21 May Sutton Digs Deep To Claim Thruxton Podium
Ashley Sutton served up a battling performance at Thruxton this past weekend (May 18/19) as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship paid the first of two visits to the Hampshire venue in 2019.
Entering the weekend leading the championship standings off the back of a flying start to the year which had yielded three podiums from six races, the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver was realistic of his chances around a track which in the past has always suited the Levorg.
Following two frenetic practice sessions around the ultra-fast 2.356 mile circuit, Sutton and his ballast-ladened machine proved to be one of the cars to watch in qualifying as he maximised everything he had.
In what proved to be a record-breaking 30 minutes, which was truncated by a late red flag, the 2017 champion underlined his credentials with a scintillating 1:15.986 lap time late on to secure seventh on the grid.
As he has done on countless occasions already this year, Sutton served up another gritty performance in race one. Holding position off the line, the BRDC Superstar valiantly held off the advances of both Matt Neal and Rob Collard for a majority of the 16-lap encounter.
Defending into the chicane on multiple occasions, Sutton’s resolute defence was finally undone in the closing stages as both Neal and Collard found a way through. Remaining hot on the heels of the pair, the 25-year-old kept his points tally ticking over with a ninth place finish.
Losing nearly all of the success ballast he had carried in race one, the Subaru driver found himself in the thick of the action once again in race two as he fought his way to another handful of points.
Running as high as eighth at one stage, the GO Homes-backed driver gave fans plenty of breathless moments as he pushed his car to the absolute limit. Despite a stunning piece of car control on the final tour to narrowly miss the back of Tom Ingram, Sutton lost out to two of his rivals, dropping him to 11th at the chequered flag.
Virtue of the reverse grid draw, Sutton was drawn onto pole position for the final race of the weekend. With dark clouds brewing overhead and drops of rain beginning to fall, the third encounter was to be another battling affair for the Adrian Flux-sponsored driver.
Going wheel-to-wheel with former team-mate Josh Cook as the field streamed through the opening sequence of corners for the first time, Sutton was shuffled back to second and then third, as Rory Butcher made a move a few laps later.
Settling into a groove, the former Jack Sears Trophy winner remained hot on the heels of top two as the battle for victory raged on. Despite slipstreaming his way onto the back of Butcher on several occasions, Sutton was unable to find a way past and would ultimately finish third to claim his fourth podium of the 2019 campaign so far.
Sutton sits fourth in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship leaving Thruxton although he remains firmly in the hunt, trailing the series leader by just five points.
Ashley Sutton: “It has been a tough day at the office and very much a case of damage limitation. No matter where we started across the three races we went backwards and was picked off, which is frustrating but we always knew that this circuit wasn’t going to suit us.
“We maximised everything we had in qualifying and did the same in all three races too, there was nothing else left in the tank. Everyone at Team BMR has done an amazing job so to come away with some points and another podium is a nice reward for everyone.
“The big positive from the weekend is that we are still firmly in the mix in the standings and we head to Croft next, a circuit I’ve always enjoyed driving. It’s going to be interesting to see how the resurfacing plays its part but I will be going there confident of another solid points haul – I love the place!”
Sutton and the rest of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship grid will next head to Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on June 15/16 for Rounds 10, 11 & 12 – a venue that has been a happy hunting ground for Sutton in the past having picked up four wins in three years there.