Soaked in the champagne of Chris Smiley’s race winning drive at Rockingham, I took one final walk through the tunnel and away from the track that I’ve come to know and love so well.
Its empty grandstands now destined to crumble, as much from the might of the money-men as from the ire of the wrecking-ball: The echoes of past glories being left to fade as new ownership decrees that motor sport will end here.
Rockingham has always projected the spectacular. We have nothing else like it in this country: Tight turns, banked corners and a long, hard wall that can test and break the best. It delivered a weekend of the closest racing; where individual glories made the headlines but also where carefully crafted strategies looked far beyond the next day’s news.
There are just nine races left now in the 2018 British Touring Car Championship and nobody is more aware of this than Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram… and Alan Gow. Turkington and Ingram have been locked in the title battle since the red lights went out at the opening round at Brands Hatch. As the season commenced, I was sure that this was the BMW man’s year, but Ingram and the Speedworks team aren’t having any of it. They’re energised, they’re focused and they’re simply getting better and better. Moreover, the rest of the grid knows this too. It’s Hamiltonesque. Ingram’s mere presence on the grid is a parting-force; opening gaps that nobody else can either see, defend, or wants to defend.
Turkington, of course, is the most formidable of opponents. You only need to compare his performances against those of his teammates to know that the Northern Irishman is racing like never before. In both of his title-winning years, he had the better car and was able to withstand Jason Plato’s challenges, despite all the effort and resources pitched against him. This year it’s different. The BMW has certainly made progress, but others, Speedworks in particular, have made more, leaving Turkington having to conjure pace and positions despite being fully-loaded with championship-leading ballast.
The race for the title is on, and with the likelihood of Morgan being promoted into contention, this wasted corner of Corby has duly played its part into building one of the most thrilling climaxes in recent touring car history.
To everyone who works at Rockingham, and has played a part in hosting some great racing over the years, I, for one, wish to say ‘thank you, and good-luck’.
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