Brake issues hampered Stephen Jelley’s charge in race three

Team BMW’s Stephen Jelley left Snetterton with a ‘good points haul’ from the three British Touring Car Championship races, even though a brake issue in the final race meant he struggled with the balance on his car.

Jelley built on his opening weekend of the year with a strong weekend at Snetterton, showing encouraging pace in his BMW 330i M Sport.

The 39-year-old made it into the top ten shootout in qualifying, where he emerged as the top BMW driver after qualifying in fourth, his best race one grid position since Knockhill in 2018.

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In race one Jelley held position in fourth in a largely uneventful race, with the top five drivers on the grid all electing to run the softer tyre in the race. He admitted afterwards that had he realised the potential of the tyre he would have pushed harder.

“It was a really good points haul as it’s a technical racetrack,” said Jelley. “We didn’t know the soft tyre, in this heat, would have as much of a performance advantage, but it was remarkable as it seemed to hang in for people and I would have pushed more in race one if I had known that.

“Practice and qualifying went well, and we had good pace out of the box. There are some really good drivers in this championship so to be straight on it gives you a lift for the weekend, but it doesn’t mean your job is over.

“Race one was good, and we held fourth quite easily on the soft tyres. I maybe should have pushed earlier with what we now know, in that it would hold on, but I tried to nurse it and used an easy throttle map when perhaps I should have given it the big one.”

With 48 kg of ballast and the medium tyre for race two, Jelley eventually slipped down to seventh by the end of the race – but that gave him the reverse grid pole position for race three.

With team-mate Tom Oliphant alongside, Jelley led the first four laps of the race, also having to stave off a challenge from his fellow BMW driver on lap two, before Oliphant was turned around by a rival.

But Jelley was nursing a brake issue from the start of the race, which meant that the Hyundai of Tom Ingram was able to take the lead on lap five, and Jelley ultimately took the chequered flag in fifth.

“[In] race two we had weight and I struggled as the car wasn’t quite right, but the balance was better in race three.

“We changed the brakes for the final race, and I might have cooked them on the warm-up lap. The cars behind didn’t keep up so they should have had a penalty, and then I sat on the grid for a long time which might have raised the heat up in them.

“The first time I hit the brakes in a big way, the car veered to the left and locked up and I had that balance for the whole race, so had to maximise my corner exits. Perhaps I picked up some debris or something in the brake duct.

“I realised Colin [Turkington] and [Tom] Ingram were in another world pace-wise. I could see that if I tried to push and push, I would make a mistake and not score, so it was about minimising mistakes and keeping to the sort of pace we have, knowing it’ll come good.

“It’s a good points haul, something to build on, and we’ve jumped seven places in the championship, so I’ll go away, reset, and come back stronger for Brands Hatch.”

After Snetterton Jelley is now seventh overall in the drivers’ standings with 46 points, 34 points from the top of the table.

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