MIXED FORTUNES FOR LASER TOOLS RACING AT THRUXTON
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season opener threw a mixed weekend the way of newly expanded three-car outfit Laser Tools Racing, as the fluctuating conditions at Thruxton played their part throughout.
Qualifying on Saturday got off to a wet start, following a pair of damp free practice sessions, but as the track slowly dried, it was a frenetic last few minutes as the order at the top switched a number of times.
A last roll of the dice saw the #1 machine of Ash Sutton jump from third to the top spot as the clock ticked down to zero, with team-mate Carl Boardley bagging 13th on the grid for the opening contest, while fellow Infiniti man Aiden Moffat secured 21st, as the Scot struggled to pick up tyre temperature.
The first race of the 2021 campaign, with Sutton on pole, saw the cars get the opportunity to run on a fully dry 2.36-mile track for the first time during the weekend, but it wasn’t without its fair share of drama.
Contact from the BMW of Colin Turkington during the opening tour resulted in a spin for defending champion Sutton, dropping him down the order from the lead.
Meanwhile, Boardley and Moffat both carved their way through the pack into tenth and 15th respectively before an off for Gordon Shedden and Chris Smiley caused a safety car period.
On the restart, the trio continued moving forwards, with Boardley running as high as ninth at one point. Sutton continued his recovery drive from 21st up to tenth, with Moffat and Boardley immediately following him across the finish line in 11th and 12th.
A post-race penalty for the incident between Turkington and Sutton saw the BMW man receive a 17-second addition to his race time, promoting Sutton to ninth place.
Buoyed by the speed of their Infinitis in race one, and following the first-lap incident which saw the race restarted, the drivers were hopeful for more overtakes in the second encounter.
As the safety car period began, after an off for Rory Butcher, Sutton was forced to pit as his Infiniti suffered boost problems, before rejoining at the back of the field.
Moffat worked his way up to eighth, as Sutton picked off the pack up into tenth with two laps remaining, while Boardley was running in 20th due to a five-second race time addition.
The final lap saw Sutton up into ninth place, behind his eight-place team-mate, Moffat. Boardley, who crossed the line in 13th, would finish 17th in the results with his penalty.
As the final race of the day loomed, and more importantly, the clouds rolled in, Sutton and Moffat were put onto third and fourth on the grid, by virtue of the reverse grid draw.
Starting on Goodyear wet tyres, Sutton got a great start up to second and was immediately on the tail of pole-man Stephen Jelley before taking the lead on lap two.
Moffat enjoyed a defensive drive in fourth from returning champion Jason Plato for the first six laps, before he ran wide onto the grass with a problem during the battle. The #16 Infiniti dropped down the order on the following laps before retiring from the race with seven laps remaining.
Team-mate Boardley got off to a strong start, running in the top 15 before becoming involved in a number of mid-field battles. The 45-year-old suffered from bad luck in the final laps, as contact ended Boardley’s race two laps early.
As the rain slowed, and the slick-shod machines began to gain advantage, the Ford of Jake Hill scythed into the lead, dropping Sutton into third on the road with Tom Oliphant’s BMW second. A penalty for Oliphant, however, saw Sutton into second spot.
The rain returned for the final few laps of the contest, and Sutton’s wet rubber once again switched on, as the two-time titleholder set his sights on the win.
The #1 machine took back the race lead as Hill began to struggle on the increasingly wet track, as Sutton took his first victory of the 2021 campaign.
Leaving Thruxton, the squad sits fourth in the Teams’ standings, with Sutton holding the same spot in the Drivers’ title battle.
All three drivers are currently within the top 15 in the Independent Drivers’ championship, as the team turns its attention to the next race weekend, at Snetterton (12/13 June).