The MB Motorsport team endured a day of mixed emotions as the new Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship kicked off at Donington Park.
The Honda team headed into race day looking to build on an encouraging performance on Saturday, with drivers Jake Hill and Sam Osborne both impressing on track during practice and qualifying.
Despite a minor electrical glitch, Jake showed top ten pace during the opening practice session of the weekend and then backed it up when qualifying came around to put his Honda seventh on the grid for the opening race with a time less than four tenths of a second off pole - and underneath the previous qualifying lap record.
Sam meanwhile produced an eye-opening performance as he ran well inside the top ten during the early stages of the session before eventually ending up twelfth fastest in the sister car, having improved his best time by a second over the course of the day.
It marked Sam’s best qualifying result by far, having never previously broken into the top 20.
The opening race would prove to be a mixed affair for the team, although things started well with Jake maintaining his position through the opening lap and Sam moving quickly up into the top ten.
Sam would continue to move forwards until the two MB Motorsport Hondas were running together on track, only for Jake to then be forced to pit on lap six with an engine problem. That promoted Sam up into seventh place and a measured drive - despite a Safety Car that allowed the chasing pack to close in behind - saw him rewarded with his maiden top ten finish.
Hopes were high of a strong result for both drivers in race two, with the team having worked hard to change the engine in Jake's car in order to allow him to join Sam on the grid for the start.
Sam was able to retain his place inside the top ten through the early stages but his race would end in disappointing fashion when an alarm sounded in the car and forced him into the pits to retire. Capping a tough race for the team, Jake would then be hit with further engine issues that left him joining Sam in retirement.
The team would again pull out all the stops to get Jake's car back out for the final race, which became an important test to ensure that the engine issues on the #4 Honda were resolved. Despite being forced to make two pit stops to check the engine and to resolve a puncture, Jake showed the pace in the car to set the second quickest lap time, even though he would be unclassified in the results, three laps down.
Sam would unfortunately retire after an issue with the right rear wheel having battled his way up towards the points scoring positions, with the team now looking forward to fighting back towards the sharp end of the field in the races to come.
Away from the BTCC, MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square development driver Esmee Hawkey enjoyed a fine start to her campaign in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB with a brace of Pro-Am category wins enabling her to secure the early championship lead.
Esmee would also stand on the overall podium for the first time after an impressive third place in race one, with her combined results seeing her named as the driver of the weekend.
Shaun Hollamby, Team Principal, MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square:
"We've had a tough weekend, but hopefully we have managed to get rid of all of our bad luck at Donington Park! Sam's result in race one and Esmee's performance are the obvious highlights. For Sam, we're hugely impressed with the way in which he performed to secure his first top ten finish. It was certainly a drive that has shown people what he can do, and is the reason why we wanted to bring him onboard.
"It's been a difficult day for Jake but he showed in race three that he has the pace of the front-runners and it was simply unfortunate that circumstances haven't allowed him to pick up some good results this weekend. Even though the end results aren't what we were hoping for, there are things we can take away from Donington that will benefit us going forwards and we look forward to fighting back at the sharp end next time out."
Mark Blundell, Sporting Director, MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square:
"Motorsport is full of highs and lows, and it is just unfortunate that we have endured a tough start on track. The potential of the team is clear to see from Sam's hugely impressive performance in race one, and the pace that both he and Jake showed in race three. We have a quick turnaround before round two and there'll be no stone left unturned to make sure we can get the results our pace deserves next time out. It was a long day for our team with all the work needed to get Jake out for each race so we are really thankful to them all.
"Whilst it's been a tough weekend for Sam and Jake, huge credit should go to Esmee for her results in the Carrera Cup, and that showed exactly why we brought her into the MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square programme. She should be rightly proud of her results and I'm looking forward to seeing her add to her silverware as the season goes on."
Jake Hill, #24 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
"That certainly wasn't the start to the season we were hoping for, but there wasn't much we could do about it. It's heart-breaking when things happen that are outside your control, but I can't fault the MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square team as they have pulled out all the stops today to make sure I was out for all three races.
"It's been a challenge for us as a team but these things make you stronger, and we just need to put Donington Park behind us and focus on what is to come. We showed in race three that the car is quick, and I have no doubt that we'll come back strong."
Sam Osborne, #4 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
"It's been a mega weekend for me, even though two retirements on paper might not look so good. I had my best ever qualifying result on Saturday and to then race through to seventh in the first race was fantastic; a top ten finish first time out in the car is more than I could have hoped for.
"In both race one and race three, we showed strong speed on track and were able to match the front-running pack. That is something that gives me a huge amount of confidence for the season ahead."
Esmee Hawkey, #42 MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square Honda Civic Type R:
"What a weekend! Friday started off excellently as we showed our pace in practice but we've taken a step forward each day. To qualify on the front row on Saturday, with pole in touching distance, was a fantastic achievement and I was so chuffed. To convert that into my first overall podium and take two class wins over the weekend - I'm over the moon really.
"But the challenge now is to take that forward consistently and there is no matter way to do that, than with my home race at Brands Hatch GP next week!"