SUT­TON TAKES MAIDEN BTCC WIN

MG MAN’S BREAK­THROUGH

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na day that ini­tially be­longed to the old guard of the BTCC, it was Ash Sut­ton who raised soggy spir­its in the fi­nal race to claim a maiden win to re­in­force that the next gen­er­a­tion of tour­ing car star is alive and well.

On a wet road, Sut­ton was sen­sa­tional in race three as he sorted out rear-wheel drive op­po­si­tion – dom­i­nant ear­lier in the day – to score a win in race three in his Triple Eight Rac­ing MG6.

Else­where, there was de­light on the spec­ta­tor banks that over at Team BMR, driv­ers were al­lowed to race de­void of team or­ders. In­side the team’s garage, and es­pe­cially Colin Turk­ing­ton’s car, there was frus­tra­tion that con­tact be­tween Turk­ing­ton and Ja­son Plato cost the Subaru Levorg team a pos­si­ble win as ever-op­por­tunis­tic Rob Col­lard (WSR BMW 125i M Sport) jumped from fourth to first to go on to vic­tory.

That in­ternecine war­fare came just hours after Turk­ing­ton had bagged his sec­ond win of the sea­son, as he jumped away from pole po­si­tion to win the opener.

But as some in the pad­dock packed away tro­phies, Hal­fords Yuasa Rac­ing had lit­tle to cheer about as the cars, breath­less all week­end, strug­gled for pace all meet­ing and the team’s mood on Sun­day night was as grey as the weather…

Race one

The open­ing turn, Cler­vaux, al­ways pro­duces drama, and the opener was no ex­cep­tion. Turk­ing­ton’s bal­last-free Levorg made a good start from pole but Dan Lloyd (Eurotech Rac­ing Honda Civic) shocked him­self with his get­away from sec­ond as he found him­self level with the es­tate car at the brak­ing zone.

“If I’d made an av­er­age start, I could have tucked in be­hind him, but I didn’t…” said Lloyd.

In­stead, Lloyd tried to brave it out around the out­side and promptly ran into the gravel and Sam Tord­off ’s BMW 125i M Sport fol­lowed suit. Lloyd was out on the spot, parked against the bar­ri­ers, while Tord­off dropped down the pack as he re­cov­ered from his grav­elly mo­ment.

At Hawthorns, Adam Mor­gan (Mercedes-benz A-class) was turned side­ways by Hunter Ab­bott (Chevro­let Cruze) with Ab­bott, after a great qual­i­fy­ing ef­fort, went out with dam­age.

With Lloyd’s car need­ing to be re­moved, an early safety car pe­riod al­lowed leader Turk­ing­ton to catch his breath. Team-mate Plato was be­hind and Sut­ton was third. On the restart, Turk­ing­ton started to edge away from Plato, as Sut­ton had to work hard to keep Jack Goff (BMW 125i M Sport) at bay.

Goff closed around the lap only for Sut­ton to power away down the pit straight. “I ex­pected the Subarus to get away,” said Sut­ton, “so it was about managing the tyres.”

Not even two more restarts, after two more safety car pe­ri­ods, of­fered Goff a chance to jump the car he drove last year.

The first of those safety car pe­ri­ods came after Mark Howard (Team BKR Volk­swa­gen CC) went off at Cler­vaux and then, five laps later, Gor­don Shedden (Honda Civic) had a wild mo­ment at Cler­vaux and came back on to the road to dis­cover Ai­den Mof­fat’s Cice­ley Rac­ing Mercedes-benz A-class ex­actly where he wanted to be.

A dis­grun­tled Mof­fat was out on the spot with a bro­ken front-left cor­ner. Shedden’s mo­ment seemed to have been caused by liq­uid on the road and that had two cul­prits, both of whom were in strife: Tord­off and Andrew Jor­dan (Ford Fo­cus).

Cham­pi­onship leader Tord­off was suf­fer­ing after his trip through the gravel, a stone hav­ing been in­gested and that in turn led to an oil leak. He dropped back and nursed the car home to 13th in need of an en­gine change. Jor­dan was suf­fer­ing a gear­box oil leak and it was squirt­ing on to his front-left tyre mak­ing the car a real hand­ful.

“It wouldn’t have done an­other lap,” he said. “On the last lap, it wouldn’t change up or down so I was lucky to get to the line.”

Fifth was his re­ward hav­ing had a grand­stand view of Goff ’s ef­forts to pass Sut­ton, but a new gear­box was needed for race two.

