars, Danfoss and Zynth is invaluable and so appreciated. Last time out at Snetterton I had my best-ever weekend and Will (Burns) won the Jack Sears Trophy – this weekend Will had a big shunt and I got fined! That’s BTCC – but one thing’s for sure we have a great team, and the Passat CC will be strong at the remaining tracks so I feel very confident we will score points and get strong results for the rest of the year” smiled Hill.
Catch Rockingham qualifying live on itv.com/btcc at 3.30pm on Saturday 26th August – with all three races live on Sunday 27th from 11.30am on ITV4 HD