It’s been eight seasons and 218 races, but at last Colin Turkington is the BTCC Champion, the first Northern Irish driver to claim the title. Turkington’s win also sees him hand West Surrey Racing, the team he has been associated in all but one of his touring car campaigns, their first BTCC Drivers’ title. Turkington also becomes the first BMW driver to lift the title since Smokin’ Jo Winkelhock in 1993, as he achieves his “lifetime ambition”.
Having started out in the Ulster Karting series back in 1993, Turkington progressed to Autograss for 1996 and 1997, before stepping up to the Northern Irish Metro championship in 1998, where he sealed his first series title.
Next stop was mainland Britain and the BTCC supporting Ford Fiesta Zetec Championship, in which Turkington made his debut in 1999. Three seasons in the highly popular one make series followed (with future touring car rivals Gareth Howell and Gordon Shedden taking the honours in the first two years), with the Ulsterman coming out on top in 2001.
That title was enough to earn Turkington a BTCC drive partnering Howell in the junior MG squad, the memorable Team Atomic Kitten, backed by the all girl pop group of the same name, thus beginning his long standing relationship with West Surrey Racing.
The duo made their debuts in the brightly coloured yellow MG ZS’ at the second round at Oulton Park, with Turkington qualifying mid pack, before finishing his first ever touring car race in 19th position, one lap down on winner Yvan Muller.
Problems saw Turkington fail to make the finish in six of the next seven races, but at Croft in mid-July he announced himself firmly on the touring car scene, taking his maiden podium in the Sprint race before following that up with fifth in the longer Feature race.
A run of points scores then helped him to 14th in the end of year standings, just three points shy of his (slightly) more experienced teammate. Despite being outscored, it was Howell that was dropped from the programme at the year’s end with the works MG squad expanding to three cars to incorporate Turkington.
2003 saw Turkington partnering Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes with a pair of fourth places his best results until the BTCC circus rolled into Kent for the Brands Hatch rounds in August. A third in race one was added to his first BTCC race win and fastest lap in race two, with the confidence from these results helping Turkington to further podiums in the remaining rounds at Donington and Oulton Park.
Eight in the standings, just one point behind MG teammate Hughes, pointed towards a promising 2004, but that was put in jeopardy when financial problems resulted in MG Sport pulling the plug on the BTCC. WSR stayed on however, with a slimmed down Independent attack comprising the younger Turkington and the more experienced Reid.
With the BTCC expanded to its now familiar three races per meeting schedule, Turkington scored points in all but five of the thirty races, showing the consistent points scoring that would help him to his 2009 title. As in 2003 there was just one win, this time coming at Mondello Park but a, then best ever, sixth place in the championship.
2005 saw Turkington’s sole BTCC season away from WSR, as he switched to the seat vacated by James Thompson at VX Racing for the debut of the Astra Sport Hatch. Wins at Croft and Mondello were the bright spots as Turkington once again came sixth in the standings before returning to the MG ZS and familiar territory at the year’s end.
Although five years old, the MG’s had a fresh look for ’06, with a new bright orange colour scheme that is now familiar to all BTCC followers as belonging to Team RAC. Partnering Rob Collard, Turkington came third in the championship (and second in the Independents category) with wins at Thruxton and Donington.
The close season saw Team RAC switch to BMWs and Turkington have a new teammate in Tom Onslow-Cole for 2007. Pole position for the opening round of the season set the tone for a strong debut season for the 320si, which saw Turkington take three wins and his first BTCC Independent Drivers’ Championship.
2008 saw yet another change of teammate, as this time Stephen Jelley joined WSR to partner Turkington, though the single seater convert failed to provide a strong inter-team challenge. Once again Turkington hit the ground running, scoring a win and a fastest lap from the opening races at Brands Hatch, as he began a campaign that would once again see him lift the Independent Drivers’ Championship.
A double victory at Croft and a further win at Oulton Park combined with another consistent season that saw no retirements and only five failures to score points elevated Turkington to fourth place at the season’s end. With Mat Jackson (second) left initially without a drive and Jason Plato (third) only securing a last minute seat in an unfamiliar Chevrolet, Turkington looked the driver most likely to end Giovanardi’s run of championships in 2009.
And that is exactly how it proved, with Turkington taking control of the series after a double win at Croft before the mid-season break. Despite Giovanardi narrowing the gap as the challenge of early championship pace setter Matt Neal fell away and the challenge from Plato and Jackson as the Chevrolet Lacetti came on strong late in the season.
Yet again Turkington’s season was a lesson in consistency, with only one retirement all year, back at Donington in May, when the 27-year old span off at Coppice during the wet opening race. At the following meeting at Oulton Park Turkington picked up his only other non-points scoring finish in the 30 race series, coming home 11th in race three following contact with Jackson late on.
Six wins, including doubles at both Croft and Oulton Park, three fastest laps and three pole positions are the stats, but for the man from Portadown, only one stat will matter; that which says, ‘Colin Turkington, 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Champion’.
Congratulations from all at TouringCarTimes go to Colin Turkington and Team RAC.
Colin Turkington’s BTCC record
Debut: Oulton Park, 21st April 2002
Fastest Laps: 20
Colin Turkington Career Summary
2009 BTCC Drivers’ and BTCC Independent Drivers’ Champion
2008 BTCC Independent Drivers’ Champion, 4th in championship with four wins
2007 BTCC Independent Drivers’ Champion, 5th in championship with three wins
2006 Rejoins WSR, finishing 3rd in championship with two wins
2005 Works Vauxhall drive, 6th in championship with two wins
2004 6th in championship with one win in WSR run MG
2003 Works MG drive, 8th in championship with one win
2002 Joins BTCC with Team Atomic Kitten, 14th in championship
2001 Ford Credit Fiestas Champion
1998 Northern Irish Metros Champion