Reigning British Touring Car champion Colin Turkington is poised for a dramatic return to the track, having agreed terms for an initial three-round spell in the World Touring Car Championship, with the possibility of more to follow.
The 28-year old Portadown native is expected to be on the grid with West Surrey Racing in Portimao on 4 July, and will also appear at Brands Hatch on 18 July and Brno on 1 August, and admits that he is excited, not only about returning to action after being unable to defend his BTCC title, but also about testing himself against some of the best drivers in the world.
“I feel this is a natural progression for me after last year's championship,” Turkington said, “We were bitterly disappointed when, due to insufficient sponsorship, we were unable to compete in either the BTCC or WTCC full programmes. This opportunity, initially for three rounds, has been made possible through the support of a group of private sponsors. We are really grateful to them and hopefully, with further support from others, we may be able to make additional rounds towards the end of the season.”
Turkington will be re-united with WSR, the team that took him to his BTCC title, for the WTCC programme, and hopes that that familiarity accelerates the bid to be successful on the world stage.
“Obviously, we know the WSR guys very well - they're a top team and have been a big part of my success in recent years,” he noted, “I'm also indebted to team principal Dick Bennetts, with whom we have been working very closely over the past few months to make this deal a reality.”
Turkington will also be familiar with his WTCC mount, as the team wheels out the BMW 320si which he took to the 2009 BTCC crown, and admits to being touched by the wave of support from the racing fraternity since the beginning of this season.
“This is part of our plan to target a full programme in 2011," the Northern Irishman admits, "We will be working hard over the coming months to demonstrate the WTCC is a fantastic event with which to be associated as a sponsor, and will be speaking with a number of organisations in the hope they will come on board for next year.
“We have received hundreds of email messages of support from our fantastic fan base, and it's going to be great to get back behind the wheel again. I can't wait."
Bennetts, having wanted Turkington to return to defend his BTCC crown this season, is naturally delighted to be reuniting with his star driver.
“The team had been looking at both the BTCC and the WTCC, however Colin felt that he'd like a new challenge after being the BTCC champion last year and the BTCC Independents champion for the last three years,” the Kiwi admits, “We are all really looking forward to seeing how Colin and the team go in the WTCC. The guys have nearly finished rebuilding his BMW and we are just waiting on a fresh engine and some parts from BMW Motorsport, before doing some testing prior to our first race in Portimao on 4 July.”
WSR will be competing as Independents and definitely don't underestimate the calibre of the competitors.
“It will be tough going to circuits like Portimao and Brno, where we've never raced before, although we're sure there will be very good support for Colin and the team at Brands Hatch on 18 July,” Bennetts concluded.