'The race of my life': Colin Turkington elated after winning fourth British title in thrilling style at Brands Hatch
Colin Turkington is British Tour Car champion for a record-equalling fourth time after what he described as the "race of my life" in the season finale at Brands Hatch.
A couple of hours earlier it seemed his title dream was dead and buried when his BMW was punted off the track, handing the Championship lead to Honda's Dan Cammish and relegating Turkington to 25th place on the grid for the last race of the year.
Even he couldn't see a way back. But in a dramatic finish he passed car after car, including Cammish, to climb to sixth and then heard on his helmet radio that his rival was off the road and in the barriers two laps from the end.
Tears rolled down his face as he crossed the finish line, the champion by just two points from his West Surrey Racing team-mate Andrew Jordan and Cammish.
On an historic day for Ulster drivers, Daniel Harper and Jack Young, both 18, became the youngest winners of the GB Porsche Carrera Cup and the UK Renault Clio Cup respectively but Turkington topped it all with his astonishing fightback when all seemed lost.
The Portadown driver had produced a superb qualifying lap on a wet Saturday to grab pole position despite his BMW carrying maximum ballast as Championship leader. And in race one he surged into the lead and started to pull clear of the chasing pack when backmarker Matt Simpson crashed heavily, bringing out the yellow flags.
As he toured round behind the safety car rain started to fall and as some drivers headed for the pits to change their slick tyres Turkington didn't. He decided to brave it out only to be swallowed up as the rain persisted, finishing fifth behind title rival Cammish and team-mate Matt Neal.
In race two he made a superb start, jumping from fifth to second and onto Cammish's tail only for Neal to slam into the side of the BMW on the first lap, sending it spinning onto the grass.
Turkington rejoined in last place and, on a slowly drying track, gambled by pitting for slick tyres. However, it stayed damp for too long and he was still back in 25th when Ash Sutton's Subaru crossed the finish line ahead of Jordan with Cammish third.
Understandably, he wasn't happy. He said: "I think it was clearly a professional foul and a red card offence. I'm really frustrated that a full season's work has been taken away in one moment."
It meant Turkington's 15-point lead at the start of the day had turned into 10-point deficit, five ahead of Jordan, but worse still, he had 24 cars ahead of him starting the final race.
But his skill and never-say-die spirit saw him fly through the field, even passing Cammish, who had started 11 places ahead of him. It still wasn't going to be enough until the Honda man went crashing into the barriers and celebrations erupted in the BMW camp.
Calling it the race of his life, Turkington said: "I feel amazing, I feel so, so good. Those who work hardest win. This is the one I had to work hardest for. I thought I was down and out after race two. Full credit to my team - my car was good, and I was good!"
The Clio Cup has been mired in controversy all season and it continued right to the final weekend but Young overcame a 30-second penalty to snatch the title from fierce rival Max Coates.
Young had a 15-point lead going into the penultimate race but made a mistake following a safety car period as he overlapped the car in front before they crossed the restart line. A drive-through penalty was posted but Young ignored it, and later was demoted from fourth to 12th.
It allowed Coates to take a one-point lead into the final round but he had qualified poorly and was back in 10th with Young in third. And in a race punctuated by more safety car periods, Young forced his Stobart Motorsport Clio to the front and won ahead of Coates.
The elated Methodist College pupil said: "It's just unreal - to win this title is something else."
Harper had already been crowned Carrera champion ahead of yesterday's finale but signed off with his eighth victory, winning the second of the two races after climbing from seventh to finish second in race one.