Eleventh success strengthens BMW’s title challenge
The new BMW 3 Series returned to the top step of the podium as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship travelled north of the border for the eighth event of the 2019 season.
Heading into the Knockhill weekend, Team BMW driver Colin Turkington was looking to maintain his place at the top of the championship standings, but had West Surrey Racing team-mate Andrew Jordan aiming to bring the gap down at the wheel of his BMW Pirtek Racing car.
Tom Oliphant meanwhile, in the second Team BMW 3 Series was hoping to build on a solid weekend at Thruxton in the previous meeting, where he had been the highest scoring of the three BMW drivers.
With the 330i M Sport making its debut at Knockhill, the two free practice sessions on Saturday morning were spent dialing the car into the circuit and the hard work paid dividends in qualifying, with all three cars qualifying strongly inside the top eight.
Jordan was the best placed of the trio in third place and a strong start saw him vault into second when the lights went out in the opening contest, with the 2013 title winner keeping leader Rory Butcher honest throughout as he secured his ninth podium of the year.
From sixth on the grid, Turkington finished less than two-tenths of a second away from the podium in fourth, although a drive through penalty for Oliphant saw him drop down the order and restricted him to a 15th place finish; his pace being shown by the fact he scored the fastest lap of the race.
Despite running on the medium compound tyre for race two, Jordan was then able to rocket to his sixth win of the season, taking the lead at the start and then remaining out front all the way to the finish. That allowed him to close to within four points of Turkington in the standings after he was tipped into a spin at McIntyres whilst running third.
Managing to reverse his car out of the gravel, Turkington recovered to 19th place and whilst that meant he missed out on points, it left the Northern Irishman within striking distance of the top 15 for race three. A 14th place for Oliphant allowed him to add two more points to his tally.
The reverse grid draw left Jordan as the best placed BMW on the grid for race three in P10, but it would be his turn to run into misfortune as he was forced to take avoiding action on lap one when the Subaru of Senna Proctor spun at the chicane and became stuck in the gravel.
A battling drive from Turkington saw him fight his way through to tenth place, with Oliphant capping his weekend with a 13th place finish after finding himself in the heart of the midfield battles.
With two events and six races still to run, Turkington now holds a ten point lead over Jordan in the overall championship standings, with BMW 30 points clear of Honda in the manufacturers/constructors title race.
The battle will continue at Silverstone on the weekend of 28/29 September.
“With three races in a day, it’s full of ups and downs, especially around Knockhill with 30 cars on such a short, tight track,” said Turkington. “I don’t know if I was unlucky or what in race two. Through no fault of my own I was put out of the race. That meant I sacrificed a huge amount of points in races two and three. This is how it goes. At least I was able to recover some points in race three but it’s so frustrating. You’re always managing risk in the BTCC. We know it’s about consistently scoring points and playing the long game. We’re still where we need to be.”
“Overall it has been disappointing as it has been one of those weekends that promised more than what we came away with,” said Oliphant. “Had it not been for the drive-through penalty in race one then I think we would have been able to run at the front all day. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case and we were in the thick of the action where anything can happen. We got the fastest lap in two of the races which underlines our pace, but that doesn’t ease the disappointment at what should have been.”
“I was going forward on a mission and now we fight,” said Jordan. “That is the best touring car I’ve ever driven, it was just on absolute rails. I don’t care about anyone else during the race and I’m just trying to win it. If Colin was second behind me or down in 15th, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, it’s what we needed. You couldn’t write it could you. That’s why it’s the best championship around. I’m not going to worry about race three, we’re in a fight now and I’ll take the positives. I’ve been edging back up to Colin (Turkington). This is what I do it for – it’s going to be incredibly tense. It’s time to roll the sleeves up.”