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Never has a 22nd place been so sig­nif­i­cant, but when Colin Turk­ing­ton dragged his WSR BMW 125i M Sport across the line in race two at Brands Hatch, he had done enough to clinch a third crown.

He’d ear­lier skit­tered into the Pad­dock Hill Bend gravel trap – al­though he re­gained the track – and hope seemed lost, but ri­val Tom In­gram was nar­rowly un­able to bat­tle his Speed­works Toy­ota Aven­sis into the third place he needed to keep his chances alive.

Race one pro­duced the 17th dif­fer­ent vic­tor of the 2018 cam­paign as Dan Cam­mish fi­nally broke his duck in the Team Dy­nam­ics Honda Civic Type R – even af­ter a scare with the of­fi­cials – and then he re­peated it in race two with full bal­last.

The pres­sure-off fi­nale, when out­go­ing cham­pion Ash Sut­ton, in his Subaru Levorg, pipped Josh Cook’s Power Maxed Vaux­hall As­tra showed just what su­perb rac­ing the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship can de­liver at its very best. It was a fit­ting way to sign off the sea­son.

Race one

Brett Smith grabbed pole po­si­tion for the open­ing race with a su­perb qual­i­fy­ing ef­fort in what was a Honda dom­i­nated ses­sion.

Be­hind the Eurotech ma­chine were the two Team Dy­nam­ics cars of Cam­mish and Matt Neal, with Smith’s team-mate Jack Goff in fourth. They would be the ma­jor play­ers in the event.

Smith held his nerve away from the start and kept the oth­ers at bay. Be­hind them, Goff slid in­side Neal for third place.

Smith’s ad­van­tage at the front didn’t last long: as the cars blasted over the start-fin­ish line at the end of lap one, Cam­mish was in­side his ri­val and into first place.

“I just went a lit­tle wide go­ing into Surtees and had a slide,” said Smith. “I don’t think I had enough heat in the rear tyres. That was the only chance he needed and he was through.”

Cam­mish grad­u­ally eked out a onesec­ond lead over Smith, who had been forced into a rear-guard ac­tion as Neal zoomed up onto his bootlid. The three-time cham­pion took his time, but pounced at the start of lap nine of 15 when he got a bet­ter run out of Pad­dock Hill Bend.

Smith said: “I saw Matt was faster than me, and I could see there was quite a gap back to Goff be­hind him. If I had bat­tled Matt, I would have pushed us both back­wards to­wards Jack. I de­cided to let Matt go and see if we could work to­gether to have good pace.”

That al­most didn’t work as Goff, the only one of the top four not on the softer tyres, showed strong pace over the lat­ter part of the event and crept up onto the back of his team-mate, but was un­able to make a move.

Cam­mish was also forced to look be­hind him over the fi­nal tours as Neal pres­surised the sis­ter car, but he never made a se­ri­ous at­tempt to pass.

“As Matt was in my mir­rors, I kept think­ing about multi 21 [in ref­er­ence to Red Bull’s F1 team or­ders row in Malaysia, 2013]. But he was the per­fect wing­man to have in that po­si­tion,” said Cam­mish. “I am over the moon to take my first vic­tory and it is a credit to the hard work that the team has put in to the car. To lead home a 1-2 shows you the progress we have all made.”

There was a post-race scare though: of­fi­cials had a long look at the start and Cam­mish’s car, be­cause there was a sus­pi­cion that he was out of po­si­tion at the get-go. He was ini­tially handed a 30-sec­ond penalty which would have dropped him to 23rd in the re­sults. How­ever, Team Dy­nam­ics suc­cess­fully ap­pealed the cen­sure.

Be­hind Goff, Senna Proc­tor cap­i­talised on a strong qual­i­fy­ing run in his Power Maxed Vaux­hall As­tra to grab a solid fifth ahead of the BTC Nor­lin Honda Civic of Dan Lloyd.

Ai­den Mof­fat (Laser Tools Rac­ing Mercedes-benz A-class) had been em­broiled in a race-long scrap with Sam Tord­off’s Mo­tor­base Per­for­mance Fo­cus and even­tu­ally made sev­enth his own af­ter Tord­off had a mid-race wob­ble at West­field which dropped him down the order.

