Emo­tional BTCC ti­tle for Turk­ing­ton

The Team Dynamics Civics showed pace and poise around Brands Hatch, but the cham­pi­onship was de­cided at the tail end…

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - MATT JAMES

Never has a 22nd-place fin­ish caused so much emo­tion. But, af­ter the fin­ish of the sec­ond race at Brands Hatch last week­end, it was a snap­shot of the roller­coaster ride Colin Turk­ing­ton has en­dured on his way to seal­ing a third Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship crown.

The WSR BMW 125i M Sport driver had come to Kent with it all to lose. He had a 34-point buf­fer, which he ex­tended to 36 be­fore race two af­ter claim­ing 12th spot in the opener with a full com­ple­ment of 75kg of suc­cess bal­last. That came as a bonus in that Turk­ing­ton fin­ished ahead of his main ti­tle ri­val, Tom In­gram, who had also strug­gled with the 66kg of ex­tra lead in­stalled within the pas­sen­ger footwell of his Speed­works Mo­tor­sport Toy­ota Aven­sis.

Race two was the crunch point, and Turk­ing­ton was do­ing enough to seal the ti­tle. He was 11th in the pack, but was be­gin­ning to feel the heat be­cause those around him were scram­bling to make their way into the top 10.

It came to a head at the top of Pad­dock Hill Bend on lap 13 when Turk­ing­ton went for the in­side of Dan Lloyd’s BTC Nor­lin Honda Civic Type R and the two col­lided. Turk­ing­ton skit­tered into the gravel, but had enough mo­men­tum to crawl his way out of the other side. He re­turned to ac­tion dead last, and that is where he fin­ished.

“At that point I was mak­ing a plan, try­ing to work out what I had to do in race three – I knew it would be tough from there,” said Turk­ing­ton. “I was in shock when my en­gi­neer Kevin Berry came on the ra­dio to tell me that I had done enough [to win the ti­tle]. I couldn’t be­lieve it.”

It was enough be­cause In­gram came up just slightly short of keep­ing him­self in the hunt go­ing into the last race of the week­end.

In­gram started off promis­ingly, blast­ing up the or­der from 14th in a car shorn of its suc­cess bal­last. It took him nine laps to slice into fourth place, and he was right on the bootlid of third-placed An­drew Jor­dan’s

WSR BMW. But he needed more. Fin­ish­ing fourth would mean be­ing 23 points be­hind Turk­ing­ton – and that would leave In­gram, a three-time race win­ner in 2018, out of the hunt even though the points leader wasn’t likely to score.

Try as In­gram might, he could not un­pick Jor­dan’s de­ter­mined grasp on third place. Turk­ing­ton got the ra­dio mes­sage to con­firm his third crown on the slow­ing­down lap – but In­gram had re­ceived his own mes­sage a few mo­ments ear­lier.

“Spencer [Aldridge] came on the ra­dio and told me that Colin was out of the points and we needed to be look­ing at sec­ond or third to keep the ti­tle alive,” said In­gram. “For me, that was where I was aim­ing to get to any­way. We were hope­ful that we could have got a lit­tle bit higher, and we were max­i­mum at­tack.

“With five laps to go, I had no brakes, no tyres, ev­ery­thing was gone. It was hard be­cause at that point I needed some­thing to at­tack with and I had noth­ing. I could have gone for some­thing des­per­ate and fired Jor­dan off or spun him around, but I would have taken ab­so­lutely zero grat­i­fi­ca­tion in do­ing that be­cause we would have done it by cheat­ing.

“When I went across the line, I asked, ‘Is it over, is that it, is it gone?’ And Spencer said yes. My world sunk at that point. I went and had a lit­tle cry in the truck and had five min­utes to my­self. It’s hard to take, but we can’t look back at any­thing and think we should have done it dif­fer­ently.”

Turk­ing­ton was drained of all emo­tion af­ter the sec­ond event and limped to 23rd in race three, an event in which he didn’t re­ally want to take part. In­gram had to re­group and bat­tle to fifth place in the fi­nale to help Speed­works to the In­de­pen­dent Teams Cham­pi­onship, hav­ing al­ready taken the In­de­pen­dent Driv­ers sil­ver­ware.

Those were the cham­pi­onship play­ers in a week­end where the BTCC once again de­liv­ered some ex­cel­lent rac­ing, and there were plenty of other sub­plots that kept the crowd en­ter­tained through­out.

The big­gest win­ner was Dan Cam­mish in the Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R. The rookie, who stepped into Gor­don Shed­den’s shoes at the be­gin­ning of 2018, has been promis­ing a break­through all sea­son but had been forced to wait.

Qual­i­fy­ing on the front row with no suc­cess bal­last was the launch­pad for his week­end, and then he over­came pole win­ner Brett Smith af­ter one lap. He dom­i­nated the race and wasn’t headed again un­til the third en­counter of the week­end.

He se­cured his back-to-back wins – the sec­ond with 75kg of bal­last – in front of team-mate Matt Neal, and showed the prow­ess of the Civic chas­sis on the fast sweep­ers around the back of the cir­cuit.

“It’s a mark of the progress we have made over the course of the year,” said Cam­mish. “The work that the team has put in is in­cred­i­ble, and this is still a new car for us. This is a huge mo­ti­va­tion for me go­ing into the off-sea­son.”

