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Racing star Colin Turkington reveals relief after his near miss in Wuhan

 

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Close call: Colin Turkington racing in Wuhan

Close call: Colin Turkington racing in Wuhan

Close call: Colin Turkington racing in Wuhan

Colin Turkington was blissfully unaware of what was coming down the line as he raced around the streets of Wuhan in front of tens of thousands of people.

Back in December few had heard of Wuhan despite it being home to more than seven million people and no one outside the totalitarian Chinese authorities knew about Covid-19.

Now both are ingrained in our minds and our lives, none more so than four-time British Touring Car champion Turkington. He thanks his lucky stars he was able to return safely to his adopted home not far from Silverstone before "all hell broke loose".

Turkington was making one of his regular guest appearances in the Chinese Touring Car Championship, something he has been doing for the past couple of years during the off season in the United Kingdom. It just happened the last races of 2019 were in Wuhan.

He had been there in 2018 as well but this year it didn't go so well, his Volkswagen being punted into a roll in race one and then he suffered a drive-through penalty when the car 'crept' on the line as he started from pole position in race two.

"It was a less than satisfactory weekend and back then there was no talk of this new virus. The spectators were out in their hordes, packed all around the circuit which is in the middle of Wuhan. We - and they - hadn't a clue what was going to unfold in the next few months," says the Portadown man.

"Now I feel really fortunate that I got home in one piece and have managed to stay healthy."

He can't wait for the British Touring Car season to start so he can begin his bid for a record fifth title but has no idea when that might be.

"All motorsport is suspended until the end of June and there is talk about starting in July but no one knows. We just don't know how this virus is going to play out and, in the greater scheme of things, getting back to racing isn't all that important.

"We just have to be patient and hope the measures which have been put in place will get on top of it."

For now Turkington is taking it day by day, enjoying the change of pace and spending time at home with his wife Louise and their boys Louis and Adam.

"It is the same scenario as many other parents, trying to keep them occupied and stop them getting bored. Louise and I do school work with them in the morning - the learning packs they were given have been invaluable - and in the afternoon we go for our walk, play games, get on my race simulator, bake, cook and anything else that takes their minds off being stuck at home.

"We can't get back to Portadown to see family and friends, obviously, but we keep in touch by Facetiming them and it is good to know they are all well."

Like many other drivers, Colin has plunged into the world of sim racing, taking part in a charity BTCC event at a virtual Brands Hatch. "It is not something I have done in the past but it went OK and I finished second overall," he says. "More importantly it raised a lot of money for an amazing food bank charity, the Trussell Trust."

Speaking of food, he has become part of what he calls "the supermarket sweep".

"Going to Tesco is like a qualifying lap in the BTCC," he laughs. "You patiently queue up to get started, dash round as fast as you can and get out again."

A shopping trolley, no matter how well steered around Tesco by a multi champion, is no substitute for the BMW which he showed off at the championship launch a month or so ago but which is now under wraps at the workshops of his West Surrey Racing team. Turkington has no idea when he will get to drive it again or how the BTCC will look.

"Things could be very different," he says. "Motorsport is such an expensive business and manufacturers, sponsors, teams and individual drivers will all have been hit financially. Some might not make it back onto the grid.

"The idea of staging the races behind closed doors has been floated and running back-to-back meetings over successive weekends but both have their problems. Spectators were excluded from the launch day, which I didn't think should have taken place even though all the teams were kept apart and there was no intermingling. It didn't feel right, like just another test day.

"The races would be televised but fans at the tracks are such a big part of BTCC and it wouldn't be the same without them.

"Running back-to-back weekends would be OK but could the circuits accommodate us? If and when motorsport re-starts there will be other categories that will want to get back to racing, including motorbikes, so it may not be possible."

In the meantime he is just trying to be patient and enjoy the enforced break. "It is important for me to take stock and reflect on what I have achieved up to this point," he adds.

"It has taken a lot of hard work and effort from me and the team to get to four titles. So I don't want to keep looking ahead to the next challenge.

"I think you have to enjoy what you have achieved so this little breather is really important for me. I am enjoying this bit of quiet time and I know that once the season does start back it will be all guns blazing."

Belfast Telegraph