HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship racer Erkut Kizilirmak declared himself a new-found fan of the UK’s less than favourable climate at Rockingham International Sports Car Circuit yesterday after conquering atrocious conditions to claim his first overall top 10 finish of the season during round six.The 38-year-old, from Istanbul in Turkey, had taken part in just two wet races prior to this afternoon’s rain-lashed encounter – which was screened live on ITV4 – but he produced a virtuoso performance at the Northamptonshire venue to lap within half a second of Vauxhall’s reigning BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi.Not only did his impressive drive net Kizilirmak an overall top 10 finish, and therefore his first full BTCC Championship point of the campaign, he was also the fifth highest Independents Trophy finisher in his Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch.For Arkas Racing with Sunhsine.co.uk team-mate Martyn Bell, round six also proved to be the most fruitful of the day’s races as he finished in the top 12 overall and seventh in the Independents Trophy after a solid drive. Driving rain, and even hail, arrived just ahead of the third of today’s action-packed races and so the team, led by touring car specialists Tech-Speed Motorsport, took the decision to bring both cars into the pits at the end of the green flag formation lap to change to treaded rubber.What would have been a master-stroke was negated, however, when all cars were allowed to change to wet weather tyres on the grid and the start was delayed. While Kizilirmak reformed on the grid in his qualifying spot of 18th, Bell opted to begin the race from the pitlane.The 43-year-old, from North Lincolnshire, progressively started to climb up the order as a number of drivers came to grief in the unenviable racing conditions and he remained out of trouble to secure his second Independents Trophy score of the weekend having earlier led home Kizilirmak during a dry fifth round in 17th position overall, 10th in class.Kizilirmak started well from the grid, passing two cars immediately, and ran as high as ninth overall ahead of Mike Jordan during the closing stages before succumbing to the experienced saloon car campaigner on the penultimate tour.“Everybody was congratulating me when I got out of the car but I was a bit frustrated as I know where I made some mistakes and where I could have been faster”, said the former Turkish touring car champion.“The car was fantastic, the team is working really well and if the start hadn’t been delayed we would have been in an even better position as we were one of the first to make the decision to go to wet tyres.“It was big fun today, I’m very happy and pleased to see Martyn in the Independent points too. I guess after today I can conclude I was probably meant to be born an Englishman as I seem to like this weather! I’ve been teased about being the ‘Rain Master’, maybe I am, maybe I’m not, but after today I am hoping for more wet races!”
The first of the day’s outings, round four, saw Kizilirmak finish as the final Independents points scorer with 17th place overall. Bell finished just one place further back and the pair now head to Donington Park in Leicestershire three weeks from now, 3rd/4th May, where they hope to build on such a positive end to the second race meeting of the season.Looking at the championship tables, Arkas Racing with Sunshine.co.uk is eighth in the Independents Team Trophy on 20 points while Kizilirmak is 13th in the Independents Trophy for drivers with eight points, Bell just three points adrift in 14th position.Having scored a full BTCC Championship point in the rain-lashed round six, the team is 10th in the BTCC Teams Championship while in the BTCC Drivers Championship Kizilirmak is tied with Team RAC’s Stephen Jelley in 16th place.Away from the race action itself, there were two other notable activities for the team today. First, the Arkas Racing garage was visited at the beginning of the day by a group of special youngsters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation who met Bell and Kizilirmak as part of their attendance at Rockingham for this weekend’s action.Prior to the first of today’s races, all BTCC personnel joined-in with a huge round of applause in memory of the late David Leslie and Richard Lloyd, both stalwarts of the BTCC who were tragically killed in an air crash a fortnight ago near Biggin Hill in Kent.Highlights of yesterday’s BTCC action will be screened on ITV1 late tonight, Monday, 14th April, at 01.05. Further re-runs will be screened on Freeview, cable and digital satellite channel ITV4 and satellite and cable station Men & Motors – check listings for further details.