Podium places put Turkington back in chase for title
Colin Turkington thrust himself back into the battle for the British Touring car Championship with a pair of podium places at the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.
After engine issues with his West Surrey Racing BMW saw the Portadown driver slump to 10th place in the standings after the previous round at Donington, Turkington responded by qualifying on the front of the grid at Thruxton and tracked the Honda Civic of pole man Matt Neal all the way to the finish in race one.
In race two, he sprinted past Neal off the startline and led until the BMW, carrying 66 kilos of success ballast, was overhauled by the lighter Vauxhall Astra of Josh Cook.
It might have seen Turkington's first win of the season if Cook had, as expected, received more than a verbal warning for gaining an unfair advantage when he overtook the BMW of Andrew Jordan by short-cutting a chicane.
Still carrying 66 kilos in race three, Turkington started fifth, finished fifth and jumpred to fifth place in the championship, 18 points behind new leader Adam Morgan who led from pole to chequered flag in his Mercedes.
It proved another encouraging weekend for Chris Smiley who took three top 10 finishes for the Norlin Honda team.
Meanwhile, Kris Meeke may have endured a bruising, car-wrecking Rally Portugal but he insists he has to take the positives from an event where he twice held the lead but, unfortunately for him, ended with his Citroen buried in the trees and a trip to hospital for the Ulsterman.
Co-driver Paul Nagle was unhurt and Meeke was quickly given the all clear by medical staff after their huge stage 12 accident which followed a nightmare finish to the Friday leg of the rally.
A puncture on the sixth stage on Friday dropped them back to fifth and although they regained third on stage seven they finished it with yet another damaged tyre.
Then came the bizarre sight of the of the Citroen clattering round the two short street stages in Porto with only the wheel rim on the left rear of the car, Meeke deciding to preserve the damaged tyre for the public road section where he would have been excluded for not having all four wheels on the car.
Remarkably he lost just over a minute but still dropped back to seventh place, slotting in ahead of team-mate Craig Breen who had also dropped time with a puncture on stage seven.
Running at the head of the field on Saturday neither of them could make real progress on the dusty roads but while Breen managed to avoid trouble, Meeke crashed.
"I turned into a fast left-hand corner a little bit late, got onto the loose gravel on the outside of the corner and lost control of the car," he explained.
"I'm sorry for everyone, the whole team, who clearly deserved better.
"It was my mistake so I'll take it on the chin. But the feeling in my C3 WRC was so good here in Portugal that I can't help but take the positives away from this weekend."