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Right decision to postpone series start: Turkington



Good call: Colin Turkington has backed the postponement

Good call: Colin Turkington has backed the postponement

Good call: Colin Turkington has backed the postponement

Despite sport around the world being in lockdown, and several teams having misgivings, the British Touring Car Championship went ahead with its Launch Day at Silverstone yesterday - then announced the first three meetings of the 2020 season were being postponed.

The organisers of Britain's premier motorsport Championship faced criticism for going ahead with their planned launch - albeit with spectators barred - with many questioning the wisdom of bringing the drivers and the hundreds of personnel involved together at the Northamptonshire circuit in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even former racer and lead TV commentator for the series Tim Harvey thought Launch Day should have been called off, tweeting: "If the past week has taught us anything it's that stupidity spreads faster than any virus ever could."

It was a sentiment shared by many on social media but it went ahead anyway with four-time champion Colin Turkington and his fellow Ulsterman Chris Smylie among the drivers taking part. But during the lunch break they were informed that the first three meetings of the season at Donington, Brands Hatch and Silverstone - nine races - would be postponed.

The decision came in the wake of Motorsport UK, the governing body, announcing that all races officially sanctioned within its jurisdiction, which includes Northern Ireland, have been halted until at least May.

Chairman David Richards said: "The decision to suspend Motorsport UK permits on a temporary basis is not one that was taken lightly as the industry employs many thousands of people.

"However, we have an over-riding responsibility to our members and the friends and families of our community."

Reigning champion Turkington, who had been hoping to begin his challenge for a record fifth BTCC title at Donington at the end of the month, said the decision to postpone the start of the series was "100% the right call".

With his West Surrey Racing BMW 330i sporting a striking new black livery, he was right at the sharp end of the lap times along with team-mate Andrew Jordan during yesterday's six-hour test session.

Going strongly too were the all-new Hyundai i20s of Smiley and Senna Proctor.

Carrickfergus driver Smiley moved from BTC Racing to join the Excelr8 team during the winter break, bringing Hyundai to the BTCC grid for the first time. They appeared yesterday in the livery of Draper Tools and despite limited running both drivers had their cars in the top 10.

Meanwhile, following on from the cancellation of last weekend's West Cork Rally, the next scheduled round of the British Championship in the south of England has also been called off.

Belfast Telegraph