His smile af­ter race two took a while to man­i­fest it­self. Of­fi­cials had deemed that his start was slightly out of po­si­tion and ini­tially pe­nalised the York­shire­man 30 sec­onds. Cam­mish was sum­moned to ex­plain him­self to the stew­ards, wherein he suc­cess­fully ar­gued his case. For a man who has had many kicks in the teeth this sea­son, it was a re­fresh­ing change.

Neal had come into the meet­ing in the top 10 of the cham­pi­onship and there­fore had 15kg of bal­last, and there was no way he was go­ing to try any­thing risky to usurp Cam­mish once the sis­ter car was in front. But this was the strong­est week­end yet for the new FK8 Civic and bodes well should ei­ther of them be in the cham­pi­onship showdown next sea­son…

It was fit­ting that the third race of the day at Brands Hatch al­lowed out­go­ing cham­pion Ash Sut­ton to show that he is still among the best driv­ers on the en­try list.

It had al­ready been a dra­matic week­end for the Team BMR Subaru man. He had been on the pace since the be­gin­ning of prac­tice, but had a huge scare in the sec­ond ses­sion with a heavy crash at Pad­dock Hill Bend with only a cou­ple of mo­ments left.

Sut­ton had been asked to change the map on the en­gine as he crossed the line to be­gin an­other lap. When he got to the top of Pad­dock, the throt­tle stuck open and the Subaru took a one-way trip to the bar­ri­ers.

The car was re­paired just in time for him to qual­ify 10th, and Sut­ton took 39kg and soft tyres in race one, where he was tipped off the track be­fore he be­gan his charge. He was eighth in race two and was then drawn on row two for the fi­nale, which was the only incentive he needed.

De­spite bog­ging down away from the start, he climbed up to sec­ond place by lap seven of the re­versed-grid en­counter. There was only one car to peg back: the Power Maxed Rac­ing Vaux­hall As­tra of his for­mer team-mate and very good friend Josh Cook.

The two be­gan what quickly de­vel­oped into a BTCC epic, as time and again Sut­ton pulled along­side, only to be re­buffed. Cook was stern in his de­fence and looked like he had done enough in a truly ab­sorb­ing bat­tle. But there was a sting in the tail.

“We know each other’s style very well,” said Sut­ton. “Ev­ery time I played a card to try and get ahead of him, he played a bet­ter one and stayed in front. I was laugh­ing and smil­ing in the car.

“On the fi­nal lap, Josh did ex­actly what you would ex­pect him to do: he slowed the car right down on the apex at Clear­ways and I had no choice but to look to the out­side. You do get a bit of side-draft in the cars like you see in NASCAR, and I was us­ing that to give me ex­tra push to­wards the line.”

It worked, by just 0.032s, even though Sut­ton wasn’t aware un­til it was con­firmed to him on the ra­dio on the slow­ing-down lap. Cook, for his part, was prag­matic about the de­feat, pre­fer­ring to dwell on what had been a spell­bind­ing race.

“I have never pushed the throt­tle pedal as hard as I did on the run to the line – at one point, I think I had both feet on it!” he joked. “My car was a lit­tle tail-happy and I was strug­gling. There was a bit of con­tact, but Ash was just let­ting me know he was still there. There was noth­ing nasty in it.”

Rob Austin’s HMS Alfa Romeo Gi­uli­etta had held the lead at the start of the re­versed-grid race in what was a solid week­end for the Ital­ian hatch­back. Austin had lined up in 14th and driven to 15th in race one, but the favourable softer rub­ber helped him to ninth in race two, and a front-row start for the fi­nale.

He headed Cook ini­tially be­fore un­der­steer left him un­able to hang on to his ad­van­tage, although he did bring the Alfa home in third.

Smith’s Eurotech Honda had taken a ros­trum fin­ish in the open­ing race with a ma­ture per­for­mance that showed how much he has de­vel­oped over the sea­son, and he did not over­re­act when the fly­ing Team Dynamics duo bat­tled ahead of him. That re­sult was achieved on the prefer­able softer tyres and with no weight. When the other hand­i­caps were ap­plied, he was 11th and 16th, but he had made a good im­pres­sion.

The fi­nal podium fin­isher was Jor­dan, who had come into the week­end with high hopes of land­ing a top-three po­si­tion in the cham­pi­onship. He had ar­rived at Brands with weight, lined up 12th for race one and fin­ished eighth – one of the few to make progress with the ex­tra lead in the car and with the nor­mal tyres.

Once the softs were bolted on, Jor­dan flew in race two and rock­eted from row four to fourth at the start. He then climbed fur­ther when the en­gine went on sec­ond-placed

Jack Goff’s Eurotech Honda. Jor­dan was ninth in the fi­nale, and was left ru­ing what might have been from 2019 – although he had al­ready done the per­fect job for his team by re­sist­ing ev­ery­thing that In­gram had thrown at him in race two to as­sist Turk­ing­ton’s path to ti­tle glory.

Jor­dan was – along with Rob and Ricky Col­lard – part of the crew that helped

BMW to the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ ti­tle and WSR to the teams’ cham­pi­onship. Af­ter a con­test that had been as com­pet­i­tive as any in re­cent years, that is to their huge credit.

Cam­mish leads. He took two wins to de­liver on po­ten­tial

In­gram fought hard but came up short in the sec­ond race

Duel be­tween Sut­ton and Cook was a race-three high­light

Turk­ing­ton’s gravel trip in race two con­signed him to last place

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.