Team BMW continue their fight for the British Touring Car Championship with a trip to the North-East this weekend for what will be a landmark event.
Race Three at the North Yorkshire circuit is set to be the 700th BTCC race for WSR, who are responsible for the design, build and operation of the three BMW 330i M Sports, and who recently claimed their 100th victory in the series.
“We normally enjoy coming to Croft, which has certainly suited our rear-wheel-drive BMWs in the past,” commented Kiwi Team Principal, Dick Bennetts. “It’s a long trip from our base in Sunbury-on-Thames, but the amount of success we’ve had there in the past has usually made it worth it.
“It’s quite something to think that we’ll start our 700th BTCC race this weekend as our very first – at Donington Park in 1996 – certainly doesn’t feel like 25 years ago.
“One key point to consider is that we have back-to-back events with the team travelling to Silverstone just a few days after we leave Croft. The experience of racing on successive weekends during 2020’s condensed calendar will definitely help us deal with what’s quite a tricky situation, but making sure we get all our cars through the weekend in one piece will be a primary objective.
“This year the BTCC is proving to be very competitive, so we are having to dig deeper than normal for some reason.”
Drivers Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant and Stephen Jelley have combined to give BMW a healthy lead in the Manufacturers’ standings and have finished on the podium in each of the past seven races between them.
Not only has this equalled WSR’s best run of rostrums for four years, it has also lifted Team BMW to third place in the Teams’ Championship.
Leading the BMW charge in the Drivers’ title race is Colin Turkington, who is fifth overall and so carries 39kg success ballast into the weekend.
A record 12 victories, five pole positions and 24 podium finishes at the track has earned the four-time champion from Northern Ireland the ‘King of Croft’ tag.
More success this weekend at the circuit where he scored his first BTCC podium in 2002 would surely lift him further up the standings with just three race weekends to go following the trip to the North-East.
Tom Oliphant was Team BMW’s top-scoring driver at Thruxton with a double-podium finish and the Leamington Spa-based racer set his career-best qualifying position at Croft last year with fourth place.
Tom arrives at Croft without success ballast, meaning he stands an excellent chance of repeating his Thruxton form at the 2.1-mile circuit that has provided much success for rear-wheel-drive BMWs previously.
Stephen Jelley has fond memories of his last visit to Croft with WSR. On that occasion, in 2009, he qualified third and finished on the podium in all three races.
The Leicester racer, who has finished in the points in five of his last six races at Croft, aims to bounce back after a frustrating weekend at Thruxton where – despite scoring in all three races – he never managed to break free of the midfield.
Stephen is 11th in the Drivers’ Championship, meaning that, like Tom, he enters the weekend free of success ballast.
Unlike at Thruxton, two compounds of tyre will be available at Croft with the soft Goodyear designated as the ‘option’ rubber that must be used once on raceday by each driver.
Following Croft, the teams will immediately decamp to Silverstone to complete what will be the only back-to-back events of the season.