Article date: 14 April 2008
Team RAC drivers Colin Turkington and Stephen Jelley had a day of mixed fortunes in the second round of the HiQ British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham today (13 April).
Colin Turkington drove brilliantly in atrocious wet conditions in the final race of the day to lead commandingly after eight laps. However, the untimely intervention of the safety car saw this lead evaporate and a complete lack of visibility meant he dropped down the order in the final two laps.
Stephen Jelley arrived only minutes before the first practice session on Saturday having raced the previous day in the GP2 Asia Series in Dubai. It was a big transition going from driving a 600 horse power single-seater car to his Team RAC BMW but Jelley coped remarkably well, setting the eighth fastest time in the first practice session.
Colin Turkington began the race in seventh place on the grid and got off to a good start. Unfortunately on lap one his BMW was hit by another car and suffered damage to the suspension. This meant the Northern Irishman was forced to reduce his speed for the duration of the race and as a result finished in 16th.
Stephen Jelley made a great start into the first corner and made up several positions on the opening lap, only to be hit by Jason Plato. The impact sent him into the air and caused some damage to the car's steering. Jelley successfully recovered and drove well on the slippery track to eventually finish in 11th place.
Colin Turkington said: "It was a disappointing start to the day for Team RAC. I got hit on lap one so struggled around the track for the whole race. Fortunately I managed to finish so avoided having to start at the back of the grid in race two."
Stephen Jelley added: "I nearly got a perfect start into the first corner, overtaking practically everyone around the outside, but I locked-up towards the end and dropped back a bit. The conditions were pretty tricky, so overall I'm pleased with my performance."
There was no shortage of action in the second race of the day which saw some phenomenal driving from Colin Turkington. From his initial position of 16th the Northern Irishman started well and moved up to 11th place. The safety car came out almost immediately on lap one and on the restart Turkington moved further up the order. An incident with Matt Neal and Stephen Jelley on lap 15 gave Turkington the opportunity to move up to sixth place where he eventually finished the race.
It was a frustrating race for team-mate Stephen Jelley who started from eleventh on the grid. Jelley started the race superbly, moving straight into fifth place on the opening lap. He was gaining on the leaders until a power steering problem, probably caused by the incident in race one, made the car extremely difficult to handle. On lap 15 he was hit by Matt Neal and dropped a few places, eventually finishing the race in 15th place.
Colin Turkington said: "I am really pleased with my performance. The car was good enough to battle through the field and I feel as if I did as much as I could in the time I had. It puts me in a great position for the final race."
Turkington and Jelley faced an extremely tough challenge in the last race. As the grid formed, the torrential rain began and teams were forced to bring their cars back in to change the tyres to wets. Both drivers had the additional trouble of their front screens not clearing so struggled to navigate.
Turkington started the reverse grid in third place and a great start saw him move into first. He soon pulled away and created an imperious seven second lead. The wet track caused many drivers to struggle and the safety car came out after eight laps, with two cars off the circuit in dangerous positions.
On the restart Turkington retained the lead but was soon coming under intense pressure from the chasing pack. Despite having no rear visibility the Ulsterman fended off numerous challenges, alternately losing and retaking the lead, but inevitably he succumbed to shear weight of numbers and dropped back to eventually finish in seventh place.
Stephen Jelley started from fifteenth on the grid but some strong driving saw the new touring car driver battle to move up the order to eighth place by the time the safety car came out. The restart proved to be a disadvantage as he dropped back to 12th place before eventually finishing in 11th.
Dick Bennetts, WSR Team Principal, said: "It has been a frustrating weekend for Team RAC. Colin and Stephen each suffered damage to their cars due to other competitors actions in race one, which meant we started race two on the back foot. Despite this, both drivers made great starts and showed the pace of the Team RAC BMW's. After some brilliant driving in the wet final race, both lost out due to the safety car intervention.
"Team RAC is looking forward to the next event at Donington and we're confident both drivers will go well there. Stephen is quickly adapting to the rigours of touring car racing and is now regularly mixing it with the ‘big boys' up the front. Colin continually demonstrates he is one of the best touring car drivers out there and just needs an ounce of luck to get him back to the top."
After races four, five and six Colin Turkington lies seventh in the drivers' championship with 30 points, whilst Stephen Jelley is in 16th with one point.
Team RAC are second in the Independents Team Championship with 64 points, and sit fifth in the Overall Teams Championship with 31 points.
The BTCC action now moves to Donington on Sunday 4 May.
RAC unveiled its season long promotion to win a BMW. Fans can go online at teamrac.co.uk for a chance to win the car and a host of other top prizes.
Caroline Mayers, RAC marketing manager, commented: "It was an action packed day with some thrilling racing from Team RAC. Rockingham is a fantastic circuit and it was great to see the fans come out in their thousands, despite the unpredictable weather. Team RAC have certainly given fans a weekend to remember both on and off the track with our drivers' performances and we look forward to the next challenge at Donington."
To win a BMW or keep up to speed with the latest from Team RAC visit www.teamrac.co.uk.
For further information please contact:
Lexis Sport - 07966 077572 / 0207 908 6488
Notes to editors:
The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was formed in 1958 and is the UK's most popular motor racing spectacle. Its race season comprises ten events at top circuits across the UK. It is contested by professional racing drivers in competition versions of every day road cars, giving it tremendous public appeal. Around 300,000 watch the BTCC trackside each year. www.btcc.net
RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations and a provider for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs.
HiQ (part of Goodyear Dunlop) has become the BTCC's new title sponsor in 2008 in a new three-year agreement. It provides a fast-fit car care service at its 150 centres across the UK. In the next two years, that number will rise to 250 as HiQ embarks on revolutionising the fast-fit industry. It has already taken the lead by offering a unique online service www.hiqonline.co.uk for motorists to buy tyres and arrange a fitting appointment.