Jake Hill’s mixed fortunes at Croft BTCC

by crafty
5 years ago

Jake Hill, the youngest driver in the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup, continued to make progress on his return to racing in 2012, with a superb qualifying and race performance to give him a career-best result of 4th overall in the premium 370bhp Ginetta G55 category.

After winning four races in the G50 class in 2011, it had been a frustrating time for Goudhurst’s Hill in 2012, forced to sit on the sidelines and watch old G50 rivals like Tom Ingram and Andrew Richardson on track, but a strong debut in the G55 class at Oulton Park, taking 6th and 5th place finishes, gave Hill and his team Tollbar Racing the impetus to challenge for even better results a Croft in North Yorkshire.

As at Oulton Park the Friday practice sessions at Croft were wet – all bar ten minutes at the beginning of the first session where Hill set 3rd fastest time in the Dry – so little was able to be learned in terms of ultimate performance and set-up.

Despite this, Hill shot to the top of the timing page in Qualifying on Saturday morning, immediately looking comfortable in the dramatic Red G55 machine.

Tom Ingram and Carl Breeze were to nip ahead and it looked like a superb 3rd on the grid in his first full qualifying session (at Oulton a last-minute change of differential cost Hill valuable track-time) but at the very end of the session Andrew Richardson pipped Hill by a mere 0.015 secs, leaving him fourth, still an excellent result.

“It was really, really windy this morning and it affected the aerodynamics more than we expected – the car was moving around a hell of a lot and I even had a spin at Barcroft where we’re doing about 120mph – that woke me up! I thought I could maybe have got on the front row but 4th is pretty satisfying in my first dry qualifying session” smiled Hill.

Saturday’s 10 lap race saw Hill get jumped by Fergus Walkinshaw at the start but slice past the Scotsman into Tower Bend on lap one. Immediately pulling away he quickly caught Richardson and began to look for a way past. Meanwhile championship leader, who had qualified 7th after damaging his steering was charging too, and was soon on the back of Hill who was being held up by Richardson.

As Hill tried every possible way to get past – drawing alongside at Tower – eventually Sharp barged through at the final Hairpin and then found his way past Richardson.

A couple of laps later Hill also edged past Richardson at the Hairpin, then pulled away but ran out of laps to make any impression on Sharp.

“My start wasn’t great but I got past Fergus easily and then got stuck behind Andy which allowed Tom Sharp to catch me and nip by – I was pleased with my move on Andy and the race pace – lapping as fast as Tom Sharp was good – and we start 4th tomorrow which is good too”

Sunday’s lunchtime 15 lapper saw Hill have what he described as “A total ‘mare!” at the start – almost stalling and losing three places, then getting tapped at Tower on lap one and bouncing across the grass and losing another couple of places in the process!

As always though, he charged back into contention and caught Walkinshaw at the hairpin, diving inside the black machine but making contact and spinning the 21 year-old out.

“I really didn’t mean to hit Fergus – I was convinced he’d seen me – it damaged my car too. It’s the nature of Croft that it’s tough to pass and it has to be decisive”

Now on a charge Hill caught Hunter Abbott and after trying several attempts eventually passed on the exit of the Hairpin and was up to 7th place and catching Josh Wakefield.

Wakefield defended well for several laps but then on lap 11 Hill pulled off a superb pass. Following closely down the start/finish straight Hill dummied left and then swept right into the smallest of gaps, braking incredibly late for the daunting Clervaux corner he made the pass stick and then gradually pulled away to finish a superb 6th.

“That was one of the worst starts and one of the best passes I’ve ever done! I think I had the pace to finish on the podium but that first lap was a disaster! It was a good race after that and the Tollbar guys got the car working well”

Unfortunately for Jake Hill, Clark of the Course David White, upheld a complaint by Walkinshaw regarding the contact on lap one and Jake was given a 28 second penalty to put him behind Walkinshaw who had only recovered to 10th place.

“Very frustrating but these things happen. Just makes it much harder in race three” shrugged Hill.

A slightly better start saw Hill maintain position into the first turn, where Pole Sitter Colin White and Walkinshaw both spun off, putting him up to 9th, then quickly passed the G50 of Rob Gaffney for 8th.

Catching G50 leader Mark Davies Hill tried several times to pass before sweeping through on the approach to the complex and then edging away.

The leading group had yet to break away so although only 7th, Hill was a mere 6.5 seconds behind the lead battle and lapping quickly.

Then a tangle between Century team-mates Hunter Abbott and Josh Wakefield elevated Hill to 5th, and in good shape to make further progress.

A lap later though, Hill felt the car squirm underneath him and begin to handle unpredictably, both when braking and accelerating.

Now lapping 3 seconds slower than before, Hill was powerless to stop Davies re-passing and glad the race was nearing its end as Gaffney had caught him to, so another 5th place in the G55 class was earned the hard way.

“After the race Tollbar looked at the car and discovered the rear rollbar had broken and the clutch had broken up  – which explains how the car’s handling got so bad so suddenly and why my starts were so bad. I was just pleased to finish – that was pretty tough, but the weekend has been great overall with my best ever qualifying and finish. There’s a seven-week gap to Snetterton so if we can raise the budget I think we’ll be in good shape to get on the Podium there – I hope so I’ve missed it!”

“As always it’s been very difficult getting all the funds together so I want to say a HUGE ‘Thank You’ to all my sponsors with a particular mention to John Miskin of Sportif Group without whom I wouldn’t be racing.

For more information contact John Miskin on 07809 387788