Ashley Sutton charged to a commanding seventh victory of the season as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship resumed this past weekend (July 29/30) however a race day that ebbed and flowed ultimately meant that his lead in the standings remains unchanged.

On what proved to be an action-packed return to racing at Croft following the annual summer break, the three-time champion played his part in what turned out to be a historic outing for the NAPA Racing UK squad.

The 29-year-old worked hard across races one and two – claiming second and first place finishes – to extend his championship advantage however a non-finish in the reverse grid encounter ensured that the six-point gap to Tom Ingram was as it was coming into the weekend.

Dialling in his Ford Focus throughout practice at the North Yorkshire venue, Ashley produced a superlative lap in Saturday’s qualifying session to claim third on the grid as part of a 1-2-3 lock-out for the Motorbase Performance-run team.

That dominance towards the sharp end of the field would continue on race day as the front-wheel-drive ace kicked off the second half of his season with a relatively untroubled drive to second place.

In what was a NAPA Racing UK podium sweep, Ashley – who had opted to run the medium tyre compound – remained within touching distance of team-mate Dan Rowbottom throughout the 15-lap contest before positions were swapped on the final tour.

Switching to the soft tyre for race two, Ashley produced a clinical display to claim his seventh victory of the campaign and lead home a second successive NAPA-Ford 1-2-3.

Sweeping around the outside of stablemate Dan Cammish on the run down to the first corner, the BRDC Member moved into lead and once out front he didn’t put a wheel wrong; pulling clear of the chasing pack to triumph by more than seven seconds.

That victory means that Ashley has now scored more wins this season than any other in his BTCC career to date, despite there being four events still left to run.

Just like Oulton Park however, Ashley’s hard work in the day’s earlier two races would be undone as contact with Stephen Jelley on the opening lap forced him into a third retirement of the year.

Ashley Sutton: “I obviously can’t underplay how much of a good weekend it has been for NAPA Racing UK but for me personally it feels like I’ve worked my backside off to achieve no points. We went in six points up and leave six points up.

“We executed everything perfectly in races one and two to extend the lead and it would have been good to cement that with a top six finish in the last one. Unfortunately, I got caught up in someone else’s incident and had nowhere to go.

“Despite it being a bit frustrating in that sense I’ve got to applaud everyone in the team because it has been a phenomenal weekend on the whole. To claim a 1-2-3 in qualifying and then replicate it across two races is an incredible achievement and testament to the hard work that’s being put in.

“Looking ahead to Knockhill I’m hoping that we can be in the mix and put on a good showing. We won there last year so given how much we’ve moved the car on since then I’m optimistic that we can be in the mix towards the front.”

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship continues in less than two weeks’ time on August 12/13 for Rounds 19, 20 & 21 around Knockhill Circuit in Scotland.

Chris Ashby
[email protected]