Belfast Telegraph

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Turkington keeping cool head after widening gap in title race


By Sammy Hamill

Sometimes the sun shines on you even when it is pouring with rain. And it broke through the clouds for Colin Turkington at the Knockhill circuit in Scotland.

And on a day when the track was awash, he took a giant step towards a third British Touring Car Championship, emerging from the trio of Knockhill rounds with a 43-point lead heading into the penultimate meeting of the season at Brands Hatch this weekend.

It might have been so different if the second of the Scottish races had not been cut short after a series of accidents in the treacherous conditions led to the red flag being shown after 20 laps.

It had looked promising for Turkington's two closest rivals when reigning champion Ash Sutton was first over the finish line ahead of Tom Ingram with Turkington back in sixth. But both Sutton's Subaru and Ingram's Toyota failed post-race ride height checks, possibly as a result of having too much fuel on board due to the race being shortened.

They were disqualified, promoting Turkington to fourth and handing victory to his BMW team-mate Andrew Jordan, signalling the West Surrey Racing team had not been caught out by the red flag ending.

The result has had a massive impact on the Championship, a strong second place in race three seeing Turkington leave Scotland having turned a four-point lead into a 43-point advantage, the biggest margin there has been all season.

But the Portadown driver, the champion in 2009 and 2014, is far from complacent.

"This is one of the toughest Championships in the world to win and I'm under no illusions about the journey still ahead of me," he said before heading off to Silverstone.

"But I'm looking forward to this last stretch of the season and I enjoy the intensity of it. We'll take it one race at a time as we always do and see what happens."

There are still more than 120 points at stake for the winners in the last six races and Turkington has the added disadvantage of his BMW carrying maximum success ballast of 75kg into tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's first race - "like having a passenger on board," he says.

But Turkington is one of the most successful and experienced BTCC drivers with 46 victories and more than 130 podium finishes. He will be hard to dislodge from No.1 spot.

Also in action this weekend is Carrick's Chris Smiley, who gained an emotional first win with the ever-improving Ulster-owned BTC Norlin team at Rockingham, his Honda leading Turkington across the finish line.

And Daniel Harper will be looking to build on his first and second place finishes at Knockhill as the 17-year-old from Hillsborough continues to go from strength to strength in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series.

Meanwhile, the Citroens of Mads Ostberg and Craig Breen were seventh and eighth fastest respectively in the shakedown ahead of this weekend's Rally Turkey. They were some five seconds off the pace set by the Hyundai of World Championship leader Thierry Neuville, who was fractionally faster than his title rival Sebastien Ogier of Ford.

The Toyotas of Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tanak were next ahead of Ford's Elfyn Evans.

Young Co Derry driver Callum Devine, the British Junior champion, was eighth fastest in his R2T Ford Fiesta in the Junior WRC category.

Belfast Telegraph

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