Team HARD’s Jake Hill has described his second full season in the British Touring Car Championship as a “massive learning step,” building on what he learnt in his first complete campaign last year.
The 23-year-old showed great potential towards the latter stage of the season, but was unable to convert that into the results he felt he deserved.
He said: “It’s been a very educating year. Last year was a huge learning curve being my first year in the BTCC, but this year has been a learning step but in a very different way.
“I now know what I need to do if something is wrong with the car, I’ve come on a lot more as a driver – I feel like my racecraft and everything has come on massively.
“So I feel good about my driving but it’s been such a tough kick in the nuts – especially at the last two rounds where I should have got on the podium at least once.”
Hill and his team didn’t quite have the pace they thought they should during the first half of the year, but made progress after a productive mid-season test at Snetterton.
During that test, Hill recalls trying out eight separate differentials in an attempt to find the optimum set up combination for the car.
At the next round at the Snetterton 300 circuit, Hill scored his best finish in the BTCC to date with sixth position in race one.
Following that weekend, Hill’s gearbox went away to be rebuilt and another differential issue hindered his pace at the Knockhill and Rockingham rounds.
He said: “One of the diff return oil lines was blocked, so effectively the diff would overheat massively and therefore it wouldn’t work.”
Once Hill’s chief engineer rebuilt the box again, the car was back on the pace for the final two rounds of the season, where Hill qualified a personal best P5 at Silverstone, and a solid P8 at Brands Hatch.
For his home round at Brands Hatch, Hill was hopeful of a podium finish but race one did not work out in his favour with mixed conditions making the call for wets or slicks very marginal at the start.
“We thought that the rain was going to come back in,” said Hill. “It was starting to spit ever so slightly.
“We had a good qualifying so we decided to play it safe and see how we could get up in the first couple of laps and go from there basically – and obviously it didn’t quite pan out.”
Hill was the highest-placed driver to opt for the wet tyre, but despite progress on lap one he received a drive-through penalty for creeping before the lights went out at the start of the race.
With a mostly dry track for race two, Hill reverted to the qualifying setup on the car and managed to make up ten positions, finishing in 16th at the flag.
For the final race of the season, the track was wet again and Hill managed to battle up to tenth place.
“I had a great start again, and got two or three people on the first lap and then it all came together again and I managed to get a couple more people.
“Adam Morgan came through and he was absolutely rapid, then I managed to get past Moffat quite late in the race but then both the Chevrolet Cruze’s of Smiley and Newsham were catching everyone very quickly.
“Me and Newsham had a big battle and he actually came across my nose on the brakes into paddock one lap and fired himself off so yeah I was thankful to hold onto tenth – I wanted to finish in the top ten for the last round.”
Hill admits he feels “a little bit robbed to say the least” after being unable to convert qualifying and race pace into podiums, but already has his sights set on next year.
“I still want to stay in British Touring Cars – definitely,” said Hill. “I’m keeping all my options open but for now my focus is to remain in the BTCC.”
On Monday, Hill attended a trackday at Silverstone with the Nissan GTR owners club and got behind the wheel of a TCR VW Golf.
He said: “It was quite interesting to have a go in one of the new TCR cars. One of my sponsors Brisky Racing is partnering up with Team HARD and running I believe three Golf’s next year” [in TCR UK].
After shaking the car down and starting to push the car, Hill said: “It was just as good if not better than a current British Touring Car.
“My own problem at the moment is TCR UK will not be anywhere as big as what British Touring Cars is at the moment – so for me to move across would probably not be the best idea.
“I would really like to do both if I could but I don’t think that’s going to be an option.”
Featured image: Credit to Jakob Ebrey Photography