‘KING OF CROFT’ WINS WSR’S 700TH BTCC RACE TO CLOSE ON SERIES LEAD
Four-time champion Colin Turkington stormed his way to a third victory of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship last weekend (18/19 September), as the 39-year-old closed in on the summit of the standings in his Team BMW machinery.
Not only did the ‘King of Croft’ further cement his title with a 13th win on the 2.13-mile circuit, but Turkington’s accolade also marked a significant milestone for the WSR-run squad, which celebrated its 700th BTCC start in the same race.
The Northern Irishman began the day with a fourth-place finish and added seventh in race two – a masterful recovery after finding himself in the gravel at turn one with just a handful of laps remaining.
Bad luck turned into good however as he was drawn on pole position for race three’s partially reversed starting grid. He started strongly and drove away from the field to win by three seconds.
His results helped him climb two spots to third in the Drivers’ Championship, a reduced 35 points off the series lead.
BMW continues to lead the Manufacturers’ points by a healthy margin, continuing its chase for a record-breaking sixth straight title, while Team BMW remains third in the Teams’ standings.
Team-mates Stephen Jelley and Tom Oliphant both endured frustrating race days.
Jelley, from Leicester, had made a strong start from 12th on the race one grid and was on course to finish ninth when he was forced wide on the penultimate lap and fell to 13th spot by the finish.
He intensified his efforts to finish tenth in race two and was running in the same position early in race three when he was spun around at the Complex and fell to 18th. After that, a recovery to 14th and a pair of championship points, was a solid result.
After qualifying a strong sixth – less than two-tenths from pole position – contact for Oliphant on the opening lap of race one preceded a spin which dropped him to 29th and last. A valiant effort saw the 31-year-old climb to 20th by the finish.
Broken suspension – a legacy of a heavy kerb strike – unfortunately then saw him out of the second encounter before his second tour.
The Leamington Spa-based driver performed brilliantly to score points with 13th in race three, in spite of starting 28th and having to drive through the gravel to avoid a multi-car incident at the start.
With less than a week to regroup before Silverstone for the eighth race weekend of the campaign, all three drivers will be aiming for big points hauls at the Northants circuit.
“It was a really good day for me,” said Turkington. “Of course, to win is great and to win again at Croft too… things generally go quite well for me here. The WSR team did a fantastic job to make the BMW faster and faster as the day went on, and especially in the gap between races two and three. The car I had in race three was really quick and felt good. It’s good to chop a few points out of the championship lead too. Thirty-five points is still quite a big gap, but I’ve been around the BTCC long enough to know that anything can happen in the final nine races. I’ll definitely enjoy this one as long as I can before the attention shifts to preparing for Silverstone next weekend.”
“It was a tough day and a tough weekend really,” admitted Jelley. “Croft used to be a rear-wheel drive circuit, but that’s just not the case anymore. Even on the starts, we’re not able to use our extra traction over the front-wheel drive cars, plus we’re very vulnerable to the tap from behind, which is exactly what happened to me in two races today. By race three, the BMW was absolutely fantastic and if I’d had a car that good in qualifying, I’d have been a lot higher up; the team did a really good job. We’ll aim to start from that point at Silverstone.”
“It’s just been a really disappointing day,” added Oliphant. “I’ve proven time and time again that when I have a clean weekend, I get on the podium. If I don’t, I just keep getting hit in race one by another driver and have the day ruined. The real shame is that the car has been really fast. In race one, my best lap was less than a tenth off the fastest lap, and that’s real pace that we had from the BMW today. I’ve just got to hope that we can show that speed again at Silverstone, because if we do, we should be right up at the front.”
“It’s very good to win again with Colin, and to mark our 700th race in the BTCC with a victory,” concluded Dick Bennetts, Team Principal. “We really needed that one to keep up the pressure in the championship and to maintain BMW’s lead in the Manufacturers’ points. He’s driven like we all know he can and scored enough points to pull a bit closer to the championship lead. Tom and Stephen should both have had much better results today. I can only hope that gets a better at Silverstone.”