Team BMW enjoyed a hugely successful start to the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with a double-podium finish at Brands Hatch.
Rob Collard and Colin Turkington both secured superb second-place finishes on a dramatic day of action in front of more than 35,000 spectators at the iconic 1.2-mile Kent circuit.
Hampshire racer Rob claimed his rostrum result in Race Two, the BTCC’s overtaking king of 2016 charging from seventh to second to take the first trophy of 2017 for the WSR-run BMW 125i M Sport, now incorporating the brand-new B48 modular engine.
He had earlier climbed from 15th to seventh in Race One and added a solid sixth place in the final race of what was an extremely consistent weekend for the 13-time BTCC race-winner.
Team-mate Colin’s rise was equally spectacular. After having his left-rear suspension broken thanks to contact from Matt Neal at the start of Race One, the Northern Irishman was forced to start 32nd and last for Race Two.
But a sensational recovery drive from the Portadown racer – which included setting the race’s fastest lap – brought him back to ninth place by the chequered flag.
From that position on the Race Three grid, the two-time BTCC Champion again set the fastest lap and scythed through the field to finish on the bootlid of winner Andrew Jordan, whose BMW Pirtek Racing 125i M Sport is also run by WSR.
The combined efforts of Colin, Rob and Andrew ensured that BMW left Brands Hatch leading the Manufacturers’ standings on what was the first time the German marque had been officially represented in the BTCC for 21 years.
Team BMW lie second in the Teams’ Championship, just four points off the top spot, while Rob and Colin hold fifth and seventh places in the Drivers’ standings.
The second of the BTCC’s 10 events in 2017 takes place at Donington Park near Derby on April 15-16.
Colin Turkington said: “I think I’ve felt every kind of emotion today, but to end it with second place and two fastest laps on my return to BMW and WSR is absolutely fantastic. Being taken out of Race One barely 12 yards from my grid spot was pretty frustrating, but the team worked incredibly hard to fix the car for Race Two and to go from last to ninth was really pleasing. In the last race we made quite a few tweaks to the BMW and it was so fast on soft tyres. I got very close to Andrew at the end, but he’s also a WSR driver and I certainly wasn’t going to do anything silly to risk a 1-2 finish for BMW.
Rob Collard said: “If you’d told me at the start of the weekend that I’d finish seventh, second and sixth, I’d have taken it, so I’m pretty happy with my points haul. Race Two was brilliant because every time I kept asking for a little bit more from the car, it gave me more and I was able to make some moves I was pretty proud of. I was faster than the cars around me at the end and I’m convinced I could have won if the race had just been a couple of laps longer. It’s been a strong start.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “I’m very pleased that Team BMW has put on such a strong performance across the weekend. To have had Rob and Colin both on the podium, the strongest overall race pace and second place in the Teams’ Championship was an excellent team result and a just reward for the long hours and hard work put in by everyone at WSR over the past few weeks. It’s also fantastic for BMW and our engine partner Neil Brown Engineering to secure this result on the first weekend for the new powerplant. The icing on the cake, of course, is to have BMW at the head of the Manufacturers’ Championship on their return to the BTCC as a Manufacturer entrant. We’ve worked very hard for this.”