“MG has got two hungry young lions”
Anthony Reid was denied an unexpected return to prototype racing for the first time since 2002 after a last-minute attempt to race in the European Le Mans Series was scuppered by him not holding an official driver-rating status. Reid was set to race the Murphy Prototypes Ligier LMP3 alongside Michael Cullen and Tony Ave.
The pecking order of the British Touring Car Championship is being established as the season is six races old. While Honda has done most of the points collecting with a trio of BMWS on its heals, one of the most pleasing aspects has been the form of MG.
The factory team came in with a blaze of glory and two-time title winner Jason Plato in 2012, and although it won races, the expected breakthrough didn’t happen. Even when the 2013 title winner Andrew Jordan signed for the 2015 season, it only took one victory across the course of the season – and that was with Jordan’s team-mate Jack Goff.
Jordan jumped ship to Motorbase Performance to drive a Ford Focus, and so Triple Eight, which is now allied to Team BMR, found itself in the lurch.
Step forward Josh Cook and Renault Clio Cup champion Ashley Sutton. Cook’s potential in the BTCC was known. He’d led a race in his maiden season in 2015 when driving for the Power Maxed Racing team in a Chevrolet Cruze. He then went on to take a podium finish at Rockingham later in the year. The ingredients were clearly there, but no one really knew just how good he could be.
And then there is Sutton, who has a straighttalking, forthright approach to his sport. He is here to get the job done, and he is not intimidated by anything – let alone the step up to the top flight.
They have both pushed each other hard, and locked out the front row in qualifying at Donington Park last weekend. OK, so the qualifying session might have been blighted by poor weather and a red flag that ruined the plans of others, but you had to be in the game to win it. They certainly were.
Cook mounted the podium in race one after a strong drive after beating his pole-winning team-mate away from the line. It was a good marker for Cook, because he trails Sutton in the points already – even though it is early in the season and the margins are fine. Cook is only nine points adrift.
There is a respect between the two and they know that they will both have to perform to beat each other, let alone the rest. And that has had a really positive effect on the team as a whole too. Triple Eight is a happy place to be again, after all the travails it had last season with the frustrated Jordan.
And that step up in performance, allied to a stronger TOCA-BTCC Swindon engine, means that wins are only a matter of time. Which of the two young lions will get the first will be the interesting thing to watch.