Be­hind Jor­dan came one of the he­roes of the day as Jake Hill forced his way up from ninth in the Team Hard Toy­ota Aven­sis to take a ca­reer-best sixth with Col­lard all over him but never able to dis­lodge him. “Rob was re­ally good,” said Hill. “He never gave me a nudge and it was a good race.”

Up front Turk­ing­ton’s win looked a for­mal­ity. He said after­wards: “With my track record here, ev­ery­one ex­pects me to win. It wasn’t easy managing three safety car pe­ri­ods but the guys gave me a su­per car.”

The other half of Subaru’s one-two fin­ish had to ad­mit Turk­ing­ton was just a bit too far ahead. “I like a lunge,” said Plato, “but he was too far ahead for a lunge.”

Those words would res­onate a lit­tle louder after race two…

Race two

It should have been a Subaru one-two. Front row lock­out, run­ning in for­ma­tion, work­ing as a team. For seven laps, the Subaru du­op­oly con­tin­ued as Turk­ing­ton led away but Plato edged ahead into Cler­vaux and took the lead.

“Colin and I had a deal,” said Ja­son. “If I was on the out­side and got slightly ahead, he’d let me have the lead in­stead of be­ing hung out to dry and I’d give him the lead back a few laps later.”

Fine: Plato led Turk­ing­ton and the quick-start­ing Goff with the race neu­tralised after James Cole’s Subaru fell off at Cler­vaux on the open­ing tour. On the restart, Plato gave Turk­ing­ton room at Tower on lap five to give the North­ern Ir­ish­man the lead as be­hind, Goff had to fend off Col­lard who looked quick but couldn’t find a way past his team-mate.

And then, on lap eight at Tower, Ja­son had a lunge. He dived up the in­side of Turk­ing­ton’s heav­ier Subaru and there was con­tact: the first im­pact turned Colin side­ways and the sec­ond straight­ened him up.

As Plato was de­layed as well, Goff should have been the ben­e­fi­ciary but was alarmed to dis­cover Turk­ing­ton slid­ing back­wards into his path. He hit the brakes leav­ing a huge gap on the in­side of the fra­cas for Col­lard to ex­ploit.

From fourth to first in one move and a lead he was never to lose, Col­lard made good his es­cape. “The car was fan­tas­tic,” he said. “I made the start work and set­tled into a rhythm and then it was bed­lam at Tower. I saw it hap­pen­ing and got up along­side Ja­son and there was just enough room to fin­ish the move. I won­dered if there was go­ing to be room, but if in doubt, flat out!”

“It proves we don’t have team or­ders,” said Plato. “There was a gap, I was in the gap and the gap started to close. We kissed.”

“It was more than a kiss,” reck­oned Turk­ing­ton. “That wasn’t quite what we agreed. I strug­gled with dam­age after that as well so I wasn’t re­ally able to fight back, but third isn’t too bad in the cir­cum­stances.”

Subaru team man­ager Alan Cole was as san­guine as pos­si­ble: “If we don’t let them race, what’s the point of buy­ing a ticket? I will be hav­ing a word, though, be­cause that cost us a pos­si­ble win.”

The pair re­cov­ered with Plato tak­ing sec­ond – which is where he was be­fore he made the move – and Turk­ing­ton third, with Goff drop­ping to fourth as he stood on the brakes.

Be­hind, Sut­ton (on the hard tyre

in­tro­duced into the equa­tion this week­end) took fifth ahead of Mat Jack­son’s Ford Fo­cus, while Tom In­gram was sev­enth in the Speed­works Toy­ota Aven­sis.

After his en­gine change, and against ex­pec­ta­tions the car was ready for race two, Tord­off tigered his way from 13th to eighth, a bat­tle with ti­tle ri­val Matt Neal (Dy­nam­ics Honda Civic) be­ing a warm-up act for his ef­forts on In­gram. Tord­off ’s strength was to use the trac­tion out of the last hair­pin and he used that to pick off places, but In­gram was tough. Tom slowed the car at the apex and de­nied Sam the chance to at­tack and on more than one lap past the pits they rubbed front to rear, the BMW look­ing de­cid­edly sec­ond-hand pos­trace, although Sam was re­lieved to have been in the race at all after the en­gine change be­tween races.

Ninth was Jor­dan, the new gear­box be­ing fit­ted just in time for the race after a Her­culean ef­fort by Mo­tor­base Per­for­mance, but that left the team with no time to change the set-up mean­ing that the un­der­steer that pre­vailed in race one was still an is­sue. Neal’s breath­less but bal­last-free Honda rounded out the top 10, with team-mate Shedden fur­ther back in 13th place, just squeez­ing into the points.

