"I imagine the butterflies will kick in on Sunday morning, but that is a good thing and it shows that it means something to you."
Colin Turkington may be entering his 17th season in the British Touring Car Championship but his hunger and drive is as strong as it has ever been.
As a four-time champion, the joint-record in the BTCC's 60-year history, few people know the sacrifice and dedication required to win one of the tightest series anywhere in motorsport.
When the upcoming season kicks-off on 8 May at Thruxton, Northern Irishman Turkington will be leading the 28 other drivers who will be aiming to take the crown off Ash Sutton over the 30-race campaign.
The 2020 season was one like no other. Heavily delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 27-race season was compacted into the intense space of three months and held behind closed doors. BMW driver Turkington narrowly missed out on retaining his title as Englishman Sutton triumphed in the season finale at Brands Hatch.
"I'm feeling good. I'm heading into my 17th season and I am feeling energised and ready to go," said the 39-year-old.
"Every season is a bit into the unknown, there have been so many driver changes through the off season so you never know when you are going to fall into the pack.
"The older you get you more you realise the value and the need to reinvest in the off season. It is mentally and physically draining and you can feel fairly broken by the end of it."
'My motivation is the same'
Since returning to the BTCC in 2013 after a spell competing in World Touring Cars and Scandinavian Touring Cars, Turkington has been a title contender in every season and won the championship in in 2014, 2018 and 2019 to add to his maiden crown in 2009. Not only is it a model of consistency but it highlights his continued desire to win as he chases a standalone fifth title.
Competing again for Team BMW in their rapid 3 Series, which Turkington says "is a born winner", the 56-time race victor says his eyes are firmly on the driver, team and manufacturer titles.
"The goal is obviously to win the championship and it is about trying to enjoy the ride. You always want to come out on top so that is why we keep grafting through the winter because the competition always moves on and it gets tougher," he added.
"My motivation is the same, no matter if I've won or lost the year before. It is definitely one of the hardest championships to win because there are all these variables with success ballast, reverse grids and tyre compounds - there is so much strategy involved.
"You just have to try and take it one step at a time. The big picture is always in the back of your head but you can't think too far down the line."
"It's important to have something to work towards and I enjoy the focus that brings."
In a bid to stay sharp in the off-season, Turkington has spent time in the simulator and has been karting with his sons, Lewis and Adam.
He also credits his wife Louise for playing an crucial role behind the scenes in his balance between family and work commitments and says "she is massively important" to what he has achieved on the track.
"It's never easy managing kids in general when you are leading a sporting life. It's nice to see them step into karting and enjoying it. That's the stage we are at, there's no competition yet," added Turkington.
"It's a bit of fun and it's a chance for me to relax and sped some good time with the boys. Karting is in there with football, tennis, cricket so it is one of many of many sports.
"When you are in the BTCC you are representing so many people and everyone wants a bit of your time. My head is in race mode, it's not in PR mode. Of course the racing needs to be number one, so it is important I have Louise there to protect me, protect my energies and direct me over a race weekend."
After watching Lewis and Adam enjoy their first steps into racing, Turkington says the enjoyment of the sport has to be there for him to perform at the top level.
"The enjoyment has to be there and it has to be number one. Any sport is the same, if you are enjoying it then you will perform better," he said.
"When it doesn't become enjoyable you have to reassess your goals and get the fun factor back.
"Yes there's pressure and it is intense but you should also be enjoying it. It's important that you do it with a smile on your face. I've always loved driving and I will hopefully continue to."