No title for Sutton, but plenty of new fans

Few would argue that Ash Sutton has deserved more from a dogged defence of his BTCC title that ended in luckless circumstances at Silverstone.

While Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram head to Brands Hatch this weekend to battle for Sutton’s crown, the Essex racer was left to rue yet another stroke of ill fortune that stopped his weekend, and his title challenge, in its tracks.

Having charged from 25th to 11th in the opening race in Northamptonshire, the 24-year-old looked set to at least give himself an outside chance of defending his title in the finale this weekend.

Gergo Toth Photography

Things went horribly wrong…

But disaster struck when minor damage to the floor of his Subaru Levorg, caused when it struck an object on the garage floor when being lowered on its air jacks, saw him consigned to start race two from the pit lane.

Team BMR engineers believed the damage could be repaired on the grid, but TOCA officials refused to allow them to leave the garage until they had replaced the entire flat floor.

It was the third time this season that Sutton has been forced to race either from the pit lane or the back of the grid, following the ride height disqualification at Knockhill and a grid penalty ahead of the crucial double-points race at Snetterton.

Gergo Toth Photography

A rollercoaster of a season…

Such are the swings and arrows of outrageous fortune that make the BTCC such an unpredictable spectacle, and such a difficult championship to win.

That Sutton managed to scythe through the field from 27th to 12th in the final race at a circuit ill-suited to the Subaru showed again that there is no quicker driver on the grid.

It’s arguable that any other driver would have even been in contention for the top honours in a car that has been hampered all season by a lack of straight line speed.

Sutton had to wait until the 13th race of the season at Croft before climbing on to the podium, since when he has won five races, more than any other driver.

It may have been a difficult start of the year with engine issues but these were looked into, allowing Ash to be the brilliant competitive driver he is. A combination of the chassis and Ash’s great driving put Team BMR back to their winning ways.

He now stands second in the Dunlop Forever Forward standings, behind fellow young gun Ingram, which shows not only a knack for finding gaps where they barely exist but also of a fighting, never-say-die attitude.

And whatever misfortune does come his way, his toys remain firmly in the pram. He simply dusts himself down and vows to come back stronger.

Even after the disappointment of Silverstone, he said: “It was a real shame to not be able to head into the last round with a shot in defending my title, but luck hasn’t been on our side this year.

Gergo Toth Photography

“…Luck hasn’t been on our side this year…”

After the disappointment of Silverstone, he said: “It was a real shame to not be able to head into the last round with a shot in defending my title, but luck hasn’t been on our side this year.

“I am looking forward to Brands to try and end the season on a high and to come away with the most race wins would be great.”

He may not have won back-to-back titles, but his bravery and skill – not least in the wet at Knockhill – has won him an army of new fans, including touring car legend John Cleland.

The two-time champion Tweeted after Knockhill: “Probably the best on the grid at the moment, love his never give up attitude.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many.

Now, with the pressure off, Sutton will look to end the season in the only way he knows how – by going for race wins to lay down a marker for 2019.

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