The trophy they both want to win, but who will?
(Photo from: www.btcc.net)
After twenty-seven races, the British Touring Car Championship has gone to the wire once more with two drivers battling for the 2017 crown, Ashley Sutton and Colin Turkington. Both have been phenomenal all year, with Sutton winning six times, more than any other driver as Turkington’s consistency has shown he is a force to be reckoned with.
Going into the final three races this weekend at Brands Hatch on the world famous Grand Prix circuit, Sutton leads the championship by 10 points in his Team BMR Subaru Levorg. However Sutton’s championship could have differed so much if he and his team had continued in the same vein as the opening weekend.
Following pre season changes to the technical specifications of the Subaru’s centre of gravity, the team initially struggled for performance leaving Sutton pointless after the first three races of the season. Despite Turkington’s first races troubles in which he failed to even make the first corner, the Team BMW WSR driver was able to recover well and gather 26 points.
Despite this early set back, Subaru and Sutton returned strongly at Donington, the second weekend of the season, as they were able to take their maiden pole position together. This jubilation soon turned sour though as Sutton was excluded from the standings and sent to the back as an overboost infringement left his car illegal.
It was another setback for the team and driver in the early stages however he was able to recover as the weekend developed and finished the round with two podiums, though Turkington continued to score strongly.
Elements of Sutton’s early season troubles were almost a carbon copy of the season before where Subaru struggled early on with set up issues and overall pace. 2016 saw the team withdraw from the three rounds at Thruxton on safety grounds however following this setback and the Easter break Colin Turkington was the highest scoring driver from this point on, ensuring he had a chance at the 2016 title.
These similarities can be seen in the results of the two drivers this year. Oulton Park was Sutton’s turning point as he picked up his maiden win in 2017 as Turkington struggled after picking up damage in the first race of the weekend. It was also the first weekend that Sutton outscored the Northern Irishman, and by an incredible 36 points, bringing the gap down to 14 points between the two.
Croft saw both drivers perform strongly heading into the summer break as the circuit traditionally favours rear wheeled drive cars. Snetterton though was much more unpredictable as the two changed championship positions continuously. It all began in the opening race of the day, which Turkington was leading comfortably before an uncharacteristic spin on lap 5 left him at the tail end of the top 10. Sutton went onto claim victory, and victory in the second race of the day with maximum ballast ensured he took the lead of the championship for the first time in 2017.
However contact in the third race of the day and an eventual retirement for Sutton opened the door for Turkington once more, who remained the championship leader at the end of the day.
Knockhill and Rockingham continue to be close, Turkington’s consistency verses Sutton’s amount of wins evident throughout, but Silverstone proved yet again that anything can happen in the BTCC.
Race 2 saw the duo running nose to tail throughout the whole race in third and fourth and as Sutton made a bold move up the inside at Luffield on the final lap for the final podium spot, it looked like Sutton had well and truly cemented his claim for the title. A few moments later though and the result had been reversed, the move had been deemed too forceful and the positions were swapped. To add insult to injury for Sutton, it was his third strike for contact during the season, meaning he would start the third race of the day last.
Race 3 looked to be a golden opportunity for Turkington to claw back some points over his championship rival however on lap 2 Turkington slid wide and lost a whole heap of time. The following lap and Turkington was involved in an accident involving Josh Cook and Sutton’s teammate Jason Plato, leaving the BMW driver with heavy damage, leaving him a lap down. It was an opportunity squandered for the double champion as Sutton went onto finish eleventh.
With three races left, both drivers will know that anything can happen, both will be looking at 2016 as proof. Whatever happens though, it will be a fascinating end to a fascinating season.
|Ashley Sutton||Colin Turkington|
|Highest Scoring Weekend||56 (Croft)||50 (Croft)|