Our very own Ash Sutton claimed his first ever win for MG Racing RCIB Insurance on Sunday afternoon during a challenging wet race 3 at Croft circuit in Yorkshire, where the 22 year old Hertfordshire based rookie mounted his challenge in the final race of the day with just two laps remaining.
The weekend started with an eventful qualifying session on Saturday afternoon which saw Ash spin out twice and Josh reporting handing issues and unable to challenge the lap times of the front runners. Whilst running in 2nd place during the session Ash was pipped in the final stages by Daniel Lloyd with an impressive time 1m24.008s giving him an outstanding starting position of 3rd place right behind the pole sitter Colin Turkington. Unfortunately Josh qualified in a disappointing 18th place albeit just a second off Turkington’s ultimate pace.
For the first of Sunday’s three races Josh would carry 15kg of success ballast gained from his championship position of 10th place with Ash running ballast free. Right from the outset Ash was on a mission but drama soon emerged at turn one after Lloyd attempted a move round the outside of Turkington which fired him off into the tyre wall, forcing Ash to settle into 3rd as Turkington’s teammate Jason Plato nipped through into 2nd. Josh meanwhile also had a fantastic starts and had made up four places into 14th as the safety car was called to retrieve the stricken Honda of Lloyd.
Racing resumed on lap 3 and Ash held his position fighting off the advances of Jack Goff’s BMW as Josh once again struggled with the handling of his MG6 dropping to 15th place before running wide at Sunny dropping him back to 18th place.
A second safety car period came on Lap 8 after Mark Howard got out of shape at turn one crashing hard and sideways into the barriers, as the field bunched up once again. When racing resumed on lap 10 Ash soaked up the continued pressure from Goff who was right on his boot lid throughout the next three laps before a third safety car was called this time for the Mercedes of Moffatt which took a whack. When the safety car peeled back into the pits Ash drove a brilliant defensive race and scored his first BTCC podium position with a third place finish. Josh brought his MG6 home damage free in 17th.
For Race two Ash would start from 2nd on the grid with 57kgs of success weight on board with Josh starting 17th and again weight free. Ash had a good start but with the Subaru’s and BMW’s having the rear wheel drive advantage over our front wheel drive MG6 he immediately dropped back to 5th.
This time it was Team BMR’s Cole that was caught out at the first corner, with the safety car being deployed for the fourth time of the day whilst the marshals retrieved his stricken Subaru from the gravel trap. It was a different story for Josh however as he had made up a place and was just outside the points in 16th.
The remainder of the race was relatively quiet and as Ash fended off the Ford Focus of Mat Jackson to finish 5th, Josh made up another couple of places and ended the race in 14th scoring two valuable championship points.
Then there was race 3, and what a race it was! As the 32 car grid was about to line up, spots of rain could be felt which gave the teams and drivers a decision to make over tyres. A few took a gamble and went out on slicks as both the MG6’s joined the fray with wets. The reverse grid draw had moved Ash up the order from his finishing position in 5th and he would now take to the grid in slot 4 behind Mat Jackson on slicks, Tom Ingram and Pole sitter Sam Tordoff. Unfortunately Josh wouldn’t benefit from the reverse grid draw so he would line up in his earlier finishing position of 14th.
As the lights went out the front runners headed for turn one on a somewhat greasy track that forced Ash to drop back to 5th with once again the rear wheel drive machines getting the better of him, as Josh moved up two places into 12th. The safety car was deployed to clear Warren Scott’s Subaru from the gravel trap with racing resuming on lap three. After the restart Josh had moved up in to 10th spot and hot on the tail of Plato. Then it was Ash’s turn to take advantage as he nipped up the inside of Goff and into 4th with a stellar move, just before Josh pounced for Plato for 10th.
Ash set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4, showing that the front wheel drive MG6’s had really come alive in the wet as he piled the pressure on Turkington who was running in 3rd. Contact between Jackson and Moffatt followed on lap 5 with yet another safety car period until the half way point of the race on lap 9, with two laps added to the overall race distance. Josh had soon made up another place to 9th on the restart before Ash then made the move on Turkington at the hairpin placing him 3rd.
Next on his hit list was Ingram in the Toyota and with a gap on the inside Ash didn’t need a second invitation and had immediately shot up into 2nd. Josh was having an equally impressive race moving up the through the field and into 7th on lap 10.
Ash was then chasing down the leader with a 2.2 second gap before setting a personal best lap and the fastest of the race thus far and continued pushing hard and sliding through the bends bringing the gap down to just 1.6 seconds whilst Josh gained another place after passing Goff’s BMW. With just 5 laps left there was one further safety car period following the demise of Hunter Abbott. The safety car remained until lap 17 allowing the front runners to bunch together which brought with it an advantage to both Ash and Josh. With a two lap shoot out remaining it was a mad dash to the line with a gap of just 0.6 seconds between Ash and the leader Tordoff, Ash passed the BMW and into first and led the race to the line taking his maiden British Touring Car Championship victory and a first for the MG Racing RCIB Insurance team in 2016. It was also a staggering result for Josh who crossed the line with a very impressive 6th place finish.
We head into the six week summer break on a high but we won’t be resting on our laurels as both Ash and Josh will be driving competing in the Hill Climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week and both drivers will be making the trip to Snetterton next week to take part in the annual two day Dunlop Tyre test.
Racing resumes on the weekend of the 30th and 31st of July at Snetterton in Norfolk.
Quotes from the MG Racing RCIB Insurance Drivers post Croft:
- "Croft has always been a circuit that I have loved, I’ve always gelled with the track no matter what car it is in but it was going to be different this time. I went into the weekend with a fresh mind set as we know how strong the rear wheel drive cars are there. If someone offered me third in qualifying at the start of the weekend I would have definitely taken it! It was great to turn my qualifying results into my first ever BTCC podium in race one being the fastest front wheel drive car on track. Race two was going to be a little trickier, with more rear wheel drive cars surrounding me off the line and being on the harder compound tyre, it was all about damage limitation. I was very pleased to bring it home in fifth and again to be the first front wheel drive car across the line. Going into race three I was praying for rain. Finding out that I would be starting on the second row in fourth meant I was in for a shout of another podium. After a few laps and the first safety car, I knew that the package I had was fast enough to win the race. I cracked on with the job and carved my way through to the lead, getting my first ever BTCC win. The day couldn't have gone better for me and it feels great to have ticked off some of the things that I aimed for this year, pole at Donington, first BTCC podium and my first BTCC win. I can't thank MG and RCIB Insurance enough as well as Triple Eight and my three main sponsors, Global Force, Select Fire and CNM Advisory."
- "Unfortunately, our weekend at Croft was plagued by mechanical issues until race two. Qualifying eighteenth was a real battle and we started race one on the back foot with a lot to do to get amongst the points. I must give credit to the MG RCIB Insurance Racing team who worked tirelessly to identify and resolve the problems ahead of race two, where I was able to start working back through the pack. Finally we experienced a wet BTCC race three and the car had great pace allowing me to move from fourteenth to sixth, despite the number of safety car laps. Onwards to Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend and Snetterton after the summer break where I’m determined to recover."
Written By Maddy Turner
Photo Credits - Ed Bookless