COLIN TURKINGTON refused to allow a damaged clutch to dampen his satisfaction as two victories at Croft enabled him to strengthen his grip on the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title.
Turkington was forced to retire from the final race of the day after his clutch gave way halfway through the contest, but his two earlier victories means he leaves North Yorkshire with a five-point lead over Gordon Shedden, who claimed three podium finishes as his Honda Yuasa Racing team displayed impressive consistency.
Turkington’s BMW was the quickest car on the track all weekend, and his opening two wins came by a cumulative gap of more than 13 seconds, a huge margin in the closelyfought world of touring cars.
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His failure to complete a hattrick was a disappointment, with last year’s champion Andrew Jordan claiming his fourth win of the season and Shedden’s third place tightening things up at the top of the overall rankings.
However, Turkington was still able to reflect on a satisfactory weekend, even if he accepts that further mechanical problems could wreck his hopes of reclaiming the BTCC title he previously won in 2009.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing's Hunter Abbott in Race Three
“It’s been a really positive day,” said the Northern Irishman, who is the most successful BTCC driver of all time at Croft, with ten wins to his name.
“To get pole position and then win two races is no easy job. Luck doesn’t always go your way, and we suffered a bit in that final race. There are always going to be ups and downs over the course of a season, and we’ve had them both today.
“You need to be ready for whatever happens, and while it didn’t go our way in race three, the two wins earlier in the afternoon were great results for us. Reliability is an issue now, and we’ll have to address that, but we have to be happy with what we’ve done.”
Yesterday was the fifth birthday of Turkington’s son, Lewis, who had told his dad that he wanted three trophies to take home as his birthday present.
“He’s going to have to make do with two,” Turkington joked. “He got to stand on the podium and spray some champagne with me though, so that made him happy.”
Adam Morgan's Wix Filters Mercedes Benz A-Class on his way to fifth in race three, finishing just 0.001s ahead of Jack Goff
Turkington’s dominance was apparent from an early stage of the first race as he recovered from a relatively sluggish start from pole position to coast home more than seven seconds clear of his rivals.
He briefly looked like being headed by front-row rival Jason Plato as he headed into the first corner at Clervaux, but after he moved across to close the door, his fifth win of the season was never really in doubt.
He posted a new lap record of 1:24.815 at an early stage of the race, and by the time he took the chequered flag, he was almost the length of the straight clear of Shedden.
Jason Plato claimed the final podium spot, although he had to work exceedingly hard to shrug off the attentions of Rob Collard, who was unable to get past his Newcastleraised rival even though he boasted superior speed.
Ginetta Juniors battle for postion at the end of the first lap
“Rob was quite a bit quicker than me,” admitted Plato. “I had to work out where I was most at risk and needed to defend, which turned out to be most of the lap. This track works the front tyres very hard, and we were feeling it towards the end.”
The main drama of the opening race came at the second bend, with two separate incidents sending cars careering over the infield.
Matt Neal caught Rob Austin’s Audi A4 as he spun sideways across the track, while Nick Foster lost his bearings entirely as he careered across the grass following a collision with Jack Goff.
There were more thrills and spills at the start of race two, with Austin finding himself sandwiched between Fabrizio Giovanardi and Dave Newsham as he tried to squeeze through a gap that wasn’t there.
Up ahead, Turkington was repeating his earlier dominance, eventually pulling more than six seconds clear of Shedden, who was again able to claim a comfortable second place.
Matt Neal made up ground to claim the third podium spot, succeeding where Collard had failed as he found a way past Plato on lap five, and then collaring Collard himself in the final third of the contest.
“Through the fast stuff, the Tourer was really on fire,” said Neal, who is a team-mate of Shedden. “But once I got past Rob, I didn’t push too hard. Getting a double podium for the team was the main thing.”
Matt Neal speaks to the press after Race Two
Plato’s lack of race speed handicapped him all afternoon, and perhaps explained a controversial incident on the penultimate lap of race two when he clipped the rear corner of Alain Menu’s Volkswagen after the Swiss veteran had pulled off a clean overtaking manoeuvre up his inside.
Turkington’s departure was the main talking point in race three, which featured a safety car for a significant spell after the retirement of Tom Ingram.
With the make-up of the grid being determined by a draw, the lead changed hands on a number of occasions in the early stages, but it did not take long for Jordan to force his way to the front and he eventually pulled three seconds clear of Collard, who finished second to claim his first podium finish of the season.
Shedden’s third spot was testament to his doggedness, as he forced his Honda Civic Tourer past both Jack Goff and Mat Jackson in the closing stages to complete a successful weekend.