AIMS TO MAKE BTCC HISTORY
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.”
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).
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…”
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.”
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
Colin Turkington says that hard work will help to keep him at the top of the BTCC
There are titles to retain...