2014 Season highlights part 4: Knockhill rocks
Knockhill was arguably the biggest turning point in the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Going into the event eBay Motors driver Colin Turkington led the standings by 23 points, but a number of his rivals had made it clear that they were going out there to take the fight to the 2009 champion.
Knockhill’s sharp hairpins and steep undulations have made it a successful circuit for the BMW 125i M Sport cars over the past two seasons, as one of their main strengths is traction and acceleration out of slower corners. Indeed, Turkington picked up a double win at the Fife venue in 2013 and his team-mate Rob Collard also scored his first podium in the eBay Motors car there.
A year on and Turkington showed his pace immediately by setting a new record fastest time in qualifying which put him almost half a second ahead of the MG6 of closest rival Sam Tordoff. The gap to the field on a lap of just under 52 seconds was an impressive show of strength to his competitors, however the first of many twists in the tale of the weekend came as a result of an incident that happened two weeks earlier at Snetterton, as owing to an on-track incident involving Matt Neal, Ulsterman Turkington was forced to serve an eight-place grid drop that undid the hard work of qualifying. What’s more, as he would soon find out, being in the middle of the pack around the narrow Knockhill track puts you right in the firing line for the fierce, gloves-off BTCC battling that the thousands of Scottish fans had come to see.
As the lights went out it seemed like a routine start to the race, as the 31 cars streamed down Duffus Dip for the first time. There were fireworks further up the road as Andrew Jordan and Gordon Shedden clashed, however attentions soon turned to one of the key championship battles that was unfolding on-track between Turkington and a hard-charging Jason Plato.
The duo ran bumper-to-bumper for a number of laps, as Plato made his MG as wide a possible, bringing the chasing pack under the BMW’s rear wing. Turkington got a slight nudge from a chasing car exiting the final hairpin which gave him a great run over the line, but the extra speed he took into turn one meant that he couldn’t get the car stopped, running wide and having to come back on to the circuit out of position and with momentum lost.
The ensuing melee at McIntyre left Turkington on the outside line, and as the chasing pack concertinaed there was a chain reaction of taps that led to Turkington’s car spinning off into the gravel. With its rear wheels spinning to no avail, Turkington’s lead in the championship was all of a sudden in single figures once more, and with him having to start race two from the back, it was looking like the balance of power was shifting.
Race two was something extraordinary – Turkington himself refers to it as one of the best drives of his career, and for good reason. From right down in 27th on the grid, the 32-year-old scythed through the order, picking up place after place on a circuit that demands precision overtaking to avoid contact.
By mid-distance, Turkington was up to 12th place and was soon involved in the raging top ten battle. Unfazed, he continued to make places and recuperate as many of the lost points from race one as possible. As the chequered flag came out the #5 BMW was an incredible fourth, and with third in the final contest handing Colin another strong points haul while main rivals Plato and Shedden struggled, by the end of the day the championship leader’s advantage incredibly had returned to exactly what it was before racing commenced.
With dramatic action throughout the day topped off by one of the drives of the season from Colin Turkington, the Knockhill weekend was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2014, and one that could so easily have changed to eventual outcome of the championship battle.
Check out highlights from Knockhill: