TURK­ING­TON

AIMS TO MAKE BTCC HIS­TORY

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Matt James

Three-time British Tour­ing Car cham­pion Colin Turk­ing­ton says earn­ing a fourth crown will be his tough­est task yet af­ter con­firm­ing he will re­turn to the se­ries for an­other sea­son in a WSRrun BMW in 2019.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man sealed his hat-trick of crowns at Brands Hatch in Septem­ber last year, but he knows that the fight for top hon­ours in the BTCC will be an up­hill strug­gle.

“I am ea­ger to get go­ing be­cause this is the first time I have been able to de­fend my crown with WSR, but it’s never sim­ple,” said the 36-year-old.

An­other ti­tle would draw Turk­ing­ton level with the most suc­cess­ful BTCC driver in terms of ti­tles, Andy Rouse.

Turk­ing­ton added: “Ev­ery year, life gets tougher in the BTCC and the level is al­ways on the up.”

British Tour­ing Car cham­pion Colin Turk­ing­ton will carry the num­ber one on the side of a WSR BMW for the first time this sea­son af­ter se­cur­ing a deal to re­main with the ti­tle-win­ning team for the 2019 cam­paign.

Turk­ing­ton has driven for WSR for all but three of his 14 sea­sons in the BTCC since join­ing the cat­e­gory in 2002. How­ever, when he won his first crown in a WSR BMW 320si in 2009, he left the BTCC to chase chances on the in­ter­na­tional scene.

He re­turned to the team in 2013 and scooped the sil­ver­ware in 2014 be­fore be­ing tempted by a move to the Team BMR op­er­a­tion driv­ing a VW CC and then a fac­tory-backed Subaru Levorg.

He re­joined WSR in 2017 and lifted the crown last term in the works-backed 125i M Sport. “To come back as the reign­ing ti­tle­holder with the same team is some­thing that I have not been able to do in the past,” said Turk­ing­ton. “I have not had the chance to carry the magic num­ber one on the door of a WSR car so that is go­ing to be a very spe­cial thing for both of us.”

Bat­tle plan

Turk­ing­ton claimed the ti­tle at Brands Hatch last sea­son in the penul­ti­mate round of the 30-race con­test af­ter a fight with the Speed­works Toy­ota Aven­sis of Tom In­gram.

There were a record-break­ing num­ber of race win­ners in 2019 with 17 dif­fer­ent driv­ers scal­ing the ros­trum’s top step. Af­ter he claimed the crown, Turk­ing­ton said that he was go­ing to have to “come up with a new plan” to

con­quer the se­ries again. He said re­versed grids, op­tion tyres and, in par­tic­u­lar suc­cess bal­last made the task ex­tremely tough.

Bal­last rules have been tweaked next sea­son mean­ing that the most suc­cess­ful ma­chines will carry 54kg of ex­tra weight into each week­end, rather than the 75kg that was man­dated pre­vi­ously.

De­spite that, Turk­ing­ton is wary that the fresh chal­lenge will be harder than ever.

“I haven’t quite got around to hatch­ing that bat­tle plan yet – but I am work­ing on it,” he ad­mit­ted. “Last year was such a de­mand­ing sea­son that I needed a bit of time out, I needed a break to get away from every­thing and have some time to put that to bed. I have had a chance to do that, and now I am go­ing to for­mu­late a blue­print to keep me at the top.”

Turk­ing­ton will line-up along­side new re­cruit Tom Oliphant in the Team BMW in what will be a three-car line-up for WSR ( see side­bar).

Go­ing for­ward

WSR team boss Dick Ben­netts be­lieves that North­ern Ir­ish­man Turk­ing­ton will come out fight­ing in 2019.

The two have formed a strong bond over the years work­ing to­gether, and the team prin­ci­pal thinks that the racer is per­fect for the de­mands of the BTCC.

“Colin is Mr Fo­cused, and peo­ple don’t see the work that he puts in be­hind the scenes – in terms of what he does away from the race track, the en­gi­neer­ing re­ports he files, the diet he has and the men­tal ap­proach he uses,” said the New Zealan­der.

“He had a tough year per­son­ally in 2018 and still put it to­gether on track. “it is im­pos­si­ble to say if he will get any bet­ter, be­cause he is right at the top of his game. If he can get bet­ter, then that is only go­ing to be bad news for his ri­vals.

“The suc­cess bal­last sit­u­a­tion hurt us in qual­i­fy­ing last year be­cause, for five rounds of the year, we went to each meet­ing with the top weight. Although that weight has been re­duced for 2019, it will be the same for every­one…”

Record chaser

Should Turk­ing­ton suc­ceed this sea­son, he would draw level with Andy Rouse as the most suc­cess­ful driver in terms of over­all crowns with four ti­tles. Turk­ing­ton is fifth over­all in the all-time list num­ber of races won with 46.

Turk­ing­ton says that land­ing an­other crown is his only ob­jec­tive go­ing into the 2019 cam­paign. “Win­ning the third [ti­tle] was great, but you start ev­ery year with the ob­jec­tive to claim it,” he said. “As soon as the flag drops at Brands Hatch for the open­ing round, it is all you care about.

“I am lucky that I still have the hunger and the de­sire to win ti­tles. The fire burns strong within me and I am as keen on the bat­tle as ever. And to be able to do it again with WSR and Team BMW would mean the world to me – what is spe­cial is that we have all three ti­tles to try and re­tain: the driv­ers’, man­u­fac­turer-con­struc­tors’ crown and the teams’ ti­tle.”

Home­work

Turk­ing­ton said that the fine mar­gins in the mod­ern­day British Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship mean that work done away from the cir­cuit will be key in putting to­gether a pro­gramme to eclipse his ri­vals.

The BMW didn’t take a pole po­si­tion in 2019, mainly due to the level of suc­cess bal­last it was forced to carry, but the driver says all ar­eas of the at­tack will come un­der the mi­cro­scope.

“I think we just have to look for the small gains wher­ever we can,” said Turk­ing­ton. “We will go through every­thing with a fine­toothed comb – and that in­cludes the driver – to try and ex­tract ev­ery bit of per­for­mance that we can. The cham­pi­onship is so close that it is now down to the frac­tions that make the dif­fer­ence. We have to in­ves­ti­gate all of those av­enues. We are still in the very early stages of putting things to­gether for 2019 but we will work very hard.”

Go­ing be­yond 2019…

WSR boss Ben­netts said that the team was al­ready look­ing ahead and had been en­gaged in dis­cus­sions about the new-shape 1 se­ries BMW, which is due to be launched in Au­gust 2019.

The car will be a de­par­ture for BMW as is will be front-wheeldrive, which is a lay­out the Ger­man mar­que has avoided in the past.

How­ever, Ben­netts said that talks have al­ready taken place re­gard­ing the re­vamped car.

“It is not just a facelift, it is a brand new car all round,” said Ben­netts. “We are def­i­nitely go­ing to stick with the cur­rent model that we have for the new sea­son, although we will be look­ing for­wards dur­ing the course of this year. Noth­ing stands still in the BTCC.”

Reign­ing cham­pion will carry the num­ber one dur­ing 2019

Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey

Colin Turk­ing­ton says that hard work will help to keep him at the top of the BTCC

There are ti­tles to re­tain...

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