Sutton equals record with sixth pole position of season
Standings leader stars in BTCC qualifying at Brands Hatch
NAPA Racing UK’s Ash Sutton proved to be the class of the field once more as the #116 Ford Focus secured pole position at Brands Hatch in the final qualifying session of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship.
Sutton set the pace early on and then went even better later on as the three-time champ clocked a number of laps good enough for P1.
The session concluded a sensational season of qualifying for Sutton and NAPA Racing UK, as his sixth pole position equalled James Thompson’s modern day record from 2003 and unsurprisingly was good enough to win this year’s Goodyear Wingfoot Award – awarded to the driver with the best qualifying record during the campaign.
The opening ten minutes of running also belonged to Sutton as he edged out a competitive lap from Rory Butcher (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK) in the early running.
Just as the clock ticked towards 20 minutes remaining there was a significant crash for George Gamble (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK), as he ran wide out of Sheene Curve before hitting the barrier at high speed. Although Gamble’s Toyota was able to hobble back to the pitlane there was a session stoppage for the tyre wall to be repaired.
With Goodyear soft tyres at a premium, a number of drivers struggled to improve following the restart, but Butcher held on to second from title challenger Tom Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8).
Daniel Rowbottom (NAPA Racing UK) was fourth, whilst Bobby Thompson (Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown) completed a fantastic day with sixth, following on from competitive performances in the earlier practice sessions for the Essex driver.
Dan Cammish made it three NAPA Racing UK cars in the top six, whilst BMW stablemates – Colin Turkington (Team BMW) and Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) – will have been slightly frustrated with seventh and eighth.
Mikey Doble (CarStore Power Maxed Racing) was ninth as he backed-up his Silverstone pole position with another impressive display. Doble is 18 points behind team-mate Andrew Watson in the fight for this year’s Jack Sears Trophy with a battle for honours set to ensue tomorrow.
Team BMW’s Adam Morgan edged out team-mate Stephen Jelley to take tenth.
The final day of the BTCC season commences on the legendary Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit tomorrow, with beautiful autumnal weather forecast for the tens of thousands of spectators in attendance, whilst many many more can watch the action LIVE on ITV4 from 1045.
Ash Sutton said: “We had three laps good enough I think for pole, but I knew there was a bit more there and I wanted it – whether we needed it or not, I just wanted to prove what we were capable of doing. Never dangle me a carrot because I’ll go for it!
“NAPA Racing UK have done an absolutely mega job this season, delivering this car and achieving six poles together – I can’t thank them and all my partners enough.
“We laughed and joked on Friday that if there are some more records to be had I’ll have a go at them – and that was one! I’m glad we have achieved it.”
Rory Butcher said: “Practice wasn’t so straight forward; I think a lot of people struggled with the way the track is today, it’s been really edgy, so it’s been hard to piece a lap together. But, that lap just felt so smooth and comfortable. I didn’t know where it would put me, but I knew it was good. He (Sutton) just has to go and pip me doesn’t he, it would’ve been nice to get pole.
“It’s great to be between the two championship protagonists, it would’ve been nice to be in the championship myself but it wasn’t to be this year. We’ll come back stronger in 2024.
“My goal is to finish the season on a high. I want to get a good start off-the-line and get racing. Let’s see if I can give Ash a race, he’ll be the man to beat so I’ve got to be fast on the first lap.”
Tom Ingram said: “When it’s (qualifying) like that you’ve got to give it everything you can. I didn’t get it quite in the sweet spot, the car’s feeling alright but not quite what we’re after.
“We’re still producing good times, we’re right at the sharp end.
“You’re never satisfied, even if you’ve got the perfect car you can still find something else. There’s more to find, I’m sure everyone will find something else, we’ll go for tweak of the week and see if we can find it.
“The plan for tomorrow is maximum attack, go hard at the start and go hard all the way through.”
2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Brands Hatch GP
1. Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK 1:29.823s
2. Rory Butcher, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +0.253s
3. Tom Ingram, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.307s
4. Daniel Rowbottom, NAPA Racing UK +0.326s
5. Bobby Thompson, Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown +0.330s
6. Dan Cammish, NAPA Racing UK +0.365s
7. Colin Turkington, Team BMW +0.368s
8. Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport +0.498s
9. Mikey Doble, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +0.510s
10. Adam Morgan, Team BMW +0.525s
11. Stephen Jelley, Team BMW +0.620s
12. Ricky Collard, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +0.707s
13. Andrew Watson, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +0.756s
14. Ronan Pearson, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.794s
15. Árón Taylor-Smith, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +0.829s
16. Josh Cook, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +0.844s
17. Tom Chilton, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.894s
18. Daniel Lloyd, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +0.938s
19. Dexter Patterson, Re.Beverages and Bartercard with Team HARD +0.994s
20. Aiden Moffat, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +1.008s
21. Sam Osborne, NAPA Racing UK +1.011s
22. George Gamble, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +1.213s
23. Daryl DeLeon, Re.Beverages and Bartercard with Team HARD +1.261s
24. Michael Crees, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +1.481
26. Jade Edwards, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +1.692s
27. Nick Halstead, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +2.352s