Team BMW’s Stephen Jelley was left feeling frustrated with a ‘disappointing’ end to his British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch, which was marred by technical issues and contact.
Jelley qualified in the top ten for the fifth time this season with the ninth fastest lap in Saturday’s all-important session.
But an electrical misfire in race one meant he couldn’t capitalise on that starting position, and the BMW driver dropped to 23rd by the chequered flag.
Starting on the 12th row of the grid for race two, Jelley put in an impressive drive that saw him gain 14 places and end the race in ninth, also earning him the random reverse-grid pole position for race three.
Jelley led the early laps of the final race of the season, before being passed by champion Ash Sutton and Daniel Rowbottom on lap three, with the latter muscling Jelley onto the grass in the process which allowed Tom Chilton to get a look in.
After a four-lap safety car period, racing resumed on lap ten with Jelley running in fourth, but he quickly lost two further places to Tom Ingram and Josh Cook at the second turn.
Contact from Jake Hill at Surtees then saw the 39-year-old drop to the back of the pack, and from there Jelley could only finish 24th as the final driver on the lead lap.
“It’s disappointing to be honest,” said Jelley. “I feel that we’ve got one arm tied behind our back a little bit as we’ve struggled with straight line performance against the TOCA engine cars and they’re just impossible to deal with, especially in the race situation there.
“Qualifying was close, the balance of the car was really good, and the lap was a really good one too.
“In race one unfortunately we got a misfire which dropped me out of it. Race two was a real positive fighting back to ninth place from 23rd on the grid and I did it cleanly, and then in race three I just got beaten up.
“There were little taps left, right, and centre, and then Jake Hill just turned me around with a lunge that wasn’t on and ended it really.
“I got going again and carried on, the car was okay, but it’s just hard to take really because I didn’t make an error and I’ve just been taken out of the race. It’s a frustrating way to end the season.”
Hill said that Jelley had turned in on him at Surtees, without leaving half a car’s width.
“It’s a shame about the contact with Jelley at Surtees,” said Hill. “Unfortunately, when I put my car in a position and he decides to turn in, something’s got to give.
“All I ask for is even half a car width, and I didn’t even get that, so it’s a shame about that.”
Jelley ended the year 12th overall in the drivers’ championship standings, his best overall ranking since 2009.