Sutton triumphs at Silverstone to strengthen BTCC title charge

Ashley Sutton will take a 45-point lead into the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship finale in less than two weeks’ time after scoring a tenth win of the season at Silverstone this past weekend (September 23/24).

On what proved to be a rollercoaster race day at the Home of British Motor Racing, the NAPA Racing UK driver produced a sensational performance in his Ford Focus ST to maintain his quest for a record-equalling fourth title.

As expected, qualifying – which was running under the Top Ten Showdown format – on Saturday afternoon proved to be a frenetic affair around the 1.64-mile National layout with the top five ultimately being covered by less than a tenth of a second. 

Despite having no hybrid at his disposal due to being the championship leader, the 29-year-old was able to progress into the battle for pole position – where he went on to produce a string of ultra-competitive laps to finish 0.064s off top spot and clinch fifth.

Race one proved to be a case of what might have been for the front-wheel-drive ace as drizzly conditions prior to the start left the entire grid debating what tyres to start on.

Like a majority of those around him, Ashley opted to stick with slicks however conditions rapidly worsened and he was forced to bolt on wets; ending the contest back in 23rd. 

Faced with starting towards the back for race two, the BRDC Member produced one of the most extraordinary performances of his illustrious career as he charged from 23rd to claim a tenth victory of 2023.

Making moves on almost every lap, Ashley had worked his way up into the top ten when the safety car neutralised the field at mid-distance. On the restart, his charge only intensified as he fought his way into the top six and then onto the back of the top three. 

Dispatching Jake Hill, Rory Butcher and Adam Morgan, the triple champion wasted no time in closing down race leader Aron Taylor-Smith before making the decisive move for the lead at Woodcote on the penultimate tour. 

Once out front, Ashley held firm to take his win tally for the season into double digits and more importantly, he strengthened his advantage at the summit of the standings. 

Drawing number 12 for the reverse grid contest, Ashley concluded his weekend with yet another remarkable drive as he again scythed his way up the order – this time to clinch third place behind Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram.

Heading into the series finale at Brands Hatch, Ingram remains the only other driver in mathematical contention to lift the biggest prize in UK motorsport however it is Ashley that will go there in the pound seat.

Ashley Sutton: “It’s been a real rollercoaster of a weekend but I’m over the moon to be coming out the other side of it with a 45-point lead. Coming into Silverstone I had a number in mind that I wanted to leave with and its fair to say we’ve exceeded that!

“On Saturday we struggled with the balance of the car in practice but we hooked up a pretty good lap – especially as we didn’t have any hybrid – in qualifying to stick it on the third row. We made the car a bit looser for race day and that certainly helped us.

“In hindsight, we made the wrong call in race one as we should have switched to wets on the grid but we were focused on shadowing Tom [Ingram]. After race one we had our backs up against the wall but we certainly turned it around!

“Race two is up there as one of my best-ever drives in the BTCC. We maximised having a full allocation of hybrid and just got cracking on working our way through the field. The car felt incredible and I was able to just put it wherever I wanted; that one was very special.

“There’s less than two weeks to go now until Brands so we’ll do our homework like always and see what happens. Surviving race one and scoring points is the target; then we’ll see how the day plays out from there. We’re in a really strong position but the job is by no means done!”

The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will bring the curtain down on its 2023 season on October 7/8, with three races set to play out around the Grand Prix layout of Brands Hatch.

Chris Ashby
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