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Knockhill Racing Circuit in Scotland hosted rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship during a weekend of appalling wet weather conditions and celebrations that turned to yet more hardship for the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing team.

The circuit was basked in beautiful sunshine on Saturday and the morning practice sessions saw lots of set up changes as we entered the unknown due to the new track surface.  Although Ash dominated the first session we didn’t quite find the sweet spot on the cars for the afternoon qualifying session on the tight circuit which resulted in Ash being the quickest of the Subaru Levorgs setting the 8th fastest time with Jason qualifying in 18th.  It was Dan Cammish in the Honda Civic that took his maiden pole position.

Race 1

What a difference a day makes.  Sunday was a whole new ball game, with the new track surface now becoming a wet one creating some very tricky conditions.

Ash would start the weekend sitting 3rd in the championship tables and would therefore carry 57kg of success ballast.

The first race of the day was declared a wet one.  As the lights went out at the start of the race, the 31 car grid got away without incident.  Both Subaru Levorgs got good starts and Ash was soon up to 6th position by the second lap and was defending from fellow championship contender Tom Ingram in the Toyota Avensis.  Ash soon gained another place as he made a pass on Chris Smiley for 5th whilst Jason struggling with visibility in 23rd.

By lap 7 Ash was up to 4th place ahead of Andrew Jordan in the BMW and set the fastest lap in the process.  Ash then made up more ground by passing Stephen Jelley in the BMW for 3rd place and was now hunting down championship leader Colin Turkington.

Another fastest lap of the race would come from Ash on lap 11 and although losing pace on the straights he narrowed the gap pushing his Subaru Levorg to its limits on the corners and soon pounced on Turkington for 2nd place.  The following lap Ash took the race lead from Cammish and set yet another fastest lap as behind him Turkington ran wide which allowed Jelley back through into 3rd.

By lap 17 Ash had extended his lead to 2.5 seconds clear out in front, as Jelley moved up to 2nd taking Turkington with him into 3rd.

On lap 19 disaster would strike for Jelley when he was hit from behind by Turkington firing him off into the gravel trap which ended his race and moved Turkington into 2nd.  The safety car was immediately deployed diminishing Ash’s now 7.5 second gap which allowed Turkington to catch up on the tail of Ash’s Levorg.  As a result of the safety car three further laps were added to the race distance giving Turkington even more time to go on the attack of Ash for the lead.  The pressure was on but as always, a calm Ash controlled the restart perfectly and led the way for the remaining four laps.

Ash took the chequered flag and his fifth win of the season.  Jason brought his Subaru home in 26th place after continuing with visibility conditions caused by spray thrown up upon the track ahead of him.

Ash’s win secured his 3rd place position in the overall championship standings and had once again narrowed the gap at the top of the table and he now sat just 27 points adrift from leader Turkington and 16 points behind Ingram in 2nd.  As a result of his success in the opening race Ash would have to carry 75kg of success ballast for race 2 and was predicted to go on to win it with the weather conditions forecast to worsen.

Race 2

And worsen they did! There was now lots of standing water on the track causing treacherous conditions.  Being in pole position Ash had the added advantage that he would at least be able to see in front of him, although he would be the first to test the conditions and try to set the pace.

They were away again and racing for the second time of the day with Ash and Jason again both being consistent and getting good clean starts with Ash leading the way for the second time of asking.  At the end of lap one came the first safety car period to retrieve the stricken Audi of Ollie Jackson after he lost control in the standing water and left the circuit at the chicane.

The weather conditions continued to deteriorate and on lap seven racing resumed with Ash controlling the start well for the second time of the day remaining out in front.

Andrew Jordan made a move on Turkington for 2nd after the latter made a mistake and then ran wide, which in turn caused Cammish to run straight on in the standing water at the hairpin, allowing Ingram through and into fourth and Josh cook into fifth in the Vauxhall Astra.  The following lap Ingram also took Turkington for the 3rd place podium position.

Jason meanwhile was in 21st place and was once again blighted by the bad visibility and several on track incidents ahead of him. 

The safety car was deployed for a second time after both Tom Oliphant and Tom Boardley had both gone off into the gravel trap at the hairpin in separate incidents, negating the lead Ash had built up out in front of the chasing pack.  Whilst under safety car conditions discussions went on between some of the teams and officials as they questioned whether racing should resume due to the amount of standing water as the heavens opened up once more, but the decision was made to continue with racing resuming on lap 18 with Ash making the break from the outset.

On the following lap a struggling Turkington was passed by Cook on the inside allowing Cammish to follow him through placing Turkington back in 6th, whilst Ingram pounced on Jordan for 2nd. 

The race was eventually red flagged on lap 20 following Sam Smelt going straight on into the gravel trap at turn one.  Ash took his second win of the day after another outstanding performance in the wet with Jason dropping back to end the race in 25th.

Ingram took 2nd place with Jordan crossing the line in 3rd.

Ash’s second win of the day had moved him up to just 15 points shy of championship leader Turkington.

