It was a phenomenal start to the season for MG Racing RCIB Insurance as the 2016 British Touring Car Championship commenced at Brands Hatch over the weekend with their new signings for 2016, the returning Josh Cook and the reigning Renault UK Clio Cup Champion Ash Sutton.
With Ash qualifying 5th in his first ever BTCC session and Josh right behind him in 6th, the scene was set for a staggering 32 car line up opening race around the 1.2 mile Kent circuit.
As the lights went out for the opening race both Ash and Josh made great getaways with Ash jumping the BMW of Sam Tordoff at the start establishing himself in 4th from the outset, which he would hold onto right up until the end of the race behind pole sitter Speedworks Tom Ingram and the Halfords Yuasa pairing of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, with Josh following him home in 5th, as both opened their point scoring accounts along with points in the manufacturer standings for MG.
Race 2 was a similar affair to the first as both Ash and Josh made a great getaway, only to be hampered in the early stages due to cars bunching up on the opening lap. During the latter stages of the race Josh had established himself as the lead MG driver in 6th with Ash on his tail in 7th, when on lap 22 oil was dropped at Graham Hill bend that caused Josh to have a huge moment and veer off circuit along with several other drivers onto the grass. Unfortunately for Josh contact was made with the tyre wall which forced him into retirement. Ash brought his car home with a 6th place finish.
The reverse grid race 3 would see Ash lining up once again in 4th place with Josh starting at the back end of the grid in 29th. As the lights went out it was Josh who made the great getaway and had soon established himself up into 20th place on the opening lap, as Ash made a bad start and dropped down the order to 16th. However Ash made great use of his soft tyres and stormed back up the grid to end the day with a 10th place finish. It was also a fantastic finish for Josh who made up a staggering 15 places throughout the race to finish 14th and into a point scoring position.
Following the race Ash was awarded his first piece of BTCC silverware with the Jack Sears Trophy after ending the day as the top rookie.
Ash now sits 7th in the overall Drivers Championship after his debut weekend with Josh in 14th, which also scored vital points for MG who sit 3rd in the Constructors Championship and 4th in the overall teams championship.
Ash Sutton said: 'Well there you go, I have my first BTCC weekend under my belt! I personally set some targets to aim for and we definitely achieved them. Getting three top ten finishes was fantastic and to qualify fifth topped it off! I feel now we can move forward at Donington, we have a very quick car under us thanks to MG Racing RCIB Insurance considering the small amount of laps we have actually done. The platform is there so we can now build on this and move forward in the right direction and get the MG6 on the podium! I am also learning the craft of British Touring Cars so there is still more to come from me!'
Josh Cook said: “I was really pleased with the pace of the car throughout the weekend, in comparison to a lot of the cars on the grid we had very little time in the car pre-season so we went into the weekend on the back foot. Qualifying and race one was a glimpse of what the MG6 has to offer. Race two was purely unlucky for me with the oil on the track, a bit gutting but that’s the way it goes sometimes. It could happen to anyone. As a result we started from the back for Race three, midway through when I reached P14, we encountered a power steering fault which halted my progress or I’m confident we could have recovered with a top 10 finish.
The guys behind the scenes at MG Racing RCIB Insurance do a really great job. We’ve learned a lot this weekend, and Ash and I are doing well together as a team, hopefully we can soon get up on that top step. There is no question that we’re going to be giving it everything we’ve got.
Ian Harrison, Triple Eight Managing Director said: "There is no doubt that being a bit late out of the starting gate has slowed down our build up a bit, but based on the guys' performance at round 1, things will improve quickly! Brands was a steep learning curve for the drivers and the team but overall it was an all-round solid performance by everyone involved. A couple of incidents on track with Josh sliding off on un-flagged oil and Ash fluffing the start of race 3 are all part of the BTCC experience and cannot distract from a good show of racing skill in the other races. A lot learnt and plenty more to come."
Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will take place at Donington Park on 16/17 April.