Progress the key as Sutton heads to Donington with new engine

Reigning BTCC champion Ash Sutton steps into the unknown at Donington this weekend when he fires up his Subaru’s new Swindon engine for the first time.

Fresh from topping the times at the Thruxton testing day, Sutton heads to the Leicestershire track where he kick-started his title charge last year in cautiously confident mood.

While Team BMR have been working on the new Swindon engine used in team-mate Jason Plato’s car at the season opener at Brands Hatch, today’s shakedown will be Sutton’s first experience of the new powerplant.

Going in with the same mentality as Brands

Photo credit: Gergo Toth Photography (Also main image)

“It’s not a total unknown quantity as a team because it’s been in Jason’s car, but I’ve not driven with it so I really don’t know exactly how we’re going to perform this weekend,” said the 24-year-old from Essex.

“I really think I would like to go there with the same mentality as we did at Brands, with the intention of trying to pick up some points and if we’re up there with the pack to push and make the most of that situation.”

And while Sutton was not reading too much into topping the times at Thruxton, running the old Mountune engine, he is confident that progress has been made with the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Levorg’s set-up.

“I was really, really pleased with Thruxton, but I’m taking the times with a pinch of salt,” he said. “Not for one second did we go there trying to be at the top of the time sheets.

“Testing doesn’t really show too much what anybody’s capable of on – you never know how much ballast people are running or if they’re holding something back and leaving a bit in the tank.

“We were purely focused on trying to get some progress with the car and making up for the lack of testing we’ve done this year.

“Despite it only being two 40-minute sessions, we ticked off a lot of boxes and it helps us progress. I would like to think some of the stuff we found at Thruxton we can use at Donington.

“The tracks are very different in some ways, the way the surface works the tyre is a lot different to Thruxton. But, at the same time, Donington is quite a high speed circuit so some of the similarities should mean we can carry some of the bits over.

“I think in FP1 and FP2 we’ll continue the programme as we left off at Thruxton, continue working on it and make sure we’ve got something we can use in qualifying and for all three races.”

Heading to Donington in a better position than last year

Photo credit: Gergo Toth Photography

Snatching third place in the rain in the final race at the Leicestershire circuit last year gave Sutton the launchpad for an ultimately successful title challenge, and this time he heads to Donington 26 points better off.

“It was the start of our season after drawing a blank at Brands, but we’re in a much better position this year so we’ll be looking to build on that,” he added.

“Wet weather helped us out quite a bit at Brands this year and it suits my driving style, but some dry running would be useful to us for development too.”

Whatever the weather brings, and the forecast is currently dry, Sutton has already proved in the season opener that, despite the extra attention, he’s the same attacking driver who carried all before him in 2017.

“There’s a little bit more media demand, and we do feel like we’ve got a few more eyes looking at us carrying the number one, but not going to change how I do my job,” he said.

“It’ll be the same Ash Sutton as people saw all last season.”

Qualifying can be seen live on Saturday from 3.15pm on, with the racing live on ITV4 on Sunday from 10.40am.

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