Now given a full-time assault on the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in 2016, Jake Hill and Team HARD have high optimism for the future after a strong start to the season.
Albeit not a rookie to the BTCC, the first full season for the former Motorbase, Rob Austin Racing and AmD Tuning racer has already turned heads with solid displays in a 2012-specification Toyota Avensis for Tony Gilham‘s outfit.
One particular result that Hill has fond memories of is a 12th round charge at Oulton Park from 26th to ninth in race three. The ex-Ginetta racer finished just 0.9s behind the third-placed Subaru Levorg of double BTCC champion, Jason Plato, closing on a marauding pack with the eighth fastest lap of the encounter.
“It’s been very good, very different and very difficult at the same time”, Hill told The Checkered Flag of his full-time BTCC switch with Team HARD.
“I’m enjoying it and we’re taking down some people that perhaps people didn’t think we would, so it’s going really well. At Oulton, from qualifying to the last race on Sunday it was a very close weekend.
“To be part of that on what was probably the drive of my career from 26th to ninth, I loved it and it’s what I want a lot more of.
“It was the first touring car weekend I left feeling totally happy – I want that feeling again.”
Performances such as that of Hill and team-mate Mike Epps at Oulton Park were made more eye-opening by the fact that the team are still running GPRM-specification parts on a 2012 Toyota Avensis, fighting it out against the many front-running teams that have made the switch to new-for-2016 RML components.
“We just keep moving forward all the time”, added Hill. “We’re now at that stage where the cars are starting to drop off because of the RML kits and the new cars coming come on.
“They’re not as quick as, say [Tom] Ingram’s car will be, but nevertheless we’re still having a good time of it.”
“That won’t be until next year”, answered Hill regarding upgrades to RML components. “We don’t have the budget to do it yet, so unfortunately we have to just do the best with what we’ve got. Then at the end of the year, we’ll look at maybe a different car for next year.”
Five points finishes and two visits to the top 10 come next to Hill’s name already in 2016, the ninth place at Oulton Park giving him hunger for more giant-killing results.
“Get in the points consistently, show up a few people and make people know who I am”, was the youngster’s response to his 2016 targets. “Then hopefully progress from there.
“I think we’re getting there now. The start of the year was a bit disappointing because of being caught up in fights we shouldn’t have been in, but that’s bad timing. At Oulton, I was very happy with myself, so for the rest of the year it sets us in good stead.”
In terms of the long-term future, Hill admits that he aims to be representing a manufacturer entry in the BTCC, something that team boss Gilham also has on his mind.
Hill added: “There’s some really good boys who work here and the guys that work on my car are amazing. I can’t thank them enough. At the end of the day, at some stage I want to be with a manufacturer. Whether we buy that or not, that’s what I want to be doing.”