Sutton stars in Subaru fightback
Donington Park proved another mixed weekend for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, though Ash Sutton’s performance will provide a source of encouragement for the BMR-backed outfit ahead of the trip to Hampshire’s Thruxton Circuit in 10 days’ time.
Sutton was the best of the Levorg-wielding quartet over both days in Leicestershire. In 2016, he secured a maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position at the same circuit, then driving MG Racing RCIB Insurance’s MG6, and once again he looked to be the man to beat in qualifying. Sutton strung a couple of flying laps together midway through the session, with the latter inside the lap record – firing the Subaru to the top of the time-sheets. Celebrations were to be short lived however, as the car was excluded post-session for a technical infringement.
Despite the setback, the reigning Jack Sears Trophy champion remained focussed and set about making the best of a bad situation. In race one, Sutton sprinted up the order, fighting through from 31st on the grid as a result of that qualifying exclusion, to a stunning 13th position come the chequered flag.
Rookie Josh Price also impressed, picking his way by eight drivers to net 22nd position. Jason Plato suffered rotten luck as he was forced into pulling the Levorg into the BMR garage and into retirement on lap three while James Cole found himself beached in the gravel on the opening lap.
Race two would yielded an even better result for Sutton as he worked his magic to draw the maximum from the equipment at his disposal in a storming drive through the points-paying positions to an eventual place on the podium. Plato, Cole and Price ended the second bout 20th, 24th and 29th respectively – with the latter forced to pit to deal with a puncture.
The final round of the day was equally encouraging. Sutton had to contend with 57kgs of success ballast on-board his Subaru. The nomination of the harder option rubber for race three also tempered expectations. Rain came, and with it a silver lining in that the option tyres could now be jettisoned in favour of Dunlop’s BluResponse wets.
Sutton held his own throughout the contest and was one part of a three-way battle for the podium alongside Dave Newsham and Adam Morgan – who profited from Newsham’s squabble with the lead Subaru to haul his Mercedes into the battle for third. Sutton rounded the final lap fourth but the exclusion of race-winner Gordon Shedden’s Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda meant that fourth would become third post-race – more silverware on the day for the Essex racer.
Plato rounded out the weekend just outside the points in 17th, Cole 23rd with Price following in close company in 24th.
Following an up and down weekend on-track, Sutton said: “Donington was for sure a rollercoaster regarding the events on Saturday, going from the bottom of the times in Free Practice to breaking the lap record in qualifying and then back to the bottom come the end of play on the day. It is fair to say I lived the life of a yo-yo!
“Sunday was a fresh start for myself and I set my own personal goal to get back in the top five, maybe even a podium come race three. I feel that we definitely overachieved in race one which meant that we grabbed that podium come race two, picking up some good solid points for myself and the team for the Manufacturers’ standings.
“When the heavens opened just before race three it made the job in hand a little easier for myself as I feel with the success ballast and the option tyre it was really going to hurt us. Damage limitation was the main aim but to come away with another podium just topped the weekend off.
“I think it’s fair to say I was punching well above my weight considering the circumstances we are currently in, we’re struggling in a straight line which is making it a real struggle, especially when you have to start at the back.
“Keeping focused on the job was key but also making the best of a bad situation as well engineering the car and taking it beyond the limit was the only thing that kept our momentum throughout Sunday.”