Turkington takes top prize as NI honours its winners
Colin Turkington dubbed himself 'the Keke Rosberg of touring car races' as he received Northern Ireland's top motorsport award for a second time.
The three-time British Touring Car champion was a popular choice at the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs' presentation dinner in Armagh where the championship award winners for 2018 were honoured.
Turkington, who is aiming to equal the all-time record of four BTCC titles in 2019, made fun of himself by pointing out that, like F1 champion Rosberg in 1982, he won only one round of the series last year.
But his consistent podium finishes and points scoring saw him add to his 2009 and 2014 successes with Team BMW and West Surrey Racing.
"It is a great honour for me to receive this award at home and it means a great deal to me to know that I have such immense support from motorsport in Northern Ireland," said Turkington who received the award from Hugh Chambers, chief executive of Motorsport UK.
"The BTCC is very competitive and I have been dubbed 'the Keke Rosberg of Touring Car races' taking a championship win with only one race win all season," he quipped.
There was a clean sweep for Northern Ireland in the prestigious JLT/Motorsport UK Club and Volunteer of the Year awards, with Enniskillen Motor Club lifting the overall Club of the Year award and John Comiskey being named the overall UK Volunteer of the Year award. Northern Ireland also celebrated three category winners who will attend the Motorsport UK Night of Champions in London next weekend.
Championship winners honoured on the night included Derek McGarrity, stage rally champion for a record eighth time, Gerard O'Connell and Adrian Pollock, first time winners of the hillclimb and sprint series, and Stephen Ferguson, autotest champion again.
Meanwhile, Marty McCormack got his 2019 season off to a flying start with a clear win on the opening round of the Valvoline Irish Forestry Championship, the Loughman Memorial Rally.
McCormack was using the Carrick-on-Suir event as a warm-up for the start of the British championship next month and brought his R5 Skoda Fabia home to victory by a clear 30-second margin over the R5 Ford Fiesta of last year's winner Andrew Purcell.
Garry Jennings, making a return to the forests in a McKinstry Motorsport S14 Subaru WRC, led initially but dropped back to third after gearbox issues.
Sam Moffett, the 2017 forest champion, was fourth in another R5 Fiesta, a further 17 seconds back, but his brother Josh, the 2018 champion, non-started.
Barry McKenna (R5 Fiesta) and the Group N winner, Niall McCullagh in his Mitsubishi, rounded out the top six.
Two more Ulster drivers, Niall Henry and Cathan McCourt, finished seventh and eighth in the R5 cars, while Shane McGirr won the two-wheel-drive category in his Toyota Starlet ahead of Adrian Hetherington's Escort.
Far away in snowy Latvia there was immediate success for young Ulster co-driver Aaron Johnston who has teamed up with rising Norwegian star Oliver Solberg.
Johnston, from Fintona, and 17-year-old Solberg, son of former World champion Petter Solberg, won the Aluksne Rally in their R5 Volkswagen Polo, the first time they have teamed up together. It was also the first victory for the all-new Polo.
MAIN 2018 ANICC AWARD WINNERS
ANICC 2018 Motorsport award Colin Turkington; Clubman of the Year
William Heaney; Northern Ireland Autotest champion Steven Ferguson; NI Stage Rally Champions Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson; NI Sprint Champion Adrian Pollock; NI Hill Climb Champion Gerard O'Connell; NI FF1600 Champion Matt Round-Garrido; Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Champions Marcus McElwee and John Henderson.
Motorsport UK Awards: Club of the Year (Overall UK Club} Enniskillen Motor Club; Volunteer of the Year (Overall UK winner) John Comiskey; Volunteer of the Year (Steward/Clerk Category) Paddy Haveron; Volunteer of the Year (Marshals Category) Denis Arundell; Volunteer of the Year (Other category) Lucinda McKee.