Tord­off’s team-mate James Cole moved aside on the last lap to aid the cause of the sis­ter car of Tom Chilton. Chilton’s out­side hopes of the crown might have slipped away, but his part­ner mov­ing aside and help­ing him to ninth meant that he was within sight of the In­de­pen­dents Tro­phy – al­though that too would be a strug­gle.

The fo­cus was on the two ti­tle con­tenders who were fur­ther back in the order. Turk­ing­ton started 17th with 75kg on his BMW, but was fit­ted with the softer op­tion Dun­lop tyres, which it was felt would be a ben­e­fit and al­low him to make some progress.

On the row be­hind him on the grid was In­gram’s Toy­ota with its 66kg with the stan­dard Dun­lops.

Turk­ing­ton made it up to 12th place af­ter two laps, but progress there­after be­came some­what more dif­fi­cult. He fought a mighty bat­tle with Chilton’s Ford, which even in­cluded some con­tact on lap 10 as the cars pow­ered out of Surtees.

“The car felt good and I felt that the best form of de­fence was at­tack: I am not con­di­tioned just to sit be­hind some­one,” said Turk­ing­ton. “The tyres were work­ing well and I thought that I was faster than Tom In­gram, but I didn’t want to take too many risks. I am happy with our choice of tyre be­cause I think that al­lowed us to go for­wards.”

The North­ern Ir­ish­man de­cided that col­lect­ing the points was the main pri­or­ity, par­tic­u­larly as he was in front of his main foe. In­gram’s run to 14th place wasn’t plain sail­ing. The bat­tery warn­ing light had come on in­side the car and he was un­sure if the Aven­sis would even make it to the che­quered flag, and was re­lieved when it did.

Team man­ager Chris­tian Dick said: “There was an alarm on the dash which even­tu­ally went off, but the car was run­ning hot in the lat­ter part of the race which took away a tiny amount of power.”

But the crown was grad­u­ally slip­ping from his grasp. Turk­ing­ton’s four points for 12th gave him an ex­tended 36-point buf­fer go­ing into the sec­ond race of the week­end. There were only 44 points left on the ta­ble.

Race two

This was the nervy one. In­gram had promised full-out at­tack, while Turk­ing­ton was eye­ing his ri­val and was in a po­si­tion to just judge his pace.

In the end, it was the race that would de­cide the destiny of the crown, but not in the way any­one had ex­pected.

At the head of the pack, Cam­mish was quick out of the blocks de­spite his 75kg and knew he had to make hay in the early stages. “With the weight, I wanted to get as much of a break early on as I could,” he ex­plained. “I pushed as hard as I could and broke free, but I knew that they would come back to me. But when I saw it was Matt be­hind me again I was pleased, be­cause he is the per­fect wing­man.”

Neal had in­her­ited sec­ond when Goff’s Eurotech ma­chine was forced to pull off on lap six, which prompted a brief safety car.

At the restart, Neal was in­creas­ingly hav­ing his hands full of the fly­ing An­drew Jor­dan, who had the softer tyres and only 21kg of bal­last on his BMW. The 2013 cham­pion hounded and hounded Neal, but sim­ply couldn’t breach his de­fences.

“Yes, An­drew kept me very busy,” said Neal. “I nearly caved in at one point and thought he was go­ing to get by, but I knew if I did that, then he would be all over Cam­mish in front of me. I think the edge went off his grip later on, and then he had trou­bles of his own for the lat­ter part of the race.”

There was trou­ble com­ing for Jor­dan. As his rub­ber wilted slightly, he had to look to his mir­rors. In­cred­i­bly, In­gram was the one ap­ply­ing the pres­sure.

The Toy­ota man had started 14th and was eighth af­ter only two laps, pulling off some stun­ning over­takes go­ing into Hawthorn. He was sixth when the cars were re­leased af­ter the cau­tion pe­riod, and made short work of Smith’s Honda and Mof­fat’s Merc to at­tach him­self to Jor­dan’s bootlid.

He needed to push as well.

Turk­ing­ton had been run­ning com­fort­ably in 11th spot but the dog­fights all around him were in­tense.

The 36-year-old was try­ing to be as cau­tious as pos­si­ble, but it was to no avail. There was con­tact be­tween Turk­ing­ton and Lloyd, with the BMW run­ning though the gravel and to the bot­tom of the order.

