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Testing report

Hill tops first official BTCC test

Jake Hill and the West Surrey Racing BMW team led the way as official pre-season British Touring Car Championship testing kicked off at Brands Hatch on Wednesday.

Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport[

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

On his local circuit, Hill put in a late run at the end of the day to snatch the top position away by 0.065 seconds from BTCC returnee Rob Huff, the 2012 World Touring Car champion gearing up for his first domestic season in 20 years with the Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota squad.

In turn, Hill and Huff had demoted their team-mates – Josh Cook’s Corolla GR Sport had sat atop the times for much of the largely dry afternoon session, before the 330e M Sport of Adam Morgan moved to the fore.

Morgan ended up third, 0.068s adrift of Hill, with Cook fourth, 0.163s off the summit.

The BMWs and Toyotas at the top of the times are understood to have set their best laps on soft Goodyear tyres, although neither WSR nor Speedworks is yet using the new-for-2024 turbo boost facility that will combine with the existing EV hybrid boost to double the available surge to approximately 60bhp.

“We weren’t really bothered with laptimes because we don’t have engine hybrid yet, but we’ve got the EV hybrid working,” WSR boss Dick Bennetts told Autosport.

“We’re pleased with progress. Even though it looks similar externally, with all the work we’ve done over the winter it’s quite a different car.

“It was normal Jake and he did a good job – they were playing around with quite a few things and just popped a new set of tyres on towards the end.

“We ran soft tyres on Jake and Adam – the main reason is we had punctures on the left-rear around Brands last year.

“We think we’ve traced it back to what’s causing it – something in the chassis, and needing to avoid kerbs early on when the pressures are low.”

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

While WSR had already tested with Hill, Morgan and four-time champion Colin Turkington (12th in the test) at Snetterton last week, Speedworks was one of four teams to get in an additional day at Brands on Tuesday, alongside the Alliance Racing Fords, Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundais and Restart Racing Cupras.

That was the first day of track action of 2024 for the Toyotas, the build of which was finished in the small hours of Tuesday morning.

Fifth in the times was the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra of Aron Taylor-Smith, followed by the Alliance-run NAPA Ford Focuses of reigning champion Ash Sutton and Dan Cammish.

While Alliance was not chasing ultimate laptimes, Sutton notably completed a 26-tour ‘race’ run at the end of the day, with 14 laps in the 48s bracket followed by eight in the low 49s, compared to his best of 48.168s.

Rounding out the top 10 were the Speedworks Toyota of Aiden Moffat, the Excelr8 Hyundai i30 N of 2022 champion Tom Ingram, and Mikey Doble with his PMR Vauxhall.

New team Restart got down to work with its ex-Team Hard Cupras driven by Chris Smiley and Scott Sumpton after its shakedown on Tuesday, with only an electrical glitch for rookie Sumpton in the morning delaying progress.

In total, 20 cars were on track – the WSR BMW of Bobby Thompson, on board for the test only at this point, was not timed because it is not fitted with the Cosworth electric hybrid system, but Autosport understands that even without this he set a lap that would have placed him inside the top 10.

Team Hard was absent, although is expected to emerge with Daryl DeLeon aboard the first of its Cupras at Croft for next week’s test.

The morning was largely wet, with a dry line only appearing towards the end of the session.

Around half the competitors got out on slick tyres, with Morgan leading the way from Cammish and the Speedworks Toyota of Andrew Watson, who was quickest for around an hour and a half when the track was wet.

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