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Pace goes unrewarded for Ashley Sutton at Silverstone

Ashley Sutton endured another luckless weekend in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship as Silverstone played host to the penultimate meeting of the 2019 season.

Keen to bounce back from a frustrating weekend at Knockhill last time out, the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver produced a valiant performance but saw his pace goes unrewarded on a chaotic race day. 

Heading into the weekend at the home of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, of which he is a member of its prestigious SuperStars programme, the 25-year-old was mindful that the power-hungry straights of the National layout wouldn’t be best suited to his rear-wheel-drive Levorg. 

After working through a methodical testing programme in both practice sessions, the 2017 champion worked with team-mate Senna Proctor to extract the maximum in qualifying, ultimately finishing two tenths shy of pole position in eighth and putting him firmly in the mix on race day.

With overnight and early morning rain adding further intrigue to strategy, the opening encounter proved to be a frustrating one for Sutton. 

Running on the soft option tyre, the GO Homes-backed driver ran as high as fifth, and was hounding the back of former team-mate Josh Cook for fourth before suffering a front left puncture on lap 15 – ending his hopes of a podium and relegating him to 24th at the chequered flag.

Lining up towards the back of the grid for race two, Sutton underlined his credentials as one of the best wheel-to-wheel racers in the championship as he scythed his way through the field.

Mid-race rain left a majority of the cars, including Sutton, running on slick tyres in treacherous conditions. Following a brief safety car period, racing continued in the worsening conditions before a decision was made to red flag the remainder of the contest – with the former Jack Sears Trophy winner in 11th.

Drawn onto pole position via the reverse grid draw, the manufacturer ace ran towards the front in the opening stages before conditions began to worsen. 

A safety car period to recover a stricken car allowed several drivers to dive for the pit-lane and switch onto wet tyres, a decision that proved to be a masterstroke as the rain continued to fall.

Sutton was to be one of those front-runners to make the tyre change but crucial tweaks to the car’s ride-height meant that he ultimately dropped behind the lead lap and out of race-winning contention.

Rejoining the grid towards the back, the Subaru driver was one of the fastest drivers on the track as he revelled in the wet weather, powered his way into 15th for a single point. 

Leaving Silverstone, Sutton sits ninth in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship whilst Adrian Flux Subaru Racing are fourth and seventh in the BTCC Manufacturer/Constructors’ Championship and BTCC Teams’ Championship respectively. 

Ashley Sutton: “It has been another frustrating weekend and a case of what might have been. We went to Silverstone thinking we were going to struggle but we have actually surprised ourselves and had really good pace at times – sadly the luck just wasn’t on our side.

“We were quick out of the blocks and that surprised us, huge credit must go to the team for that. To have a puncture in fifth place was disappointing but we charged through the field in race two and had it not been for the red flag I think we would have gone a little further.

“We took the gamble to pit for wets in race three but we knew we had to tweak the ride-height as well and that ultimately cost us. Once we were out on-track we were one of the fastest out there and I managed to fight back to 15th. It was very much a case of what could have been for us.

“Brands Hatch is next and the goal heading there is to sign off the season with some wins and silverware. I love the place and the car should go well there, especially around the Grand Prix loop, so let’s see what we can do!”

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will bring the curtain down on its 2019 campaign on October 12/13 around the iconic Brands Hatch Grand Prix layout. 

Chris Ashby
chrisashby1991@hotmail.co.uk