Post-race the usual technical checks were conducted, and the ride height roller was put under the rear and front left hand side of the car, the thumbs up were given as Ash was instructed to restart his engine.  Ash was then told to hold in his position as the roller was then placed under the right-hand side of the car where the side sill had dropped slightly after damage had been caused during the race which we presumed was from him hitting the standing water at turn one.

We were then handed the news that Ash was excluded from the race results under technical regulations.  The team appealed the decision as no changes had been made to the car after race one, where the car passed the same technical checks and so it was clear to the team that this can only have been caused by damage during the race.  The appeal was upheld, the exclusion remained, and as a result Ash would lose the 22 points and was forced to start from the back of the grid for the final race of the day.  A further penalty which is also applied is to carry the full 75 kg of success ballast from being the first to cross the line.

The entire team were absolutely devastated after Ash had risked everything for the win but as you know we have had many a knockback and we carried on racing with added determination.

It was announced that Tom Ingram was also excluded from the results, which in turn gave the win to Jordan and had a huge effect on the championship standings.  Turkington now had a 25-point lead over Ingram in 2nd and a massive 41-point lead over Ash who remained in 3rd.

The reverse grid draw was subsequently made and ball number 6 was drawn placing Tom Chilton on pole position for the final race of the day following the re-jigging of the grid.

Race 3

With the track conditions still wet it was going to be a tall order for Jason and Ash to make their way up near the front but it was gloves off to do all they could to get into a point scoring position.

It was lights out for the final time of asking and both cars got away off the line with Ash passing three cars with two wheels on the dirt as he rocketed up the order. 

By lap three Ash had already made up 10 places into 20th before he was caught up in a tangle between Matt Simpson and Mike Bushell which slowed him up and in turn also tripped up Jason just behind him in 22nd.  Both cars managed to continue the race although Jason lost positions after contact with Bushell’s stricken Volkswagen and dropped back in 26th.  The safety car was called once more to retrieve Bushell with racing resuming on lap 8 with Chilton in the lead ahead of Adam Morgan in 2nd and Turkington in 3rd.  Ash meanwhile was up to 19th after setting the fastest lap of the race with Ingram in 23rd.

There were still more places to be gained and clearly on a mission Ash was up to 16th at the halfway stage in the race.

Unfortunately, up front Turkington was also on the move and had taken 2nd place as Ash passed Matt Neal in the Honda for 13th.

By the end of the race Ash had made up another five places to cross the line in a superb 8th place after a staggering drive from 30th on the grid, gaining more valuable points.

Jason finished just outside of the points in 19th.

Championship leader Turkington extended his points lead to Ingram with an advantage of a huge 43 points, with Ash a further 8 points adrift in 3rd.

With six races remaining we regroup at Silverstone next time out on the 15th and 16th September.  The fight continues and although it’s a tough ask we won’t be rolling over just yet.  Whilst it’s mathematically possible we will keep digging deep to maximise all we can for the fight to retain Ash’s BTCC title.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all of you that came out to support us in the awful weather conditions at Knockhill and we look forward to seeing you in just under 2 weeks’ time.


Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Quotes:

Ash Sutton said: “Saturday was a tough day, we hit the ground running in FP1 but that didn’t quite continue through into FP2 and qualifying. I was a little disappointed as to where we lined up in qualifying, we were inside the top ten but behind our two main rivals. 

however was a different day; the heavens had opened and I knew our chances of scoring points became more hopeful! Race one couldn’t have gone much better, we got straight into the working window of the car and the pace was strong getting the win set us up nicely for the day. To be in a position to pick and choose when to push is always nice!

“Race two was a very controlled one, just managing the gap back to second and making sure we had a clean run after every safety car. It was all looking good for race three until the antics of the ride height struck. No boundaries were pushed. The roller went under the front splitter and the
drivers side sill, and both cleared with no question. The passenger seal picked up damage during the race causing it to fail in that one area.

“Race three was one of those situations where you know you have the car under you, you have enough laps to pick up it was just about staying focused on the job in hand. Not for one second did I expect to be up in the top ten but I needed that, the team needed it. It just showed the true potential of the package when all the stars aligned.”

Gerry Bucke, General Manager of Adrian Flux, said: “Knockhill was certainly one of the most gripping weekends of racing this season, particularly for everyone at Team BMR. Race day was looking so promising for Ashley Sutton - even the weather conditions were on his side.

“While things did seem to unravel after his brilliant victory in the first race, Ash put in a former champion’s performance in the third and final race of the day. Starting at the back of the grid and finishing 8th is a performance he, and all the team, should be proud of. This is why Adrian Flux is delighted to be supporting BTCC and British motorsport.”

Paul Tunnicliffe, Automotive Development Director of Subaru UK said: “A weekend of highs and lows for us.  Ash gave a masterclass in how to drive aggressively, but cleanly and safely in appalling conditions, and was undoubtedly the driver of the day taken across all 3 races.  The highlight has to be his drive in the 3rd, when, having been relegated to the back of the grid, he showed exceptional skill by fighting his way back to 8th.    We were all disappointed by the decision after the 2nd race, but, given the display of supreme capability we were treated to on Sunday, nobody should rule Ash out from being a repeat champion.”

Written by Maddy Turner

Photos by Greg Toth