BTCC race winner Jelley returns after seven-year hiatus

Race winner Stephen Jelley will return to the British Touring Car Championship for 2017, driving a Team Parker Racing Ford Focus ST, after a seven-year sabbatical.

BTCC race winner Jelley returns after seven-year hiatus
Stephen Jelley leads Mat Jackson
Stephen Jelley leads Gordon Shedden and Harry Vaulkhard
Stephen Jelley, Team Parker Racing
Stephen Jelley, Team Parker Racing
Alex Martin, Team Parker Racing
Alex Martin, Team Parker Racing

Jelley contested two season of the BTCC in a WSR BMW 320si in 2008 and '09, and took two victories, both at Rockingham.

Since then, Jelley has competed in GTs and the Porsche Carrera Cup GB.

Jelley drove for Stuart Parker's team in the Porsche contest last year and was fifth in the standings. He will return to the BTCC in the car previously used by Alex Martin.

"It was always my aim to come back to the BTCC," said Jelley. "I didn't want to leave, but the finances weren't there.

"Team Parker Racing can have a long future in this category and I want a long future here too, so we are looking to build together.

"I haven't raced a front-wheel-drive car before so there will be a big test programme ahead of the season to get me up to speed.

"As for my aims, I will wait to see where we are after the opening sessions before we can make a realistic assessment. We are just going to focus on our own performance first and foremost."

Four of Jelley's Porsche seasons have been spent with Parker.

"He is part of the fixtures and fittings at the squad," Parker said.

"We have had two great years with Alex, who was learning all the time.

"Stephen is a proven race winner at this level and, although he will be getting to grips with front-wheel-drive for the first time, he can help us move forward.

"If we can be challenging inside the top 10, then who knows what can happen with the reverse-grid draw."

Parker to run Lines in 2017

Team Parker Racing will also take over the operation of Stewart Lines’s Maximum Motorsport Ford Focus for 2017 – although the driver himself is facing a race against time to be fit enough to take part.

Lines, 53, fell from a pushbike two weeks ago and has been immobile since. He has damaged muscles and has torn ligaments in his groin. 

Lines said: “I am in a lot of pain, but I am on the road to recovery, but it will probably be a month until I am there. The media day for the BTCC isn’t until March 16 at Donington Park so if I rest, I hope I will be fit enough to take part in that.”

If Lines is unable to drive the car at the opening rounds of the year at Brands Hatch on April 1/2, the team will have to field a substitute driver to make sure it fulfils the terms of its TOCA BTCC Licence (TBL) to enable it to contest the rest of the season.

“We could look to put an up-and-coming racer in the car if I can’t do it,” said Lines.

Matt James / Autosport

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