SUTTON KICKS OFF SECOND HALF OF BTCC SEASON WITH KNOCKHILL VICTORY
Ash Sutton kicked the second half of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season off in style at Knockhill last weekend (30/31 July) as he ignited his pursuit of the title with a first victory of the year.
On what proved to be an action-packed return to racing following the annual mid-season break, the NAPA Racing UK driver was in fine form as he added second and fifth-place finishes to his win for a 50-point haul, elevating him to third in overall standings.
Saturday’s qualifying session in Fife proved competitive as ever, with the top 24 covered by less than a second, and the reigning champion emerged as one of the standout performers.
Hustling his Ford Focus ST around the undulating 1.27-mile circuit, the 28-year-old punched in a best time of 50.932s to secure second on the grid for the first of Sunday’s three races.
The opening contest will undoubtedly go down as a modern-day classic as Sutton showed his class in an entertaining wheel-to-wheel battle with Jake Hill.
After holding position off the line, Sutton wasted no time in taking the lead as he completed a sensational move around the outside of the BMW driver heading through Duffus Dip at the start of lap two.
Inseparable throughout the tours that followed, contact into the rear of the Ford over the course of several laps left the three-time title winner slightly hobbled and he ultimately conceded the lead as the race approached mid-distance.
Once back to second, Sutton’s focus switched to fending off the advances of the other BMW of Colin Turkington – which he did masterfully to clinch his seventh podium of the year.
Sutton wasn’t to be denied his first win of the season in what proved to be a pulsating race two where his battle with Hill further intensified.
Following an even start, the front-wheel drive ace took advantage of Hill dipping a wheel in the gravel exiting the chicane and charged into a lead that he would ultimately never lose.
Defending a wave of attacks from Hill, Sutton utilised all of his experience and didn’t put a wheel wrong over the course of the 26-lap distance to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time with NAPA Racing UK and Motorbase Performance.
Starting the reverse grid encounter from seventh, Sutton capped off his strongest weekend to date in 2022 with another solid haul of points. Jumping up to fifth after a frenetic opening lap, the BRDC Member then ran untroubled all the way to the chequered flag.
Leaving Scotland, Sutton has moved up to third in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship and has closed to within eight points of the summit.
“It was a really, really good weekend,” said Sutton. “To pick up a win, second and fifth is a mega way to start the second half of the season and has allowed us to close right up in the points. I’m so pleased to have got the first win for NAPA Racing UK.
“We came close in race one, but we just didn’t quite have the pace to stick with Jake [Hill]. I gave it my best and got him at the start but we picked up a bit of damage from contact at the rear, so I accepted second and focussed on keeping Colin [Turkington] behind.
“Race two was a little bit easier as Jake made a small mistake at the chicane and I knew that was my chance. Across the chicane was where we were really strong, so it was just about getting my head down and sending it. I was in full qualifying mode and thankfully we had enough in the tyres to get to the end; I was never going to give that one up!
“We’ve made some real progress with the car over the break and it’s now more to my liking. I’m able to make it dance and move how I want. We’re in a good place so hopefully we can carry this momentum and form into Snetterton where we should be just as strong.”
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship continues in little over a week’s time on 13/14 August for Rounds 19, 20 & 21 around Snetterton’s 300 layout, with the action once again hosted by ITV’s main channel as well as ITV4.