Turkington Takes BTCC Championship

Colin Turkington emerged with the 2009 British Touring Car Championship, seeing off challengers Fabrizio Giovanardi and Jason Plato, despite the latter winning all three weekend races, the first such achievement by a driver in over four years.

The Northern Irishman, driving a West Surrey Racing run, RAC backed BMW survived a third race packed with all the 'robust' driving Touring Cars are known for turned up to 11 with a title on the line.

The race also saw a return of the questionable tactics that the Vauxhall works team have become known for. With the reverse grid draw placing Matt Neal on pole for the finale the Englishman (who will return to his family's Team Dynamics outfit with Vauxhall's withdrawal) he aim was clear; try and force Turkington into the clutches of Giovanardi who was starting one place behind the orange car after finishing second in the previous race and do so my going as slowly as possible – his lap times were nearly a second from the pace of the earlier races.

On the opening lap the traffic jam he created saw Rob Collard's BMW go across the nose Tom Chilton's Ford Focus and into the barrier, before Neal himself punted Collard's teammate Jonathon Adam off at Surtees, a corner where he had previously offed Mat Jackson's Lacetti in race one.

However, Neal's tactics had the opposite effect as, by the time the field had made its way onto Brands Hatch's Grand Prix loop, Turkington had moved up to second, shadowed by Giovanardi.

Collard's stranded car, one rear wheel on the crucially rear wheel drive car tellingly askew, forced one of the many Safety Car periods. With Turkington sandwiched between the Vectras of Neal and Giovanardi the tactics were obvious. Neal would hope that the Italian could overtake Turkington, then he would move over and let Giovanardi through to the lead. Even with Turkington in third the point difference would be enough to see Giovanardi clinch a third consecutive title.

However, once more Vauxhall's plan backfired as Giovanardi fell behind Tom Chilton and even when he had re-passed the Ford (along with Plato) the lead pair had broken away.

Going into the Druids hairpin Neal appeared to run wide, allowing Turkington up his inside. Both cars understeered wide and bumped across the grass, with Turkington snatching the lead and Giovanardi moving into second.

Giovanardi then declined the opportunity to shove Turkington off the track as they entered the Grand Prix loop, while Plato was passing Neal – a move he finally sealed when Neal slewed across the Sheene Curve gravel. Then Plato was looking at the leaders. While Turkington was preoccupied with keeping the Vauxhall behind him Plato's Racing Silverline Chevrolet made progress round the outside.

He passed Giovanardi round the final corner and had taken the lead by the time they reached Druids. Plato had gone from fourth to first in a lap.

From there Turkington simply had to hold on, overcoming a possibly damaged car, to take the title, a task made significantly less stressful when Tom Chilton once more passed Giovanardi to take third.

And that was the way they finished. Plato winning comfortably (snatching second in the points from Giovanardi) Turkington second from Chilton.

“Everything I've done up until now in motorsport has been for this moment,” said Turkington through tears in a TV interview on his slowing down lap.

The win was Plato's third as he became only the second driver to win the hat-trick, after Dan Eaves' 2005 Thruxton performance.

In the first race he overcame Chilton who had led from the green flag as he struggled with power steering problems. As they pair entered the final corner Chilton was forced into a defensive line allowing Plato to squeeze up the inside as they excited the corner. In the remaining drag race down the front straight they touched once, before Plato took the win. The official margin of 0.15seconds was the closest finish in BTCC history.

But it was Turkington who made the biggest impact in BTCC history, becoming the first Northern Irish champion and giving BMW it's first BTCC drivers' title since Joachim Winkelhock in 1993.