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Four-time champion Turkington in line for yet another award

 

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Top man: Colin Turkington could lift NI Motorsport prize

Top man: Colin Turkington could lift NI Motorsport prize

Top man: Colin Turkington could lift NI Motorsport prize

He has been collecting awards by the barrow load since he became a four-time British Touring Car champion back in October, and Colin Turkington could well pick up another in Armagh tomorrow night.

The occasion is the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs' annual dinner and prize presentation when the winners in a range of disciplines, from rallying to autotests, will be honoured, highlighted by the announcement of the recipient of the 2019 NI Motorsport Award.

It has gone to Turkington twice before, in 2014 and again last year, but with his record-equalling achievement last season in becoming only the second BTCC driver to win the title four times he has to be the front runner again.

Daniel Harper will have his supporters too after becoming the youngest winner of the GB Porsche Carrera Cup, as will new UK Renault Clio Cup champion Jack Young and Callum Devine, who was chosen as Motorsport Ireland's International Rally Driver of the Year.

There may be others who have attracted the attention of ANICC members, the group whose votes decide the winner, but Turkington and Harper, who are also nominees for prizes at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards gala dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Monday night, have to be the stand-out candidates.

Turkington has already been named Britain's National Racing Driver of the Year and was also presented with the Fairfield Trophy by the British Racing Drivers' Club for his outstanding performances in 2019.

British Porsche champion at just 18, Harper was awarded the Henry Surtees Trophy as the Rising Star of last season.

He has since been selected to join the re-born BMW Junior team and will spend the next two years living and racing in Germany.

Currently undergoing six weeks of assessments and training at Formula Medicine in Italy as part of the BMW programme, Harper will fly back this weekend for the local award ceremonies.

The ANICC dinner includes the presentation of awards to the 2019 champions including Steven Wright, the first driver from the Republic to win the Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.

Among the other Championship winners are Graham Thompson (hillclimb), Adrian Pollock (sprints), Steven Ferguson (autotests) and David McCullough, the new Formula Ford champion.

The work of clubs, officials and marshals will also be recognised on the night.

Meanwhile, this year's NI Stage Rally Championship is being split into two sections. In a controversial move, the main series will consist of five all-tarmac rounds with a separate gravel 'challenge' over two rounds.

The tarmac rounds are the Kirkistown Stages (February 15), Bishopscourt Stages (March 7), Maiden City Stages (April 25), Tour of the Sperrins (June 6) and Tyrone Stages (July 18), meaning the Championship will be over by the middle of the summer.

Two of the country's best forest rallies, the Lakeland Stages (September 5) and the Bushwhacker Rally (September 26), are shifted to the gravel challenge and, unsurprisingly, the Glens of Antrim Rally is dropped completely after a late decision to call it off last season, bringing the series to a premature end.

Eight-time champion Derek McGarrity has described the changes as "rubbish" and new king Wright, who has indicated he is unlikely to defend his title but will start the first round at Kirkistown where he won last season, called them "strange".

"I liked the format as it was, but it is unlikely I will be able to defend my title, and the change doesn't influence my decision," he said.

Belfast Telegraph