HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship entrant Arkas Racing certainly made an impact during its maiden season of competition in 2007, an action-packed year which saw Turkish racer Erkut Kizilirmak finish an excellent joint-eighth in the Independents Trophy standings.
Making its official BTCC debut during the pre-season Media Day at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire back in March, Arkas arrived in Britain’s most popular and prestigious race series with former Turkish Touring Car Champion Kizilirmak facing a very steep learning curve.
Although running under the banner of Arkas Racing due to the backing and financial input of the Arkas Automotive Group, Turkey’s first multi-brand car dealership network, car preparation was actually handled by Leamington Spa’s Tech-Speed Motorsport with additional guidance from Banbury based VX Racing.
At the wheel of his superbly presented BTC-specification Vauxhall Astra Sports Hatch, Erkut got his campaign off to a solid start on his first ever competitive Brands Hatch Indy Circuit outing with a top 12 overall finish during the second of the weekend’s three races.
Edging closer to the coveted top 10 during round six at Rockingham with an 11th place result, his next opportunity for a full BTCC points scoring result came at Croft in early June. But while running a superb ninth during the second race of the weekend, contact to the rear of Erkut’s car from another competitor on lap 13 saw him forced to retire.
Achieving a further 11th place finish in round 15 at Oulton Park, Erkut then headed to Donington Park where he achieved a career best BTCC qualifying performance of 12th position. Although the rain-affected races didn’t produce the top 10 result the Arkas ace wanted, his lap times were highly impressive.
Maiden BTCC top 10 for Kizilirmak
Snetterton hosted the next three rounds of the championship in late July and Erkut raced to a pair of 11th place results, tantalisingly close again to the top 10. However, the next event, a return to Brands Hatch, saw him finally secure the 10th place finish he had been striving for during the first of the weekend’s races, round 22.
Better was to follow in round 23, a race which Arkas elected to begin on treaded tyres due to a damp track. The choice paid off early on and saw Erkut rise from 10th at the start to a superb fourth position at mid-distance. The circuit then began to dry and although compromising Erkut’s performance, he still managed to finish in the top 10.
While missing the penultimate meeting of the season at Knockhill in Scotland due to a family wedding back home in Istanbul, Erkut and Arkas returned to action during the championship finale at Thruxton in Hampshire.
Battling the effects of flu throughout the weekend, the 38-year-old still managed to end his maiden season in the BTCC joint-eighth in the Independents Trophy standings while Arkas concluded the year seventh in the Independents Team Trophy standings.
It’s also important to remember, with the exception of Croft and Snetterton, which Erkut raced at in the 2006 BTCC at the wheel of a VX Racing entered Astra, this season marked his first ever experience of every other circuit on the calendar.
“Our first year in the BTCC has been very enjoyable and to finish in the top 10 on two occasions was fantastic”, said Erkut reflecting on the season, “The championship is so competitive but I think we can be proud of our achievements this year against some very experienced teams and drivers.
“Obviously the second Brands Hatch weekend was our most successful but another of my favourite events was at Donington as we were genuinely fast in qualifying and could have been even quicker. With the experience I have gained this year I’m confident we will be much stronger in 2008. I can’t wait for the new season to start.”
Arkas will return to the BTCC in 2008 with Erkut taking part in his second full year of competition in the UK at the wheel of his trusty Astra. It is also planned for the squad to run a second car and the team is currently in discussion with a number of drivers.