Tonight (Friday 7 December) three-time British Touring Car Champion, Portadown’s Colin Turkington, enthralled hundreds who had gathered at Bavarian BMW in Belfast to hear first hand, how he clinched this year’s BTCC title.
In a season that saw the County Armagh driver stand at the top of the rostrum just once, from a thirty round championship. With only two retirements, consistently being on the podium, or not far from it throughout the season, was enough to claim victory.
At the helm of his West Surrey Racing, Team BMW 125i M-Sport, Turkington claimed four fastest laps during the season, with a total of ten podium finishes, enabling him to end the year a comfortable enough 12-points ahead of a hard charging Tom Ingram.
Whilst admiring the engineering involved in the championship winning car, proudly displayed in the showroom, having been shipped over specifically for the event, we managed to grab a quick word with Colin, between him signing memorabilia and getting pictures taken with fans beside his BMW racing car.
UCNI – “This is your third championship win, all of which happen to have been in a BMW, and despite driving other brands in your career, what is it about BMW that it has brought you the most success?”
CT – “I think it is because I have always had a close affinity with West Surrey Racing and their history has always been with running BMW cars and I think together, we have been with BMW now for over twelve years and in that time, as you say, we have had some amazing success becoming three-time touring car champions and for the team as well, multiple team championships and this year, the manufacturer championship also.” Colin continued “For me personally, I just love rear-wheel-drive and that’s why I have always gone so well in the BMW’s, they say a BMW is the ultimate driving machine, and for me it is!”
UCNI – “Next year, will you be defending your title?”
CT – “Yes, for sure I hope to be back and defend the crown, we are working hard to make it happen [in a BMW] and off the back of this season, we hope that it won’t be too difficult to put something together, I want to be back with Team BMW, it gets more competitive every year and the challenge gets greater, but I think we are more than capable to come back and try to do it all again.”
UCNI – “To win what is in my mind the best racing series in the world, and to then come home to hundreds of fans in your local dealership, how does it feel to be with your fans tonight, to be able to talk to them and to let them see the championship winning car up close?”
CT – “It’s very special, this is the one and only event we are doing to celebrate the championship, it was my decision to try and get the car here and to do it in Belfast, here at Bavarian, my local dealer, it’s special that we are able to make it happen and to share the success with everybody here because obviously we don’t race here in Northern Ireland, or in fact Ireland any longer, so a lot of people here don’t get to experience what touring cars is all about.”
UCNI – “On that note Colin, what about a return of the championship to Mondello [Park, in Dublin], would you like to see it back at Mondello?”
CT – “It would be great to see the championship in Ireland somewhere, racing in the UK is great and the facilities there are superb and that’s why I think they are reluctant to move away from that. Certainly for me, I would love for a race to come to Northern Ireland and for so many people here to experience it, I thought we were getting close with Lake Torrent [a proposed world-class track in County Tyrone] at one stage, but unfortunately that seems like it’s not going to happen anymore, which is a shame.”
Colin then took centre-stage in front of the large crowd of friends, family and supporters that had gathered within the showroom, where he was interviewed by wife Louise, with a round-up of each and every one of the thirty rounds of this years championship.
Enthralling the audience with tales from the driver’s seat and explaining just how tough the championship is, Turkington was quick to commend the whole team behind him, speaking highly Team Principle, Dick Bennetts, a man who masterminded the careers of such names as Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and our very own Eddie Irvine, with his involvement in F3 and a racing academy in the 80’s and 90’s.
It’s safe to say that this humble, family man from Portadown is in safe hands, with the best team possible behind him.
We would like to wish Colin our congratulations once again, and lets hope we can do the same event again neat year, with what would then be a fourth title, matching the record of Andy Rouse who raced in the 80’s, the only driver ever to have won four championships.
Words & Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]