After another BTCC weekend in which Team BMR’s Ash Sutton stood out in a competitive pack of front-runners, is it time to start considering the Subaru driver as a serious title contender this season?
Here’s the thing, Sutton won race two in a very impressive fashion at Oulton, but consistency is also really important in this championship. Look no further than Tom Ingram for evidence of this. Impeccable before last weekend, but bad luck and collisions prevented him from finishing in the top 15 in all three races at Oulton, dropping him to 3rd in the Standings.
— ITV Motorsport (@itvmotorsport) May 21, 2017
Ash Sutton collected 50-points at the weekend and showed an incredible turn of pace. In race two, he was victories despite 57kg of success ballast and also set the fastest lap of the race. The moment that caught our attention, and marks Sutton out as a future champion came in race three, his worst of the weekend in terms of finishing, but his racecraft was very apparent.
With 75kg of success ballast on-board, Sutton defended for many laps against the very highly rated, established BTCC champion Colin Turkington, who was trying to claim 4th in a ballast-free WSR BMW. It isn’t like Sutton is a relatively new driver on the grid who is getting lucky, he is genuinely holding his own and more against the best in the business, in a car that is allegedly struggling in some areas.
Usually, having Jason Plato in the same team would be of benefit to any driver in terms understanding the car and co-developing at BMR to make the Levorg as competitive as possible. But Plato has made it clear that anomalies on his car aren’t only destroying his races so far, but is also preventing him from chipping in on the set-up and data throughout the weekend.
Plato reported that his car hasn’t been right on the front end since the big shunt at Brands Hatch, it means that the team is having to set the car up differently to the other three Subarus in order to find the pace, putting Plato in a one-car team within the team. As a result, his input on set-up and understanding the car isn’t relevant to the other drivers in the team, which if anything, compliments Sutton’s results even further.
Croft is next on the BTCC calendar, a circuit in which Sutton secured his only victory of 2016, with a 3rd place and a 5th for good measure. If he can carry his current form over to Croft, there’s a real possibility he could find himself even closer to the summit of the standings and pose a real title threat to the regulars. After the race weekend in which he made gains in the drivers championship, Sutton said,
“I am over the moon with how Oulton Park panned out. This has never been a favourite of mine despite liking the track we just always seem to have some bad luck here. This was a huge turn around for myself, Team BMR and Subaru. We have been working hard with TOCA to overcome a few hurdles and we are now getting there.
I feel that this weekend showed how much myself and the engineering team have extracted from the car. To win a race with 57kg and then to move forward with 75kg of success ballast I couldn’t have asked for anymore from the car. A great haul of points this weekend, a total of 50pts I believe which means that we are only 45pts behind the championship leader. The race is now on!”
– Ash Sutton
Is Ash Sutton in contention for the title this season? Absolutely!