Photo: West Surrey Racing

Colin Turkington admits fifth spot was “the maximum”

Defending champion Colin Turkington insisted that he had done the “maximum possible” after qualifying in fifth spot for the opening race of the weekend at Brands Hatch.

Turkington heads into the second meeting of the BTCC season in the points lead after a strong start to the campaign last weekend at Donington Park, but that brought with it the penalty of running with maximum success ballast – now set at 60kg – on his BMW 330i M Sport.

Despite that penalty, Turkington was able to run inside the top ten in both free practice sessions and then put in an impressive performance in the half hour long qualifying session to post a best time just 0.342s off pole.

“I’m really happy with the result today,” he said. “We did a lot of work pre-session with the set-up to get the car dialled in as best as we could with full ballast. We optimised the set-up really well and got it spot-on for qualifying.

“You have to balance the set-up for the tight turns on the Indy Circuit and the fast bends on the GP loop, and it’s a lot more difficult with maximum success ballast. I think we did the maximum possible today.

“The plan for Sunday is to score well in all three races. We’ll maximise race one and then be as rapid as we can when the weights change around in races two and three. Then we’ll just see where we are when it all shakes out. It’s been a good day.”

Astonishingly, team-mate Tom Oliphant would post exactly the same lap time to end up sixth fastest having bounced back from having his first two quick laps in the session removed for exceeding track limits.

However, the Donington Park podium finisher felt he could have gone quicker without a small error on what looked set to be his best time.

“I’m pretty happy, but at the same time a little disappointed,” he said. “We made a big adjustment after my first run in qualifying and the BMW was great – it would go exactly where I pointed it. I decided to go ‘full send’ on the first lap of my final run and was three tenths up on my previous best with a corner to go, so I decided to give it everything, but locked up slightly and got sideways.

“That cost me all the time I’d made up, and on the last lap the tyres were past their peak and I had some traffic, so there was no chance to improve. I’ve set exactly the same time as Colin though and that takes some doing. Sixth is a good starting position and I’m confident I can go forward a row tomorrow.”