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Ashley Sutton bags trio of points finishes in consistent Croft showing

Ashley Sutton enjoyed a consistent showing in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Croft Circuit this past weekend (June 15/16) as he bagged a trio of top ten finishes. 

Arriving at the newly resurfaced North Yorkshire track sitting fourth in the overall standings, the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver entered the weekend in a confident mood having scored four wins in the past three years at Croft.

With the the mix of flowing and tight corners being traditionally well-suited to rear-wheel-drive machinery in the past, the 2017 champion was one to watch in what proved to be an ultra competitive qualifying session. 

Truncated by no fewer than five red flag stoppages and challenging weather conditions, the battle for pole position proved to be a fraught one. Dipping under the previous lap record, Sutton set a best time of 1:22.101 around the 2.12 mile circuit to secure sixth place for the opening encounter. 

Lining up on the third row of the grid for his 100th BTCC race, the GO Home-backed ace was in the thick of the action from the start as he was shuffled back a couple of spots as the front-runners jostled for position. 

After hounding the back of Ollie Jackson for several laps, the BRDC Superstar found a way past heading into Tower Bend and soon set off in pursuit of Dan Cammish. Try as he might, Sutton was unable to make a move on the Honda driver and crossed the line in seventh. 

Race two around the packed-out Yorkshire track saw Sutton continue his consistent start to the year with another points-scoring, ending a pulsating 15 laps in sixth.

Faced with finding a way past another Motorbase Performance Ford Focus, Sutton filled the mirrors of Tom Chilton for a number of laps before finally getting the better of him.

Once clear of Chilton, the next target for the former Jack Sears Trophy victor was Chris Smiley. Drawing himself onto the back of Smiley within a lap, Sutton applied the pressure to the Honda man and gained fifth place on the final lap at the Complex following contact between the pair.

Following the race, stewards handed Sutton a five-place grid penalty for the reverse grid encounter for his part in the contact that ended Smiley’s race.

With the heavens having opened before the final race, the biggest question before the lights went out surrounded what tyres people would opt for. Along with a majority of the grid, Sutton bolted on a set of wet tyres and revelled in the conditions.

Making two places on the opening lap, the Adrian Flux-sponsored ace was on the move once more on the sixth tour as he dived down the inside of Dan Cammish at the hairpin for seventh. Carbon copy moves were then pulled on the BMW duo of Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan by lap 11 to move Sutton up to fifth. 

Showcasing his prowess in the challenging conditions, the 24-year-old set his sights on Matt Neal next and moved into fourth with two laps to go after pulling off another stunning overtake into the final turn. 

Unable to catch the top three ahead of him, Sutton held station to cross the line in fourth and bank yet more vital points in the overall standings as he continues his pursuit of a second title.

Leaving Croft, Sutton has moved up to third in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship, 13 points shy of leader Turkington whilst Adrian Flux Subaru Racing occupy third and fifth in the BTCC Manufacturer/Constructors Championship and BTCC Teams’ Championship respectively.

Ashley Sutton: “We came here with high hopes but I don’t think the resurfacing has suited our car; it’s been another weekend where we have maximised everything – we couldn’t have done any more.

“Straight line speed has been our biggest achilles heel, even though the characteristics of the circuit have traditionally been on our side. I didn’t expect to go backwards in that first race and we were in the thick of the action in the second; I personally think the Smiley clash was a racing incident so it was frustrating to be hit with a grid penalty.

“Had we not had that penalty then I think we could have won that final race as we were strong in those conditions. We managed to claw our way back and score a good result. Everyone at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing has been fantastic and they’ve worked tirelessly to ensure we are still in the mix.

“We go to Oulton Park in two weeks with no real expectations but focused on keeping the points tally ticking over so we will see how we get on.”

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to Oulton Park next on June 29/30 for Rounds 13, 14 & 15 – marking the halfway point of the 2019 season. 

Chris Ashby
chrisashby1991@hotmail.co.uk