It’s become nigh on impossible to simply go out and dominate the British Touring Car Championship. Even though the all-new BMW 3 Series flew out of the blocks in 2019, organising body TOCA’s performance-equalising measures soon re-established parity. Similarly, the use of success ballast and a three-race format – including a partially reversed race-three grid – limits how much drivers themselves can do to run away with the points lead.
Wins are always important, but it’s bagging solid and continual fourth and fifth-place finishes that have become just as important as the bedrock of a successful campaign. Had it not been for spins in the final three rounds at Knockhill, Silverstone and Brands Hatch – none of which were adjudged to be Turkington’s fault – then he would have romped clear to the title.
Granted, that would have denied such a memorable final-race championship decider – in which he climbed a staggering 19 places – but it alludes to how much Turkington smashed the opposition. He’s proved his consistency many times over in the past, but this season he combined it with searing one-lap pace and ruthless but clean overtaking.
Five wins – second only to team-mate Andrew Jordan’s six – headlined his campaign but it was qualifying where he really turned up the wick this year. Turkington, as the points’ leader for 23 races, entered seven rounds with the maximum 54kg of success ballast to haul around in qualifying and each opening race. In a series where 25 cars can lap within one second and, entering the shootouts with the greatest payload, the fact he led the way with three pole positions is a clear indicator of his pace.
By contrast, wrapping up the crown by just two points over nearest rivals Jordan and Dan Cammish isn’t the greatest reflection of Turkington’s supremacy in 2019. But nevertheless, winning a fourth BTCC crown to tie him at the top with Andy Rouse means, beyond this year, he’ll be considered an all-time series great. And it’ll probably mean almost as much to Turkington to rank in Autosport’s Top 50…
How does this title compare to your first three? That was the toughest one, 2018 was such a tough year personally and I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to win the championship and go home. I never felt that I’ve won the championship in style, even in 2014 I won after race one but then got taken out in race two so I’ve always sort of left after race three not feeling great about myself. So to have actually won the championship in style… I put that in my notebook coming into the weekend - that I’m going to win it in style this time - and I’ve lived up to that. Whenever you’re not expecting something and it happens, it means a lot.
How does it feel to match Andy Rouse as the all-time most successful BTCC driver? I don’t feel like a hero, I just feel like somebody who’s come out on top. All along that’s what I’ve been trying to chase – just be number one in 2019, just win it this year. I am in the position that everybody else wants to be in. I’ve been in the BTCC for a long time now but with one of the great teams, with great people like Dick Bennetts. That gives me the opportunity to win. If I wasn’t with SWR I wouldn’t have won four championships. I take the glory, I’m the man that ties with Andy Rouse but it’s a huge network of people that have elevated me to that position. Of course, I’m really proud, proud that I’ve been able to deliver the teams’ championships for the team. I’m proud for my family, I know how hard we work at this and I think winning championships rewards that hard work. But I don’t feel any different inside, you just feel like the same person.
Is the aim now to win a fifth, sixth and seventh title to establish yourself as the greatest? The BTCC gets harder every time and you can see it so easily could have been Dan Cammish going home as champion or Andy Jordan, the margins are so, so fine. I don’t target any more. Of course, when I start 2020, I will want to be champion and that will be the goal. But I think you just have to enjoy the moment, the pleasure for me is standing on that champions’ podium. It’s that one special moment that means so much.
In 2009 you won the championship and lost your seat. In 2018 you won the championship with only one race win. This year you’ve done it with two laps to go. Are you ever going to do it in a boring fashion? Boring is not a word that ranks alongside the BTCC! There have been some amazing finals before but for me personally, I could never replicate that. I don’t think, you would have to try really hard to hype up another BTCC final like that. You know it could have gone any one of three ways right until the end. I’m just glad it’s over and that we as a team won.