Round 18: Turkington makes Vauxhall wait
30 July 2006
Colin Turkington claimed victory in race three at Donington Park in what was arguably the most dramatic race of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season – preventing Vauxhall from securing a landmark 100th BTCC win in the process.
Turkington managed to overcome a restart to the race and then two Safety Car periods to claim his second victory of the season, with the results from the weekend seeing him close the gap to points leader Matt Neal to 22 points with four race meetings left to run.
The race was overshadowed by a dramatic accident on the start line that removed four cars from an already depleted field that was missing both Fiona Leggate – who missed all three races after an engine problem – and Richard Marsh who failed to make the grid in the Team Farecla Peugeot 307 after a problem on the warm-up lap.
However the race would soon come to a close for four drivers, two of whom were expected to star coming through the field after problems in race two, with Jason Plato and Rob Collard among four drivers forced out after an incident off the start-line. A gearbox problem meant Mark Smith was slow getting away from eleventh on the grid, with the cars behind trying to get around the In-Front Motorsport driver – but failing miserably. Jason Hughes attempted to go to the left of Smith off the line, but with a fast-starting Plato behind, the Kartworld Racing driver found himself sandwiched between the SEAT and the Alfa Romeo – slamming into the rear of Smith and retiring on the spot. The contact was enough to break the suspension on Plato's car and tip him into a spin where he tagged Rob Collard, who had gone to the right of Smith, with a miserable weekend for the Team RAC driver ending in the wall on the start-finish straight with extensive damage to the front of his car.
With Hughes' car stranded on the grid, there was little option but to red flag the race, with a quick clear up taking place before the 13 remaining cars lined up for the retstart – but with light rain starting to fall.
Off the line, Turkington jumped ahead of polesitter Darren Turner to lead into Redgate with James Kaye making a fine start in the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R to get ahead of Turner into second place. However on the run into the Old Hairpin, Turner tried to take the place back, with the two drivers running wide to drop to fifth and seventh respectively, with Matt Neal moving up to second and Eoin Murray going third in the Team Quest Alfa Romeo.
A spin for Gordon Shedden at the end of lap two came just before he pitted to take a drive-through penalty for jumping the start, while the second lap also saw the number of runners drop to twelve when contact between the Lexus of Adam Jones and the BMW of Martyn Bell forced Jones to retire – Bell continuing in the Geoff Steel Racing car despite damaged steering. With battles raging throughout the depleted field – including a three way fight between Dave Pinkney and Vauxhall pair Tom Chilton and Gavin Smith before the safety car was called out at the start if lap seven after Murray overcooked it going through the Craner Curves and span off into the gravel.
While the field circulated behind the Safety Car, so the rain got worse, with Mike Jordan even managing to almost run off track on the slippery surface, before racing resumed on lap ten of what had become a 17 lap race. Neal challenged for the lead going into the Old Hairpin but Turkington was able to hold onto the place, with the defending champion instead losing out to Giovanardi who claimed second at Coppice. However that move wasn't to last, with the Astra Sport Hatch going straight on at the Chicane after the Italian outbraked himself – Dave Pinkney also doing the same thing further down the field.
The conditions would also catch out Neal, Smith and Jordan – all of whom went off into the gravel at the Old Hairpin on lap eleven. While Neal and Smith were both able to rejoin, Jordan was left stranded on the side of the circuit and for the second time in the race, the Safety Car was called out onto the track.
By the time racing kicked off for the final time, just two laps remained – but that was still plenty of time for one last twist in the action. Having led for the entire race, Turkington ran wide into Redgate for the first time, allowing Giovanardi to get a run on him going through the Craner Curves with the brave move paying dividends as he swept into the lead. After tough season for the VX Racing squad, the elusive 100th BTCC victory looked assured, until the Italian left just enough space into the Chicane for Turkington to launch a last-gasp bid for victory, diving down the inside to steal the win and close the gap to Neal, who was only able to finish seventh.
Shedden completed the podium, his drive-through penalty possibly preventing him from claiming a hat-trick of victories, while Turner took fourth from Smith and Chilton. Behind Neal in seventh, Kaye took eighth ahead of Pinkney, while Bell brought his BMW to the finish to claim the final point in tenth place.
With a number of cars leaving Donington with heavy damage, there are some long nights ahead before the next round at Snetterton in two weeks time.