Lat season’s Jack Sears Trophy winner and the 2015 UK Clio Cup Champ Ashley Sutton has secured a seat at BMR alongside Jason Plato and James Cole in the race-winning Subaru Levorg GT.
Sutton made a huge impact last season, the signs of his potential apparent straight away with a strong fourth place finish on his BTCC debut at Brands Hatch. The win would follow in the chaotic race-three at a wet Croft. It was the first wet race in the British Touring Car Championship since Brands Hatch in 2014, and Sutton had to overtake Colin Turkington, Tom Ingram and eventually race leader Sam Tordoff.
With a Silverline BMR Subaru beneath him, Sutton will be without doubt one to watch next season. The Hertfordshire-born 23-year-old said,
“Not for one second did I think that two years down the line I would be a part of the BMR factory team; let alone with a BTCC Manufacturer like Subaru. I thought I had hit the jackpot in my debut season in securing a Manufacturer drive; but now being a part of Subaru, and the package that comes with that, has certainly topped it for me.
“Last year I accomplished all of the personal goals I had set for myself. I know that 2017 is going to be hard, but I feel I have all the correct tools to move those goal posts and set myself some bigger challenges. Going into the final round in with a shot for the championship is the biggest aim – but this is the pinnacle of British motorsport, it’s the British Touring Car Championship, so I know it’s not going to come easy!”
– Ashley Sutton
MG Motor, the Triple Eight Engineering outfit that Ashley Sutton has left, announced their driver line-up earlier in the week too. The experienced Irishman Aron Taylor-Smith joins the team alongside incoming rookie Daniel Lloyd, who looks forward to his first full BTCC campaign after a handful of guest appearances in the Eurotech Honda in 2016.
Triple Eight boss Ian Harrison is clearly happy with the new MG drivers and is expecting a similar level of performance in 2017.
“I’m happy that these guys will deliver some solid results for the team. Aron is a proven race winner, and we know Daniel has the speed. With more BTCC race experience under his belt, he will be running at the front. The championship looks wide open this year with plenty of other changes in the line-up, and we expect to be right in the mix.”
– Ian Harrison
The final driver confirmation of the week for what is becoming yet another packed and competitive grid heralds the return of Leicester lad Stephen Jelley. The last time he was in a touring car, it was the striking orange-liveried WSR BMW of 2008 and 2009. Jelley has since competed in GTs and the Porsche Carrera Cup, but that BTCC itch hasn’t been subdued and the race-winner returns with the Team Parker Racing Ford Focus ST.
His return boosts competition further but Jelley opted to keep his cards close to his chest with the following statement.
“It was always my aim to come back to the BTCC – I didn’t want to leave, but the finances weren’t there.
Team Parker Racing can have a long future in this category and I want a long future here too, so we are looking to build together. I haven’t raced a front-wheel-drive car before so there will be a big test programme ahead of the season to get me up to speed.
As for my aims, I will wait to see where we are after the opening sessions before we can make a realistic assessment. We are just going to focus on our own performance first and foremost.”
– Stephen Jelley
The BTCC grid is starting to take a definitive shape. There are the Turkington and Collard shaped holes however, but the season is over a month away and it would be surprising to see either driver missing for the 2017 season.