Sutton is three races away from a remarkable first championship
(Photo from: www.btcc.net)
After the three races at Silverstone on Sunday, Ashley Sutton remains on top of the standings in the British Touring Car Championship by 10 points over nearest rival Colin Turkington. The Subaru Levorg driver had a mixed day which even he described as “lucky” at some stages goes into the final round at Brands Hatch as favourite in what has become a two horse race.
Neither title contender had it their own way throughout the day as Saturday’s qualifying session saw Jack Goff take his second pole of the season for Race 1. He was joined on the front row by Tom Ingram.
Race 1 and as the lights went out it was Ingram who got the best start, jumping Goff as they headed into Copse with Morgan third and Jake Hill fourth. Hill’s time at the front was numbered however as his car had started smoking on the formation lap before going wide at Brooklands whilst battling Morgan for third. He retired a lap later from power steering issues.
The order remained stable for the first three laps however by lap 4 the order was beginning to see changes as rain started to fall at Copse. Although this didn’t affect the circuit as a whole at first, by lap 6 drivers were starting to struggle as race leader Ingram found out running wide at Copse and only just hanging onto his lead.
By this point the top 3 had started to develop a gap over the rest of the chasing pack which was now headed by Colin Turkington. The WSR BMW driver did not stay there long though as Matt Neal, Mat Jackson and the impressive Ant Whorton-Eales made their way through in quick succession.
Lap 9 and once more the order was jumbled at Luffield as Mat Jackson went for a move on Neal, pushing the Honda wide to the edge of the circuit. As Neal attempted to get back onto the circuit, Neal clipped the rear of the Motorbase Ford, tipping him into a spin, as both lost chunks of time and places. This promoted Whorton-Eales to fourth ahead of Turkington and Dave Newsham.
Once this had all settled down the top three were set as the gap between Morgan and now fourth placed Whorton-Eales was 10.714 seconds but despite his best efforts to remain in fourth the AmD Tuning driver was unable to keep Turkington at bay, before quickly being disposed of by Sutton as well on lap 13.
This would prove to be the last action of the race as Rob Collard and Will Burns were involved in a nasty accident which left the Team HARD driver in hospital with broken ribs and a bruised lung. It all began as Collard, Aron Taylor-Smith and Chris Smiley all battled at the exit of Copse resulting in a squeeze, leaving Collard out of control skating over the damp grass. Sadly for Burns he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was collected by Collard who suffered bruising in the collision. Thankfully Burns was discharged from hospital later that day.
The race result was confirmed which meant that Tom Ingram took his fourth victory of the season ahead of Goff and Morgan. Behind the podium places Turkington finished fourth with championship rival Sutton close behind. Ant Whorton-Eales finished an impressive sixth with Newsham, Moffat, Austin and Mike Epps rounding out the top 10.
Race 2 and with the grid determined by the Race 1 finishing results it was Ingram on pole this time with Goff alongside. By now the rain had cleared and the circuit was dry although there were still some damp patches off line.
Despite carrying maximum ballast Ingram remained in the lead as the lights went out as Goff slotted into second as Turkington made his way past Morgan.
Goff was looking feisty though and on lap 2 he made his move for the lead. As Ingram ran slightly wide out of Copse, Goff used his momentum perfectly and outbraked the Speedworks driver into Beckets to take the lead.
Goff set about settling into the race with those behind squabbling for positions behind, although the race ended prematurely for Moffat who had a drive shaft failure on lap 5 while running sixth. Ollie Jackson also retired following damage to the rear of his Audi.
Two laps later and 2013 Champion Andrew Jordan found himself out with a puncture at Luffield, which tipped him into a spin. Mat Jackson was also a lap 7 casualty after he pulled over on the Wellington Straight.
By lap 10 the order had settled with Goff leading followed by Ingram with Turkington in third close behind. Adam Morgan was doing an excellent job of keeping Sutton behind him who was defending himself from Austin. Newsham, Shedden and Epps were also close by however they were all being caught by returnee Rob Huff who rounded out the top 10.
By lap 15 Huff was on the tail end of the group for third down to ninth and quickly set his sights on Epps though at the front of the group Sutton made his way past Morgan for fourth after patiently waiting for an opportunity. After Morgan ran slightly wide at Luffield, Sutton was able to prize the door open and complete the pass going into Copse.
A lap later and Shedden made his way past Newsham for seventh but no one was catching Goff who by lap 19 had stretched the gap to 4 seconds over Ingram. Ingram was clearly struggling as he bunched the field together which gave Sutton a chance on the final lap for a podium. At Luffield he forced his way past Turkington for the final podium spot.
It was a brave move but in the end one that cost him as he was demoted to the back of the grid for race 3 after receiving his third strike of 2017 for contact. He and Turkington were also swapped ensuring Turkington remained on the podium. However no one was getting near Goff who took his first win since Snetterton 2015 and only his second BTCC win. Ingram finished second ahead of Turkington and Sutton as Morgan, Shedden, Huff, Newsham and Epps rounded out the top 10.
Race 3 and time for the reverse grid race which placed Dave Newsham on pole in the BTC Norlin run Chevrolet Cruze with Rob Huff alongside. It was the Power Maxed Racing driver who got the best start though and took the lead going down into Copse as behind Austin and Shedden made contact.
Austin and Shedden both lost a lot of ground on the opening lap but Turkington had a far worse first lap. In what could have been a golden chance for the Northern Irishman with it all unravelled at Brooklands as he lost the rear of the car sending him into a half spin. A lap later and Turkington was effectively out, as he was caught up in a crash between Cook and Plato at Luffield which also took out Hill, Jelley and Jackson.
The crash bought out the safety car as the damaged cars were cleared and by lap 9 the green flags were flying once more with Ingram wasting no time moving up to second ahead of Newsham.
Newsham lost more ground to Morgan as Ingram battled with Huff for the lead. Huff defended valiantly for three laps though by lap 14 Ingram saw his chance to try and outbreak Huff at Beckets. Unfortunately for Ingram, Huff outbraked himself forcing Ingram across the grass allowing Morgan up into second as Huff somehow managed to stay in front. Matt Neal also capitalised and moved into third in all the drama and quickly took Morgan for second.
Morgan started to fall back and by lap 19 he was fifth behind Newsham and Ingram. Neal however was only looking forward and took the lead on lap 21 and never looked back ensuring he took his second win of the season ahead of the mighty impressive Huff and Newsham a fantastic third. Ingram came home fourth ahead of Austin who snatched fifth from Morgan with Smiley, Jordan and Jackson rounding out the top 10.
As ever the Silverstone National circuit produced three fantastic and crucial races in the 2017 BTCC season with it all going down to the wire at Brands Hatch in two weeks time.