Al­though he would re­cover and be point­less, In­gram needed one more point to take the ti­tle to the fi­nal race of the day, but Jor­dan was not for mov­ing aside.

“I gave it ev­ery­thing I had,” said In­gram. “An­drew thanked me af­ter­wards for not tak­ing him off, but he knew I was not go­ing to do that. We had a great car, I pushed, but we just came up short.”

So Turk­ing­ton’s 22nd place was it: he had se­cured a third crown. “I was al­ready plan­ning my strat­egy for race three,” said Turk­ing­ton. “I couldn’t re­ally be­lieve it un­til I got the ra­dio call from my en­gi­neer, Kevin Berry, af­ter the race. It was truly amaz­ing.”

Turk­ing­ton was full of emo­tion in parc ferme af­ter­wards, and the ten­sion he had felt was ev­i­dent.

While that was the cham­pi­onship drama set­tled, the lower order of the top 10 calmed down a bit af­ter the pres­sure cooker it had been ear­lier.

Chas­ing Mof­fat over the line in fifth spot was Chilton in the Mo­tor­base Fo­cus, and he was fol­lowed by Proc­tor, Sut­ton, Rob Austin’s HMS Rac­ing Alfa Romeo and Cook’s Vaux­hall.

Cook was drawn on pole po­si­tion for the third race, but the event would just be a post­script to a sen­sa­tional sea­son.

Race three

Even as a post­script, race three was a barn­storm­ing tin-top event. The even­tual mar­gin of vic­tory for out­go­ing cham­pion Sut­ton in his Levorg was just 0.032s af­ter a truly mighty dog­fight with his former team-mate and good friend Cook.

They both had work to do away from the line, as Cook got beaten to the top of Pad­dock Hill Bend by Austin and Sut­ton bogged down, negat­ing his rear-wheel-drive ad­van­tage away from the line.

Austin held on gamely, but he knew that he was in trou­ble. “My car was push­ing on in the faster cor­ners. I was hav­ing to hold on,” said the Alfa Romeo man. His de­fence was strong, but he never had more than a cou­ple of tenths of a sec­ond in his pocket un­til Cook fi­nally made it stick with a move down the in­side of the Ital­ian ma­chine on the way into Pad­dock Hill Bend on lap five.

One tour later, and Sut­ton was the man on the move, per­form­ing a great move on Chilton to get the switch­back com­ing out of Hawthorn to drag down the in­side of the Ford go­ing into West­field. A lap later, the Subaru man was into sec­ond when he pow­ered ahead of Austin go­ing into West­field af­ter hav­ing gone toe-to-toe with the Alfa on the way down Pil­grim’s Drop.

It only took Sut­ton two laps to get onto Cook’s tail and from lap 10 on­wards, they were in­sep­a­ra­ble. Time and again, Sut­ton tried to lunge the Vaux­hall ahead, but time af­ter time, he was re­buffed.

“We were team-mates for a long time,” said Sut­ton. “We know each other’s style. 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.

“One 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, just about, 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 down 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 bit tail-happy and I was strug­gling. There was a lit­tle bit of con­tact, but Ash was just let­ting me know he was still there. There was noth­ing nasty in it.”

Chilton capped a solid week­end with fourth ahead of In­gram, Tord­off and Proc­tor, while the new cham­pion Turk­ing­ton ad­mit­ted he was drained of emo­tion and came home in 23rd spot. But that didn’t mat­ter one jot to him. Within 20 min­utes of the fi­nal flag fall­ing on the sea­son, he had his hands on the most pre­cious prize of all: the 2018 BTCC tro­phy.

All smiles: Turk­ing­tons flood the podium Turk­ing­ton’s mo­ment didn’t de­rail his ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions

Tom Chilton was not quite fast enough to keep his ti­tle am­bi­tions alive

Josh Cook (l) and Ash Sut­ton dash for the line in the last race of the day

Dan Cam­mish took a win in race two de­spite haul­ing 75kg of bal­last

Tom In­gram’s 14th in race one was fol­lowed by fourth,but it wasn’t enough

Af­ter tak­ing pole,brett Smith was im­me­di­ately un­der pres­sure in race one


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