You can’t really say that 2009 was a vintage year, but it did have one or two moments of greatness: Barack Obama was sworn-in as the 44th President of the United States (the first African-American to hold the office). “Sulley” Sullenberger guided US1549 to safety on the Hudson River after a bird strike caused engine failure soon after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport; and Colin Turkington raced to his first BTCC Drivers title in the WSR BMW 320si.
Ten years on and Barack Obama is now a former President, turned best-selling author; Chesley Sullenberger is a former pilot, turned best-selling author; and Colin Turkington . . . is seeking his fourth BTCC title with WSR and BMW, and still hasn’t opened his free copy of Jason Plato’s book, though both his boys might well have added to the doodles on the front cover.
Arriving at Brands Hatch this weekend for the climax of the 2019 season, five drivers (Colin Turkington, Dan Cammish, Andrew Jordan, Josh Cook and Tom Ingram) remain in contention for the main prize, but with all due respect to both Cook and Ingram, it’s the trio of Turkington, Cammish and Jordan who are most likely to slug it out in the battle for the crown. Here are our thoughts on the final showdown.
5th 236pts – Tom Ingram (deficit 61pts)
Last year’s Independent’s champion (and overall runner-up) is no stranger to drama. This is the third consecutive year the Speedworks man has raced for the title but this time he has the added reward and backing of a works Toyota drive.
A winner at Donington, Snetterton, and twice last time out at Silverstone, Ingram is a master around Brands Hatch. He needs to take pole and win race 1 to realistically have any chance of still being in the frame by race 2 (and he needs Turkington to either be out of the points or score very poorly too), but with a set-up that at last sees the new Corolla launch through corners, and low on success ballast, his role in this year’s fight might still be pivotal, only more for the points he takes off others than he can gain for himself.
4th 263pts – Josh Cook (deficit 34pts)
The sole independent in the reckoning, Cook’s gritted determination and raw extraction of pace sees the BTC Racing man not only firmly leading the non-works standings, he regularly outpaces the rival factory Team Dynamics Hondas too.
Three wins, including an exceptional drive in the opening round (also at Brands Hatch), bags full of points at each and every circuit on the calendar, and the support of an engineering team brimming with talent should see Cook rewarded with at least one piece of silverware (the Independent Drivers’ championship), and perhaps more importantly, the backing needed to finally secure a long-term relationship with the team that promised they would win and win together.
3rd 280pts – Andrew Jordan (deficit 17pts)
I was looking for a way to describe Andrew Jordan’s approach to racing; the phrase ‘no limits’ has both overwhelmed and occupied my mind.
It’s been a difficult spell at WSR for the former champion. In fact, it’s been a difficult time ever since he won the BTCC crown back in 2013. And then landing in Dick Bennetts’ squad four years later, he not only had to contend with Colin Turkington returning to the fold, he’s had to endure the pressure of sponsorship gremlins too. It’s a bit like how we see Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes F1; you know he’s blindingly quick; you know that he can be quicker than his teammate; yet you also know that he’s not the favoured son.
Jordan has driven with his heart on his sleeve this year and stunning results at Thruxton and Croft in particular propelled him towards the top of the standings, yet one moment of somebody else’s madness at Donington saw the Pirtek man wiped-out of contention in round 4 and sidelined in hospital for rounds 5 & 6. Even only moderate scores that weekend would have now seen AJ leading the way. Instead, he’s faced with a 17-point deficit and the possibility that this could be his final BTCC outing (for the immediate future at least).
Is he fired-up? Hell yeah. Will sparks fly? Undoubtedly. Can he win the title? Absolutely . . . but then he could also lose it too, and not just for himself.
2nd 281pts – Dan Cammish (deficit 16pts)
Whether you’re a Honda fan or not, there’s no denying that over recent years, despite intense efforts from Colin Turkington and BMW, the Type R has been the dominant force in the British Touring Car Championship . . . and whether you’re a Dan Cammish fan or not, there’s no denying that whatever wheel he’s behind, this Yorkshire son will always rise to become a leading light.
Now in his second season with Halfords Yuasa Racing (and newly contracted for more), Cammish has steadfastly set about his journey into touring car racing; meeting the challenge of not only adapting to front wheel drive machinery but more testingly, replacing three-times BTCC champion, Gordon Shedden, in the prized Team Dynamics seat. It’s been a gruelling and battle-scarred campaign for Cammish but with each and every round, he’s worked his way up and through the grid, leaving just one position left to take.
1st 297pts – Colin Turkington
If you were asked to list all the qualities of what makes the ultimate race driver, then you could probably save a lot of time by simply answering ‘Colin Turkington’. Right now, and actually for quite some time before, there has been nobody better. And also right now, there’s no better car than the BMW 330i M Sport.
It’s no accident that BMW chooses to work with a driver who totally embodies its ethos of combining heritage with precision, performance and passion, and the way that he has set about accumulating the points that have taken him to where he is now, on the brink of his fourth BTCC title, stands testament to this. Yes, Andrew Jordan’s accident at Donington gave a helping hand, but right throughout this campaign, Turkington has had to manage the ballast and performance penalties thrown at both him and the car and he has done so majestically . . . and on the odd occasion when he’s had to get his elbows out, he’s shown his mettle too.
This weekend is undoubtedly going to throw at him several of the biggest challenges to date in what has been a career where the fight almost always lands in his corner. He arrives at Brands Hatch with a heavier, success-laden car, less boost and more suspension height; just about the hardest combination of factors to overcome around the tight, undulating and uncompromising Grand Prix circuit. But he and the team know this, and they’ve known it before the season even started. So when they were putting-in the pre-race miles in testing, they weren’t trying to show everyone how fast they were, they were developing the set-ups that would see them overcome the impediments they knew would be sanctioned against them.
Before the first lights-out, back in April, I said that this is Turkington’s championship to win: Now I say it’s his to lose.
* * *Images: Steve Hindle (The Black Stuff).