SUTTON MOVES INTO BTCC POINTS LEAD AS NAPA RACING UK TAKES ADVANTAGE IN TEAMS’ BATTLE
Motorbase Performance will go into next month’s Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season finale challenging hard for a trio of titles, thanks to a strong and successful outing at Silverstone National Circuit last weekend (24/25 September).
Following Rounds 25, 26 and 27, the Wrotham squad’s NAPA Racing UK entry has opened a healthy 42-point lead in the Teams’ Championship while reigning BTCC Champion Ash Sutton has moved five points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship. Motorbase Performance/Ford, meanwhile, is second in the BTCC Manufacturers’/Constructors’ title battle.
Sutton initially took over the lead of the standings following an action-packed opening race, not least thanks to more selfless teamwork from Dan Cammish – just as he displayed at Thruxton. From fifth on the grid, Cammish made a good start and, although slipping to sixth into lap two, he moved up to fourth a couple of laps later as the action in the lead bunch became increasingly frenetic.
Sutton, who had slipped to ninth after a sluggish getaway, fought back through and by lap nine the two NAPA Racing UK Fords were sixth and seventh. After a mid-race Safety Car the pair ran nose-to-tail and on the final lap, at Brooklands, Cammish moved aside to allow Sutton to claim sixth and vital extra points – more crucial than ever with erstwhile series leader Colin Turkington not scoring.
Starting sixth and seventh for race two, Sutton and Cammish immediately gained a place apiece off the line and Sutton then moved into fourth at the end of the first lap. Cammish, meanwhile, was shuffled back to seventh and remained there for the duration while Sutton challenged for third right to the finish, all the while having to soak up huge pressure latterly from title rival Tom Ingram.
Cammish started the final contest from second on the partially reversed grid, with Sutton starting fifth, but the former’s great start was badly hindered almost immediately when pole-sitter Josh Cook moved sharply across to the right and Cammish’s Ford Focus brushed the pit wall.
Sutton was able to emerge through it all in second at Becketts and remained there throughout for his 12th podium of the year. Cammish battled hard with Cook over fourth place on lap five and although gaining the position with some great determined driving, he was latterly edged to fifth by Jake Hill’s BMW on lap 18.
Apec Racing with Beavis Morgan’s Ollie Jackson experienced a mightily frustrating opener, after a great qualifying run and a strong first few laps were compromised due to plenty of contact. Starting the race 13th, Jackson ran comfortably in the lead group and climbed to the cusp of the top ten by lap four. After being put wide, though, and taking more contact he ultimately had to settle for 19th.
Race two went much more smoothly for Jackson, a fantastic drive from the tenth row of the grid almost delivering a deserved top-ten result. Slicing through the order superbly during the opening laps, by the fourth tour he was 12th and running brilliantly. Following the second of two Safety Car periods Jackson was 11th – due to Ricky Collard’s Toyota expiring in flames – where he stayed.
Race three was even better, Jackson moved up from 11th into seventh on a terrific opening lap and, although passed by Tom Chilton into lap four, Jackson managed to get ahead of Adam Morgan so remained seventh. Following the first of two Safety Car periods, the #48 driver was challenged by Gordon Shedden and Jake Hill so slipped to ninth, but held off all other challengers to match his season best.
Osborne had a lot of work to do in race one from 26th on the grid but battled hard and emerged from the contest with a top 20 result just behind his team-mate. Gaining three spots on lap one alone, during the middle of the race the battle see-sawed but Osborne secured 20th with a couple of laps to go, and also his sixth top-three result of the year in the Jack Sears Trophy class.
The start of the second encounter didn’t go as intended for Osborne, dropping to almost the tail of the field after more contact not of his making. But from 27th place on lap three, he maintained his concentration and gradually worked his way back through to finish in 23rd position. In the final race he was again the victim of contact from rivals, but eventually managed to bring his Ford Focus home in 21st place.
“Another great weekend as we get another step closer to the end of this season,” buoyed Team Manager Oly Collins. “There was some good teamwork on Saturday, the drivers and crews working together for a tow helped in qualifying which was important for this weekend. Then working together again in the races has ultimately given us a small edge over the competition going into the last weekend. In the BTCC the smallest margin can be just enough. As tight as it is, it’s awesome to be going into the finale leading the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships. Now it’s our job to make sure it’s the same leaving Brands Hatch!”
“It’s like it’s been scripted all year hasn’t it, let’s be honest,” joked Sutton. “It couldn’t be any tighter, you’ve got a great combination [at the top of the championship] of two front-wheel drive cars and a rear-wheel drive car. Brands Hatch is our home circuit for the team, and we’ve had a mega weekend here, so I’m looking forward to Brands. We’re in a really good place with the car – the second half of the season I’ve felt at one with it. We’ve been able to dial it in, tweak it, chip away at it and it’s got us into the championship lead. I couldn’t have asked for any more going into the final weekend.”
“This weekend reminded me of Oulton Park, we’ve been nicely well inside the top ten all day but just not quite quick enough to mix it with the top four – we struggled to unlock that last little bit we needed,” reflected Cammish. “Race three was my big chance, it all happened so fast at the start, and I think I did just brush the wall, but Josh [Cook] apologised afterwards. Without that, it might have been different. I played the team role again in race one to help Ash [Sutton] and as a team we’ve scored really well with both cars, it’s been a great weekend again for NAPA Racing UK.”
“I could’ve done without the punt in race one, but we’ve had good pace all weekend and I’m finally starting to get a handle on this Hybrid car,” added Jackson. “Races two and three were very strong. In the last race, when [Tom] Chilton got in front I decided I wasn’t going any further forward – I’d been up in sixth or seventh at one point – so I was a bit more defensive and playing the team game there to keep the other guys behind. We’re definitely getting better rocking up with a car that just needs tweaks, not major changes. I’m definitely feeling positive for Brands.”
“I always pride myself on being one of the cleanest drivers out there,” said Osborne, “so it’s frustrating when contact happens like that. It is what it is though. We’re still not quite there coping with the extra weight of the Hybrid, it’s only little steps we need to make though until everything clicks.”
Motorbase’s home track, Brands Hatch in Kent, will host the BTCC season finale over the weekend 8/9 October, with rounds 28, 29 and 30 contested on the full length Grand Prix Circuit.