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Turkington keeps calm to stay ahead in title chase



Colin Turkington

Colin Turkington

Colin Turkington

Colin Turkington heads into the British Touring Car Championship's summer break sitting proudly at the top of the points standings.

On a day when the two-time champion from Portadown couldn't add to his reputation as the most successful driver of all time at the Croft circuit, Turkington still brought home three top five finishes to consolidate his position as championship leader.

But there was a landmark moment for the Ulster-owned BTC Norlin team when Dan Lloyd won the last of the three races at the north Yorkshire circuit - the first-ever BTCC success for a Northern Ireland team.

Turkington, however, kept his sensible hat on, refusing risky overtaking attempts and keeping his West Surrey Racing BMW out of trouble to finish fifth, third and then fifth again and goes into the holiday period 19 points ahead of the Toyota of Tom Ingram and 35 in front of Honda's Matt Neal.

The first two races saw a huge turnaround in the fortunes of Turkington's former BMR Subaru team who have struggled this season only for reigning champion Ash Sutton to score back-to-back wins.

In race three Lloyd, a Yorkshireman, took full advantage of drawing pole position on the reverse grid to lead from start to finish in the Norlin Honda.

However, team-mate Chris Smiley was an early casualty in the race after finishing 17th and 12th earlier in the day. There was late disappointment for Keith Cronin and Marty McCormack in the Ypres Rally, the Belgian-based round of the British Championship.

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They were comfortably in the top 10 and on course for a one-two finish in the BRC series until the final group of stages on Saturday evening.

McCormack's Skoda suffered steering failure on stage 20 and then Cronin, who had led the BRC contingent from the start in his Hyundai, was hit by a puncture on the final stage. It cost him over a minute and dropped the four-time champion back to third behind Matt Edwards and David Bogie. It was Edwards's second win in a row and he now leads Cronin by 20 points as the series takes a break before the Ulster Rally in August.

There was disappointment, too, for Belfast's William Creighton who had just taken the lead in the BRC Junior category from James Williams when he put his Peugeot off the road on stage 15.

Williams went on to win ahead of Ulster drivers Josh McErlean and James Wilson after Marty Gallagher also retired.

Overall as victory went to World Championship leader Thierry Neuville who was making his annual appearance on his home event. He famously crashed out last year but made amends this time with a start-to-finish victory in an R5 Hyundai i20, finishing ahead of the Skoda Fabias of Vincent Verschueren and Kris Princen.

It wasn't doom and gloom for the Cronin family at the weekend with Keith's younger brother Daniel winning the Raven's Rock Rally in his R5 Fiesta.

Meanwhile, Niall Murray stretched his lead at the top of the Avon Tyres UK Formula Ford Championship with two wins out of three rounds at Kirkistown on Saturday.

A former Northern Ireland champion, Murray qualified on pole position for race one and went on to win ahead of Luke Cooper. It was the same result in race two although Cooper closed to within a fraction of a second at the chequered flag.

But Murray didn't make it to finish of race three, being taken out in a multi-car tangle at the hairpin, but his Dolan team-mate Matt Round-Garrido went on to take his second victory of the UK series.

It made up for an otherwise disappointing day in which he could only manage two third places behind Alan Davidson and Noel Robinson in the two Dawson-WAM NI Championship rounds.

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