150 Days: From Road Car To Race Winning Wonder
THE JOURNEY SO FAR:
150 DAYS: FROM ROAD CAR TO RACE WINNING WONDER
HOW SUBARU, SILVERLINE BMR RACING AND COLIN TURKINGTON HAVE MADE MOTORSPORT HISTORY
“Oulton Park was the moment we’ve all been waiting on and have worked so hard for. The true potential of the Subaru Levorg finally came to the fore and it was a weekend none of us will forget in a hurry. I’m so pleased for everyone involved and I hope in some small way this repays the incredible efforts over the past 5 months.
It was a special feeling to make history and deliver the maiden win for Subaru in the BTCC and in truth it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I can’t imagine anyone expected such rapid progress, but within the team we knew it was only a matter of time. It’s even more encouraging to see the cars run so well with success ballast after Race 1, which clearly confirms its status as a race wining car and future potential as a championship winning car.
The development process of any new race car is never easy, and never without challenges. Although many in the team have been down this road before, none of us have taken on such an enormous project, in such a short space of time. I would seriously challenge any world class race team to beat or even match what we have achieved at Silverline Subaru BMR Racing. Our work is far from complete – but we should all be remarkably proud of the journey so far.”
As the Silverline Subaru BMR Racing team began to pack up on the Sunday of Oulton Park, there was a significant change of atmosphere compared to the previous round at Thruxton, four weeks earlier. Shoulders were carried ever so slightly straighter, the way they moved appeared lighter, and as each body paused mid task; their lungs drew in more air.
The difference was simple – ‘success’.
Just twenty eight days earlier the team had the devastating job of packing up four immaculate race cars, without a single race finish between them.
Thruxton was without a doubt the lowest low of this Subaru journey, but an event where despite the pressure and stress, the most positively correct decision was made. A faulty fuel rail has the potential to be deadly; and gambling with fire is not a risk that anyone wants to make. In his fourteen years of BTCC, Colin Turkington has never known a car to be withdrawn for such reasons, and found himself standing in pit lane as the other twenty eight other BTCC cars took to the grid.
“It was so difficult to see the grid form without us. The mood in camp was low – it was as if there had been a death. We all live and breath for this team, we all apply every ounce of our being to make it a success. When something happens that means you can’t race, it’s impossible to put into words how it makes you feel. I knew that as difficult as it was to see it; we would turn a corner soon and that we all had to wipe away the emotion and push on one more time.”
Work began immediately on redesigning and manufacturing the fuel rail. Two weeks later the team took two race cars to Pembrey in Wales, for a durability test that would initially only require Warren Scott and James Cole. It was only the day before the test that Colin got a phone call to get himself on the next flight, as Warren was unable to make day one. With perfect track and air conditions the team completed one full day of durability testing (to ensure the safety of the fuel rail), but most importantly, found some gains in the chassis. With Turkington behind the wheel it was inevitable they would find something, and in hindsight could become one of the most important test days the Subaru will encounter.
Speaking after the test and prior to Oulton Park Colin said, “We had a really productive two days down in Wales. It was the first opportunity we’ve had to put in some proper test miles and I’m pleased that we made some good gains with the chassis and engine. The issues we had at Thruxton all appear to be sorted and the team have left no stone unturned to ensure that we take a good step forward.
I can’t wait to get back in the car now and see where we fall into the pack. I’ve been working as hard as I can in my own preparation and have managed to get some extra racing miles in various other cars just to make sure I’m as sharp as possible.
Throughout this development period the spirit of the team has been unwavering, and they deserve a top result. I hope I can be the one to do that for them.”
And that he did.
Arriving at Oulton Park, it was business as usual for the British Touring Car Championship, as teams and drivers prepared for the annual challenge of the stunning Cheshire circuit. Fans were delighted to see the Subaru’s arrive and talk soon turned to predictions for the next two days. Unknown at the time, qualifying expectations were about to be turned on their head, as a Double Champion sat quietly with his engineer, ready to make history.
