The free practice sessions of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park on Saturday morning saw Ash Sutton and Josh Cook posting good times in the MG6’s around the 2.26 mile Cheshire circuit, placing them in good stead for the qualifying session later in the day. Ash set the quickest time of the MG Racing RCIB Insurance drivers placing himself 7th on the grid with a time of 1m.26.439s, just 0.175 seconds shy of the pole sitter, with Josh set to start the first of Sunday’s races in 10th with a time of 1m.26.643s.
An action packed first race of the day showed great racing throughout the field, with both drivers gaining places on the opening lap. Ash was running in 6th position for the majority of the race before contact dropped him down the order to 19th place, whilst Josh brought home a good result in 7th.
For race two both drivers would start in their finishing positions from the opener. Josh drove a great race and managed to fight off challenges from both Rob Collard and Matt Neal bringing the car home in an impressive 9th place with Ash finishing even further down the order after contact on the opening lap causing right rear suspension damage and forcing him to pit for repairs before re-joining the race and finishing in 28th place.
With more dramatic action in race three the reverse grid would see Honda’s Matt Neal drawn on pole position and Josh promoted to join the grid on the front row in 2nd. After a great start Josh was on the tail of Neal before a failed overtake attempt dropped him back to fourth. The 15 laps that followed saw a shoot-out for 3rd position with Sam Tordoff in the BMW overtaking Josh forcing him down to 5th, but when Honda’s Gordon Shedden picked up a puncture Josh was promoted back up the order once again to 4th, a place he would hold onto until the checkered flag fell. Ash stormed through the field making up 16 places in the process to finish in a fantastic 12th.
Ash was awarded the top rookie of the weekend once again and remains the only driver to have won the prestigious Jack Sears Trophy in 2016, and remains top of the leader board.
Ash commented “Oulton Park has never been kind to me, we have always had good pace here but no luck to follow. FP1 was really just about getting a feel for the track and car as it’s my first time in a touring car here and it was very much the same during FP2 I struggled to get into a rhythm and hook up the lap. Going into qualifying I had the do the best I could with the situation and although coming away with seventh wasn’t the end of the world I would of liked to have continue the momentum of always being in the top five.
"I had a good start to race one and a good opening lap gaining a position to Ingram and we managed to hold our own and hook onto the back of the leading pack. I struggled a little with balance in the car and felt that this was having an impact on the soft tyres, I tried to manage the pace but it wasn't long until Ingram was back on me. I defended clean and hard, I wish I could say the same for my rival but after pushing me wide at the hairpin into my team mate Cook it was a drag race down to the Chicane, I left enough room on the inside but I was forced wide and had to take to the grass. When I re-joined I again left room for Ingram on the inside of the final right but he had different ideas, driving into me and pushing me into the gravel, we then struggled massively with tyre degradation. We became a sitting duck after going into Cascades and from then on it was just about bringing it home.
"I was geared up for race two to make up for the disappointments in race one, we had a great start and made a few places up but it soon come to a stop when Collard made contact with the rear right and broke the suspension, I managed to get back out but I was two laps down.
"It was time for damage limitation in the final race, we needed to push forward and try to get some points under our belt after a disaster of a day so far. The start did not go to plan, I was in the unfortunate position of not being able to see the lights and had to rely on radio communication for the start but we lost all radio and dropped back to last. I managed to knuckle down and push forward, I got up to tenth before a picking up a little bit of damage. We managed to bring it home in twelfth and also take the Jack Sears Trophy home and extend our lead.”
Josh commented “Firstly it was great to get three solid points scored for the MG Racing RCIB Insurance car. Race one was a solid improvement from our starting place which gave us a strong position to race from in race two with the soft tyre out the way. Race two was one of the most defensive races I’ve ever had to drive keeping Matt Neal behind me after an overtake on lap two. The reverse grid gave us a second place start which we managed to hold for the start of the race. Contact on lap two from Shedden sent me into a huge slide which we were lucky to recover from. From that point onwards we spent the whole race trying to pass an overly aggressive Toyota.
"Overall we really managed to gather some important setup data which is really going to help us throughout the season. Bring on Croft!!"
MG Racing RCIB Insurance head to Croft in Yorkshire in two weeks’ time for rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.”
Written by Maddy Turner
Photo credits to AMSoul-Images.com