Colin Turkington sees the positive side of senior BTCC status
Colin Turkington is not entirely happy at being described as one of the 'senior' drivers of the British Touring Car Championship. But he also sees it as a positive.
Preparing to begin his 14th year in the premier UK series at Brands Hatch this weekend, Turkington carries with him an enviable record of two British titles, 45 race victories, 17 pole positions and 47 fastest laps.
Now 36, he insists he is "fitter and fresher" than ever, adding: "Every season adds another layer of experience and knowledge and every season presents another opportunity to arrive better prepared."
And although it hurt to miss out on a third title in 2017, finishing as runner-up to Ash Sutton of the BMR Subaru team he left to return to the BMWs of West Surrey Racing, Turkington has no regrets about moving back to what he regards as his racing home.
Keen to put the disappointment behind him and regain the title he last won in 2015, Turkington says: "I believe the consistency with Team BMW and WSR are two of the key ingredients. It will be my 11th BTCC season with WSR, the seventh with BMW and I count myself extremely lucky to be surrounded by the best in the business."
He was consistently among the quickest drivers in pre-season testing and is being talked up as favourite but he points out: "There's a long season ahead - 30 races - and I'm sure we'll all face our fair share of challenges throughout the year, but the aim is to arrive at the season finale with a shot at the title."
In contrast to Turkington with all his experience, fellow Ulsterman Chris Smiley is heading into just his second full BTCC season with the Northern Ireland-owned Norlin team.
He made big strides towards the end of last year but must now adapt to a new car, the team's Chevrolets being replaced by Type R Honda Civics. The upside is these are race-winning cars and Smiley is optimistic they can propel him and new team-mate James Nash up the grid.
Optimistic, too, was Kris Meeke after an impressive performance in the shakedown test session ahead of last night's start to the Tour de Corse.
Meeke, who led the rally last year before retiring his Citroen with engine failure, was three seconds faster than anyone else over the five kilometre trial test. The Hyundais of Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville were second and third.
Sebastien Loeb, replacing Craig Breen as Meeke's team-mate for the second WRC round in a row, was seventh, the nine-times World champion almost six seconds slower.