“Oulton is one of the ‘classic’ old school, technical race tracks that has remained largely untouched over the years. There is a great mix of high speed sweeping bends and low speed chicanes and is definitely one of my favourites. I’ve always performed well there and its one of the more rear wheel drive friendly circuits.”
It was Saturday 4th June at 3.19pm and the sun was splitting the sky. Track temperatures were up in the late thirties as thirty two cars sat rumbling in the pit lane, waiting on the green flag but twitching to move. Inside the cockpit of the number four Subaru, Colin Turkington took one last look at the team of men surrounding his car, knowing the pain and effort they had endured in the 149 days since the beginning of the project. He felt potential in the car and knew this was his chance to make a difference; that this could be a turning point for everyone. This was his shot.
Five laps into his first run Turkington shot to pole position, then returned to the pits the following lap to get new rubber before attempting a better time. Colin and Kevin Berry discussed a change or two before returning to the field. There were rivals on his tail, threatening a better time with quicker sectors, but in the end after the thirty minute session, no one was able to better a complete lap time – and Turkington took pole position!
Cameras immediately flooded the garage as fellow BTCC teams slipped in to congratulate Silverline Subaru BMR Racing on a momentous qualifying. But one man stood glued to the timing screens, unable to tell his driver the result until every last car had exited the circuit.
Kevin Berry has been Turkington’s engineer since 2013, developing the BMW into a championship winning car with Colin, before they both made the move to Team BMR. Kevin has applied much of his life to this Subaru project and regardless of the celebratory scene developing around him; was unable to take the result in. As the last inferior lap time was recorded for the last of the field of cars, Berry finally delivered the news over the radio to an exuberant Turkington, and with a satisfied sigh of relief he closed his clipboard.
In just 149 days a standard Subaru Levorg road car had been transformed into a NGTC BTCC race car that had just qualified on pole position in one of the most competitive championships in the world. To say it was a defining moment would be little short of an understatement.
“I can’t believe it” said Turkington as he spoke to ITV’s Louise Goodman moments after exiting the car. “I knew we could do something good here today and I was determined to give it all I’ve got, but P1 is just amazing. Look at the team, look at what this has done for us all. I am so thrilled for them! We’ll take tomorrow one step at a time but for now we need to enjoy this pole and let the moment sink in”.
The following morning as over 40,000 fans flocked to the circuit, the attention around the Subaru garages was worthy of the team of men and women it employed. Turkington took his grid position at the front and was looking more focused than ever before. Although a step into the unknown, the team were confident that a podium finish could be possible. Ironically it was Colin’s old BMW starting in P3 that posed the most threat and was the one that he knew he had to keep at bay off the line.
It was a challenge that the former Champion carried with ease, as his textbook start and consistently perfect laps were enough to comfortably hold his position and cross the line making a new mark in Motorsport history. Subaru were now BTCC race winners and in only 150 days had defied the odds to produce a winning car in one of the world’s most competitive touring car grids. With Turkington at the wheel it was a jubilant occasion, as one of the series’ most popular drivers delivered the historic moment live on TV.
“I am over the moon for the Team and everyone involved…this one’s for them!” he told the millions of viewers.
Converting a hard fought pole into a commanding win is never easy, even in the most developed BTCC cars; but Turkington made it look effortless as he delivered the lights to flag victory. It was such a special moment in the paddock as one of the powerhouses of the BTCC returned to the fore of the series. Turkington’s win immediately breathed life and new optimism into all four garages, as the moment they had all been waiting on – arrived.
Expressing his gratitude to the team and Subaru fans, Turkington bounced onto the top step of the podium looking fresh and inspired. Stating his intent for the rest of the season, he maintains that the best is yet to come from the Levorg. And after securing 2nd place in Race 2 with 75kgs of success ballast onboard, it would appear so!
Speaking to his partners and fans after the event at Oulton Park Turkington said, “We need to keep pushing and build on this performance. I definitely enjoyed the success and it’s made me hungry for more. But nothing stands still in this championship.. And it’s already time to think about Croft. I can’t wait!
Scooby – dooby – doo!”.
