SUTTON SCORES NAPA RACING UK’S SECOND VICTORY AT SCORCHING SNETTERTON
Ash Sutton produced a dominant, near-lights-to-flag, victory during Round 21 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season at a red-hot Snetterton 300 Circuit last weekend (13/14 August) to secure his and NAPA Racing UK’s second win in as many events.
Starting the final bout from pole position, Sutton made a good start but he was somehow edged back to second out of Riches by Dan Rowbottom’s Honda Civic. It didn’t take long for the response to come, though, with the #1 machine moving back through at Agostini.
Never headed thereafter, his lead was built-on lap by lap with an eventual winning margin of 4.5 seconds for the Motorbase Performance-run squad, as Sutton also claimed the fastest lap of the race.
Beginning race day at the scorching hot Norfolk track with ninth place in the opening contest, having qualified 11th quickest, Sutton went on to finish ninth again in race two after battling back from a lap one incident which also involved team-mate Dan Cammish.
It really was a weekend of what could have been, not for the first time this season, for Cammish after a strong qualifying – the fastest of the Motorbase drivers with the eighth-best time – and a solid and competitive seventh place in race one, achieved after passing Rowbottom on lap three.
Aiming to push towards the podium in race two, everything went awry at the second corner while he was running in seventh place, when contact triggered an incident involving both NAPA Racing UK Fords.
Cammish came off worst, plummeting down the order outside the top 20 and eventually working his way back through to finish in 18th. Starting so far back in race three, he did all he could to take the chequered flag just outside the points in 16th position.
The sunshine at Snetterton certainly shone on Ollie Jackson who produced a fantastic season-best ninth place in the last of Sunday’s three races, the Apec Racing with Beavis Morgan driver charging through from 13th on the grid after a similarly strong performance in the preceding contest.
In race one he gained six places on a superb opening lap, moving up from 25th on the grid into P19. Although edged back after an early Safety Car he fought back to 18th. Serving up another terrific start in race two, storming into tenth on lap one, he finished 13th and therefore only missed the top 12 reverse grid draw for race three by one place.
Team-mate Sam Osborne was somewhat frustrated after qualifying, feeling he didn’t get the most out of the car that was available to him, but from mid-distance in race one he started to make some steps forward. Racing strongly, a late battle with Josh Cook was the highlight and Osborne only just missed out on a top 20 finish after trading places with the Honda driver a couple of times.
From 21st on the grid in Round 20, Osborne a difficult first lap saw the 29-year-old slip back three places. Recovering to 22nd before a mid-race Safety Car, he broke into 20th position with a few laps to go. Starting on row ten for the concluding encounter, he raced well into 17th place by lap six but on lap nine he was put off the circuit twice in succession – ultimately recovering to finish in 20th spot.
“It was great to finish the weekend off like that, a fantastic, dominant display from Ash in race three showing what could have been this weekend,” said Team Manager Oly Collins. “That win keeps Ash in the title fight. Unfortunately, we did have more potential than we got to display with numerous innocent incidents over the weekend preventing us from showing the full pace, which is frustrating. We’ve got nine races left with plenty to play for.”
“If I’m honest we made the exact same settings in terms of changes for race two, but the contact and damage we had with Dan put all the alignment out and we were lucky to get back to P9,” reflected Sutton. “If I had that race car [from Round 21] in race two, it would’ve been a different story. It’s just mega, I can’t thank NAPA Racing UK enough. For the first couple of laps, we set up for the long-term, long race, so she was a bit lively. I saw Jason [Plato] just closing the gap and I thought, I’ve got to be patient with this. Then his tyres fell away and we carried on – put the head down and set some quali laps.”
“It’s pretty tough to take what happened this weekend,” admitted Cammish. “We had the speed and the car to really do something. We got everything we could out of the car in qualifying, seventh in race one was good – I really felt I could compete and everything was positive. We definitely had the pace to move forward in race two but then the contact happened at turn two and it all unravelled from there. I really feel we’ve got the car in a better place so I’ve just got to dust myself down and try and focus on the rest of the season.”
“We’ve had some better luck this weekend,” buoyed Jackson. “I’m a lot more used to the car now and the extra weight [from the Hybrid system] and I like how it’s handling. We had a bit of a problem with the brake balance in qualifying, and we then realised it had been a problem in practice as well, so it’s quite gratifying to turn up with a few tweaks and come through with three strong races. It’s great to take the first top ten of the season, it’s where I feel I should be and hopefully we’ve turned a corner now. We’ve definitely got a much better understanding of the car.”
“I’m a bit disappointed really as we had some serious pace this weekend,” concluded Osborne. “The last race was looking pretty decent but then twice [contact] fired us off, which isn’t exactly what you need. We had some nice pace though, I was up alongside Dan [Cammish] and [Gordon] Shedden and well up for it battling with them. We had some good pace in qualifying as well but just didn’t make the most of it. Overall, we made a step in the right direction.”
Thruxton Circuit will welcome the BTCC just over a week from now (27/28 August) as the second visit of the season to the Hampshire speedbowl gets underway.