Race three

Late af­ter­noon rain was the last thing the teams needed be­fore race three, but the driz­zle in the pre­ced­ing Porsche race be­came heav­ier as the cars headed to the grid. It wasn’t fully wet, so wet tyres would be chewed, but it was too wet for slicks. Or was it. Mat Jack­son and Mo­tor­base de­cided to fit slicks from third on the grid, a bold gam­ble and one that risked chuck­ing away a de­cent haul of points from a good grid po­si­tion. Shedden was an­other to gam­ble, but from 13th, he had less to lose.

Tord­off had pole po­si­tion on the draw for the re­verse grid and he shot away from pole on an in­creas­ingly wet road to lead In­gram to Cler­vaux with Goff and Turk­ing­ton in be­hind. Jack­son fell away on the open­ing lap and was sev­enth at the end of the lap be­fore a safety car was needed as War­ren Scott’s Subaru had to be pulled from the Cler­vaux gravel.

Jack­son ran wide on the restart and lost more ground, as Tord­off tried to pull away from In­gram, but Sut­ton was fly­ing on a track at which he had en­joyed suc­cess in other cat­e­gories.

Both he and Turk­ing­ton moved passed Goff and then Sut­ton caught In­gram thanks to an­other safety car pe­riod after Jack­son lost his un­equal strug­gle against ad­he­sion and clat­tered back on to the road and clob­bered Mof­fat in an in­ci­dent that mir­rored the Scots­man’s demise in race one with Shedden.

Shedden pit­ted for wets at the end of the safety car pe­riod but had lost huge chunks of time, as at­ten­tion fo­cused on Sut­ton. He made a bold dive up the in­side of Turk­ing­ton’s heav­ier Subaru at the Hair­pin on lap nine, and Col­lard sneaked by as well to bag fourth spot. Sut­ton’s next tar­get was In­gram, hav­ing a sec­ond suc­ces­sive con­sis­tent week­end, and a lap later Sut­ton chucked the MG up the in­side head­ing into Tower to se­cure the place.

On lap 10, Sut­ton was 2.2s be­hind the leader Tord­off and the gap was down to 1.6s when out came the safety car again, this time for Ab­bott who had been col­lected by an er­rant Jeff Smith and was out at Hawthorns.

The restart was over just two laps and it was on the first of them that Tord­off, un­der pres­sure at his home track, ran a lit­tle wide com­ing out of Bar­croft and gave Sut­ton just enough of a gap to dive up the in­side down to Sunny. On an in­creas­ingly wet road, Sut­ton was the mas­ter as he didn’t put a wheel out of line over the fi­nal lap and se­cured his first tour­ing car win by over a sec­ond.

“I love Croft but I am sur­prised to have won. I def­i­nitely didn’t ex­pect that,” said Sut­ton. “With this be­ing a rear-wheel-drive cir­cuit I wasn’t ex­pect­ing wins but the team gave me a great car and in the wet it felt like it was on rails. It was un­be­liev­ably good.”

Tord­off hung on to sec­ond after a dif­fi­cult race. “I was the guinea pig. Ev­ery lap I had to dis­cover the grip lev­els, but Ash was very quick to­day. By rights, we shouldn’t have been on the grid for race two but the guys did a great job so this re­ally is a bonus,” said Tord­off.

With Neal down in in 11th, Tord­off edged away in the cham­pi­onship, too.

In­gram man­aged to re­pel Col­lard’s ad­vances for third place, with Turk­ing­ton on the tail of the pair. Turk­ing­ton made a dive up the in­side at Tower on the last lap, mov­ing level with Col­lard but the BMW fought back and re­took the place at the Jim Clark Esses, only for Josh Cook, whose MG was also fly­ing, to dive up the in­side of Turk­ing­ton at the last cor­ner and run both of them wide gift­ing Jor­dan fifth place.

Next stop is Snet­ter­ton and MG took a win there last sea­son.

Right now, ex­pect Subaru to be hard to beat in qual­i­fy­ing and race one, but if Triple Eight and MG can main­tain this form, a fas­ci­nat­ing sea­son is only go­ing to get bet­ter.

Sut­ton broke his BTCC duck A de­ter­mined drive meant Sut­ton grabbed first

Mor­gan is hit by Ab­bott in race one

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