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The Subaru Levorg Timeline
Subaru and Team BMR confirm their BTCC partnership and deliver one Subaru Levorg road car to the Team BMR headquarters.
New Year 2016
Three further Subaru Levorg road cars arrive to the Team BMR HQ on transporters, as construction continues on the first car.
12th January 2016
The Subaru BTCC entry is announced at the Autosport Show in the NEC, Birmingham. Fans around the world take to social media to express their surprise and delight at the news. Talk of the boxer engine gets tongues wagging and the team announce they will run the car in rear wheel drive configuration. Turkington supporters are thrilled.
Meanwhile back at base, the enormous workload continues as only five weeks remain before Media Day.
22nd March 2016
BTCC Media day at Donington Park. The team were hoping to be ready for the first test at the media day event, but without any cars completed they were forced to send the drivers, with only one car. The delivery of the nearly completed BTCC race car arrives as crowds gather in anticipation. Two hours later, the worlds Motorsport media look on as the four drivers unveil the car. Although it is only ever pushed to and fro its photo shoot locations, the excitement of the Levorg is almost tangible. After a six hour appearance the car is whisked back to HQ for final preparations.
25th March 2016
The one completed car takes part in an operational shakedown at Millbrook. Build continues on the other three cars whilst correcting any problems discovered at the test.
26th March – 2nd April 2016
Silverline Subaru BMR Racing work endless 24 hour shifts to ensure the four cars are finished for the season opener at Brands Hatch on 3rd and 4th April.
2nd April 2016
Colin’s race seat is finally fitted in the car and the final pieces of the work are completed. The work goes right down to the wire.
Colin’s car is started and breathes live for the first time. The mass of hype surrounding the engine start up is immense. Videos and images circulate the web as fans around the world get the first glimpse of the first ever BTCC Subaru in action. The car then completes fifteen minutes of running around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in a ‘one-of’ test session.
3rd April 2016
Just 87 days from its arrival to the Team BMR HQ, the four Subaru Levorgs complete their first ever free practice sessions prior to Qualifying. Colin miraculously qualifies 11th as the BTCC paddock look on in awe. His teammates struggle to make it into the top 20. Colin then goes on to bring the car home in 12th place in race 3. The potential looks good!
16th April 2016
Colin qualifies 11th at Donington Park. Still without any testing, he proves his skills at achieving results from an underdeveloped car.
17th April 2016
Turkington delivers the car’s first top ten result just 101 days from its arrival as a road car.
James Cole’s car simultaneously bursts into flames on track in spectacular fashion. Warren Scott’s car also experiences the same problem but is retired before any flames erupt.
19th April 2016
An alternative fuel rail is fitted onto all four cars. Hindsight will prove that it would not fix the problem.
7th May 2016
The four cars complete two free practice sessions and qualifying at Thruxton. Turkington feels improvement and potential in the car and qualifies 13th. On examination of the cars following the sessions, fatigue was discovered in the fuel rail of Warren Scott’s car and the decision is made to withdraw all four cars from race day.
8th May 2016
The announcement to withdraw is made live on ITV4 and the shockwaves travel through the Motorsport world. It is the first time a situation of such scale has occurred and it leaves the team in a disappointed state.
9th May 2016
The design team go back to the drawing board, and a new fuel rail goes into manufacture.
24th May 2016
The new fuel rails are fitted to the four cars.
26th / 27th May 2016
Two test days take place at Pembrey Circuit in Wales with only the two cars of Warren Scott and James Cole. Colin Turkington drives Warren’s car on day one and the boss takes over on day two. The new fuel rails prove to be 100% successful and the team find further gains with the chassis.
4th June 2016
Colin stuns the field by securing pole position in the car’s fourth ever qualifying session, just 149 days from the beginning of the project.
5th June 2016
History is made. The potential of the car is realised as Turkington wins Race 1 in incredible fashion. Team mate Jason Plato takes another podium position in 3rd. In only 101 days the team have turned a standard Subaru Levorg road car into a race winning wonder.
18th / 19th June 2016 – The story continues…
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the BTCC – Croft