BTCC

Title decider build up: BTCC contender Turkington

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Having returned to the team he took his last British Touring Car championship title with Colin Turkington could become a three0time champion this weekend. He heads into the final round of the season just 10 points behind championship leader Ashley Sutton.

Turkington’s 12th season in th BTCC has been, so far, unspectacular but consistent results have kept him in the title fight.

Turkington didn’t get to the best of starts at the Brands Hatch season opener. The BMW driver collided with Matt Neal on the opening lap of race one, and both cars retired. He quickly bounced back, an astounding comeback drive in race two putting Turkington ninth on the grid for the final race. Carefully, he continued to pick his way forward in race three, and was running third behind Tom Chilton by the midpoint. Chilton defended hard but couldn’t keep the BMW behind him. Turkington took second and began challenging Andrew Jordan for the victory, but couldn’t find a way past his team-mate.

Donington Park held more success for the two-time champion. After fourth and fifth place finishes in the opening two races, Turkington inherited the victory in race three after Gordon Shedden was excluded from the results.

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Starting fourth, Turkington was running second by the end of the opening lap but a recovering Shedden knocked him back down to third.  It didn’t take him long to make the place back up, though, passing Dave Newsham at the chicane on the eighth lap. By this point, the reigning champion was already nearly four seconds ahead and continued to extend the gap to Turkington over the second half of the race. Turkington extended the gap back to third to 10 seconds before the chequered flag, giving him a comfortable victory when Shedden failed to pass the post-race scrutineering.

Despite the retirement in the opening race of the season, Turkington was now second in the championship.

There was more silverware from Thruxton. After two solid finishes earlier in the day, Turkington started on pole for the final race of the weekend. He pulled away from pole whilst the rest of the field fought for second and was already nearly a second clear by the end of the first lap. It was a simple lights to flag victory for Turkington, who finished two and a half seconds clear of second, but there were more difficulties to be faced at Oulton Park.

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An electrical problem meant Turkington struggled to finish the opening race and he dropped down the order after a strong start, eventually finishing 29th. It put him on the backfoot for race two, but he climbed up the order to finish 13th. A number of impressive overtakes in the final race put him fifth by the chequered flag, but it was enough to drop him to fourth in the championship fight.

Turkington responded with a fight for the victory in the opening race at Croft. Starting second on the grid, Turkington chased Sutton to the chequered flag, never more than a few tenths behind the Subaru. He later said that he didn’t have the confidence to make a move for the lead and didn’t want to pull off anything too risky in only the opening race.

He would take the top step of the podium in race two after finding a way past Sutton on the opening lap. There was no time to relax as Sutton and Rob Collard both tried to take the win, but neither would pass before the end of the race, allowing Turkington to take his 12th win at Croft.

A sixth followed in the final race before the summer, putting him third in the order and just a point behind Collard in second as summer break began.

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After the summer break, the field headed to Snetterton and Turkington set about trying to close the gap to the top of the order. He took second on the grid for race one and moved past pole-sitter Jack Goff on the opening lap. He led for a handful of laps before spinning on lap five, dropping him out of the top 10. He later recovered to seventh whilst his title rival claimed the victory.

With a signature comeback in race two, Turkington climbed up the order into the podium positions. He spent most of the race battling with team-mate Collard but eventually came out on top to take second behind Sutton.

Both BMW drivers were left battling Shedden for second in the final race of the weekend. Late in the race, a mechanical problem for leader Andrew Jordan dropped him down the order, promoting the battle to a fight for the lead. Shedden managed to pull away from the battling WSR drivers, taking the victory whilst Turkington finished behind Collard in third.

After a hat-trick of third place finishes at Knockhill, Turkington was top of the championship standings, four points ahead of Sutton with three rounds remaining, but dropped back after a difficult weekend at Rockingham. The Northern Irish racer finished sixth in the opening and final races and, though he managed to take third in the second race, it wasn’t enough to keep Sutton behind him.

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Turkington narrowly closed the gap to Sutton at Silverstone. After a poor qualifying, he fought his way through the pack to take fourth from the opening race, just ahead of Sutton. The pair continued to battle in race two, with Sutton pushing his way past Turkington on the final lap of the race.

Sutton was penalised for the movement and handed a time penalty which reversed the positions. The penalty alone wouldn’t have been significant, but the incident was Sutton’s third penalty strike of the season, meaning he would start the final race at Silverstone from the back of the grid.

It was an opportunity Turkington needed to make the most out of but, as the BMW driver tried to move forward, he ran wide and dropped down the order, putting him behind the battling Stephen Jelley and Jason Plato. Jelley and Plato made contact directly ahead of the title contender and, with nowhere to go, Turkington made heavy contact and was forced to pit with damage. He returned to the track, but finished a lap down, outside the points.

Turkington arrives at Brands Hatch 10 points behind Sutton. As well as wanting to take his third championship, beating Sutton will also mean beating his former team, which he left back in January

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