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Sutton slips and slides to the top at Croft

Ashley Sutton made the best of challenging conditions at Croft by topping the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship free practice session at the North Yorkshire venue.

Heavy rain fell before, during and after the scheduled 40-minutes of running, which was eventually cut short by a few moments when a fire broke out in Tom Ingram’s Toyota.

Sutton’s Subaru set the pace early on and with the track surface getting wetter and wetter it seemed like that initial lap time would remain the benchmark until the finish. As it happened, it was Sutton himself who bettered the effort late on with another stellar lap on the Dunlop BluResponse wet tyres.

“I always drive it on the absolute limit when required,” said Sutton. “We’re not here to mess around, and to drive the car to the absolute maximum with opposite lock on is what it’s all about.

“I get in my comfort zone after living on the edge a bit to begin with. When I get to that limit and get uncomfortable in the car then I calm down a bit and find that level. Sometimes the mistakes tend to come when you drive under that maximum, within yourself.

“It was lively and really took some guts out there!”

Fellow Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver Jason Plato also impressed with the third fastest time, but Matt Simpson proved to be the star of the show with a fantastic lap good enough for second. The Honda Civic Type R driver has shown flashes of pace during the 2017 season so far and he’ll be hoping these are good signs for a solid weekend ahead.

Rob Austin’s Handy Motorsport pipped two former champions to claim fourth, although the ballast-laden machines of Gordon Shedden (Honda) and Colin Turkington (BMW) still proved their top six pace.

Eurotech Racing’s Jack Goff and MG Racing RCIB Insurance’s Aron Taylor-Smith were next in the timesheets, whilst young Josh Price made it three Subarus in the top ten. The BTCC rookie scored his first point last time out at Oulton Park and is seemingly building upon that success here at Croft.

As mentioned, it was a tough session for championship contender Ingram. The former standings leader set a time good enough for tenth, but a late off led to a fire in his Toyota. His Speedworks Motorsport squad are now working tirelessly to try and ready his Avensis in time for FP2.

Ingram wasn’t the only driver in the wars with a number of cars spinning off in the challenging conditions. Most, however, were able to recover without damage and will be ready for the next session at 12:00.

2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – FP1 – Croft

Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing 1m31.657s (83.46 mph)
Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +0.429s
3 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.444s
Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.620s
5 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.688s
6 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.718s
Jack GOFF (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.911s
8 Aron TAYLOR-SMITH (IRL) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.948s
9 Josh PRICE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.167s
10 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +1.185s
11 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +1.277s
12 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +1.290s
13 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +1.313s
14 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +1.319s
15 Michael EPPS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.343s
16 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +1.391s
17 Dave NEWSHAM (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +1.408s
18 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +1.463s
19 James COLE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.563s
20 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +1.621s
21 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +1.636s
22 Ant WHORTON-EALES (GBR) AmDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts +1.668s
23 Jake HILL (GBR) TAG Racing +1.936s
24 Dennis STRANDBERG (SWE) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +2.037s
25 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +2.048s
26 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +2.053s
27 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +2.151s
28 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts +2.163s
29 Will BURNS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +2.468s
30 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +2.505s
31 Luke DAVENPORT (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +2.516s
32 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +2.520s

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