TURKINGTON MAKES IT A TRIPLE
BMW STAR SHINES AT BRANDS HATCH
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.
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.
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.
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