Colin Turkington equalled Andy Rouse’s total of four titles in a fantastic finale to the 2019 BTCC season at Brands Hatch.
The Northern Irishman came back from the brink of defeat, snatching the KwikFit MSA British Touring Car Championship title with minutes of the season remaining.
Dan Cammish had looked set for the title but a spectacular brake failure caused the Honda man to crash out of the finale on the penultimate lap.
This meant Turkington, who’d had his own turbulent day, claimed the championship by just two points after 30 races of intense competition.
Cammish had claimed a stunning opening victory, whilst former champions Ash Sutton and Jason Plato also made triumphant returns to the top step of the podium.
Going into the final weekend at the legendary Kent circuit, five drivers still had a mathematical hope of winning the biggest prize in British motorsport.
Realistically though, it was between three men – Turkington, Cammish and Andrew Jordan.
It was the reigning champion who claimed the first advantage.
Turkington put in a masterful display in wet qualifying to take his 20th career pole position. This gave him an extra bonus point.
Cammish was down in 12th, whilst Jordan took third spot despite an off-track excursion.
Dan The Man
The first race of the day turned into a real lottery and another cracking race in a thrilling season.
Starting in dry conditions, Sutton made the best start from the front row of the grid to launch past Turkington.
He kept the lead for the first four laps but couldn’t pull away.
Eventually, Turkington got back into the lead before an early Safety Car changed the direction of the race.
Near the back of the pack, Matt Simpson crashed on the approach to Paddock bend, causing significant damage to the tyre barriers.
At this point, the rain started coming down and most of the back of the field pitted for wet tyres, including Matt Neal and Tom Chilton.
On the restart, the rear-wheel drive cars began to struggle with the change in climatic conditions. Turkington lost his lead as Rory Butcher inherited the top spot.
He couldn’t hold off the charging Cammish though. The Team Dynamics driver was in stupendous form.
A brave move around the outside of Butcher at Paddock with four laps to go gave him the lead.
He went on to win by eight seconds. Neal and Chilton carved their way through the pack and claimed the final podium positions on the last lap.
Turkington salvaged fifth to maintain his lead but Jordan had a disappointing opener. He could manage no better than eighth.
Neal vs Turkington
With Josh Cook and Tom Ingram dropping out of title contention, the three main contenders were primed for further drama in another dramatic encounter.
Round 29 started well for Turkington. He got a flying start, surging past Butcher, Chilton and Neal off the grid.
Two corners later, he was involved in one of the most contentious incidents of the entire season.
Entering Graham Hill bend, Neal squeezed himself down the inside of the BMW. Contact was inevitable and it left Turkington facing the wrong way.
Naturally, there were differing opinions on the incident from the two teams.
An irate Turkington told ITV after the second race that Neal was “absolutely selfish” and “it was a professional foul on his part.”
He ended up 25th and made no progress despite gambling on a switch to slick tyres. The damp track in race two meant wets were the right rubber to be on throughout.
After an early Safety Car to clear up an accident between Jack Goff, Tom Oliphant and Adam Morgan, Cammish quickly came under pressure from a motivated Sutton.
The 2017 champion stormed into the lead approaching Clearways.
In what is probably the swansong race for the Subaru Levorg, Sutton was keen to finish in-style.
He claimed his first win of a trying season with Jordan second and Cammish settling for third.
This meant in a season where BMW have had the best package throughout, Honda-backed Cammish led the standings by eight points going into the finale.
Decided By The Brakes
The reverse grid race saw Senna Proctor’s Subaru drawn onto pole position but he didn’t stay there long.
From fifth place, Plato was determined to finally get the long-awaited victory he has deserved for a string of consistent performances this season.
JP quickly overwhelmed Proctor and Stephen Jelley to lead and built up a lead of 3.5 seconds.
He was able to cruise home to his 97th career BTCC victory. It was his first since Knockhill in 2017.
Whilst Butcher took second to wrap up the Jack Sears and Independent Championships, the title race took its most unbelievable twist.
Cammish seemed to be in-command, despite running around in ninth place. He didn’t seem too worried, even when a light Turkington got past with five laps to go.
On the penultimate circuit, cruel fate struck for Cammish.
Approaching Hawthorn bend, the brakes suddenly failed on his Team Dynamics machine.
With no chance of slowing down, he was pitched into a spin and a sizeable impact backwards with the tyre barriers, fortunately with no injury to the driver.
It was his first DNF of the season and at the most inopportune time too. The Dynamics crew were devastated.
It was a different story in the Team WSR garage as Turkington’s family started bouncing around in ecstasy and amazement.
Turkington had produced a sterling drive from 25th on the grid. Sixth place was enough for him to successfully defend his title.
For his part, Jordan finished fourth to ensure a tie for second place in the standings with the luckless Cammish.
Reflections On A Breathless Season
In the cockpit, Turkington was screaming with delight. He’d written his hopes off an hour earlier after his collision with Neal.
Now, he was a four-time BTCC champion, 10 years after his maiden title at the same venue.
He said afterwards: “I just wanted to be number one this year. Records are great but all our hard work was dedicated to that. We just never gave up.”
Just two points covered the top three after six months of cracking, wheel-to-wheel racing. We’ve seen 13 different winners and plenty of amazing drives and stories.
Spare a thought for Cammish who in just his second season of BTCC, came within a whisker of delivering the main prize. He will bounce back stronger for this heartbreaking experience.
Andrew Jordan was a star too throughout the season.
Pirtek Racing’s withdrawal means he might not be on the grid next season. If he isn’t there, he will leave the series with plenty of marvellous memories including that 2013 title.
However, with five wins and the most successful qualifier in 2019, Colin Turkington is a deserving champion.
His place in the history books of the British Touring Car Championship is now safely secured. Turkington is one of the greatest-ever in the history of the series.
Be sure though that a lot of contenders will be lining up to dethrone him in 2020.