Team BMW and Colin Turkington claimed a sensational Donington Park double win to soar to the head of the British Touring Car Teams’ Championship with the new 330i M Sport.
Colin’s pair of victories for the WSR-run team made him the top scorer of the weekend and moved him up to third in the Drivers’ standings; just five points off the top spot.
And there was more success for Team BMW as Tom Oliphant scored his first BTCC podium finish with third in Race One and both drivers finished all three races for the second meeting in a row.
Having qualified on pole position, Colin got his race weekend off to a perfect start with a lights-to-flag victory in Race One.
He made a clean getaway and, after twice pulling away from the field (only for a Safety Car to close the gap), the Northern Irishman stretched his lead to win by 2.254 seconds.
An almost identical second race, including two Safety-Car periods, resulted in another victory – one more than me managed across the whole of his 2018 title-winning season!
It was far from easy, as he had to manage the 54kg success ballast that had been added to the car – and which he would also carry in the third and final race.
Starting 10th for the finale; and enabling the team to run the new car on maximum success ballast and on the hard slick-tyre compound for the first time – it proved successful, with ninth place the result.
Team-mate Tom made a magnificent start in the opening race to move up three spots to sixth; cementing the overtaking with a brave manoeuvre around the outside of Redgate corner.
Enjoying a return to rear-wheel drive racing, the Leamington Spa racer moved into third by mid-race distance and, having opened up a nice gap to fourth, consolidated his position to score his first BTCC podium.
Tom made another magnificent start in Race Two, momentarily moving up to second before becoming embroiled in a close battle for a podium position. Carrying 42kg success ballast, he slipped to sixth and looked set for another very strong result, before an ambitious overtaking move from behind spun his BMW 330i M Sport at Redgate corner on the penultimate lap.
He resumed in 17th; a great shame after showing such a good race pace and compromising his race three ambitions.
Tom also used the hard compound slick in Race Three which, apart from the Thruxton test, was the first time he had driven on it. Starting 15th, he did extremely well to finish a trouble-free 13th.
Colin Turkington said: “It’s been an excellent weekend. What pleases me most is to score well in all three race; it’s no good having two wins and a DNF, you have to put good points in the bag three times. Ninth in race three, with full success ballast and the hard tyre, is an excellent result and we’ve also learnt a lot from race three. The car was quite difficult to drive, but we know why. It’s still only the second race meeting for the car, so we’re gathering a lot of information and it will only get better, so the signs are good. And the car was different in all three races today because there was always something changing – you’re either adding weight or changing tyre compounds, so you have to compensate that with the set-up before you go out and it’s not easy making the correct call every time. All in all, it’s been a very good race weekend.”
Tom Oliphant said: “I was very pleased with my Race One podium finish, it was a dream start, but the rest of the day didn’t really go to plan. Overall, it’s been a weekend of missed opportunities, having been spun around in the second race, but on the flip side I’ve scored my first BTCC podium. It’s almost silly feeling disappointed given our race pace today, and I’m leaving Donington confident that there are many more podiums to come in the new 330i M Sport – I’m just a little disappointed with the possible points I’ve lost around a track that I’m normally strong at, and in a car that is very competitive. I’m going away with a trophy and the determination to come back and have a weekend like Colin’s just had.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “We’re still learning with the new BMW 330i M Sport and it certainly has a great deal of potential. It’s reliable too, as Colin and Tom have finished every race so far this season. This weekend we ran the car without weight, then with maximum success ballast and then with weight on the hard tyre in a race for the very first time, and whilst we still have a lot to learn everything appears very positive going forward. To have a brand new car and to finish so well in the points in each race, and to be leading the Teams’ Championship at such an early stage of the season, is very encouraging.”
The next BTCC race weekend takes place at Thruxton on Sunday 19 May.
Images: Jakob Ebrey/BMW