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SUTTON TITLE FIGHT LOST AT SILVERSTONE
 
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver Ash Sutton entered the weekend carrying 57 kg of success ballast on board his Subaru Levorg, sitting third in the overall Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings some 51 points behind championship leader Colin Turkington, with his teammate Jason Plato weight free in the sister Subaru.

In a qualifying session interrupted by a red flag, both Levorgs struggled on the three power straights on the Silverstone National Circuit and only managed a lap time that secured them of side by side positions of 25th for Ash and 26th for Jason, meaning they would have a tough fight on their hands for the first race of the day.

With the entire 31 car field qualifying within a second of each other it was Sam Tordoff who topped the session in the Ford Focus taking his fifth pole position of his career with main championship contenders Colin Turkington and Tom Ingram qualifying in 18th and 19th respectively.

Although Team BMR did a rain dance on Saturday evening the forecast for Sunday was unfortunately predicted a dry one, with both Ash and Jason selecting to use the Prime hard Dunlop tyre for Race 3 in the hope that a rain shower may arrive at the back end of the day.

 

Race 1

With Ash and Jason starting at the tail end of the grid it was going to be a tall order for the duo to gain many positions with the Levorgs struggling with straight line speed combined with the lack of overtaking opportunities on the corners, the main aim was to make as much progress as possible and try and gain some points.

Both drivers got off the line well and by the end of the first lap Ash had already made up places but soon found himself being forced wide when he locked up in a bid to avoid a wayward Rory Butcher in the MG resulting in him losing the positions he had just gained.

Ash managed to claw back those positions on the next lap and with the safety being deployed on lap 5 to retrieve a stricken Josh Cook and Chris Smiley, as well as Matt Neal retiring from the race with damage, Ash was now promoted to 19th and Jason to 22nd.

When racing resumed Ash was soon up to 18th after nipping up the inside of fellow championship contender Tom Ingram and was now looking to make up ground on Turkington who was well up into the points in 12th.

By lap 14 Ash was too was running in a point scoring position of 15th with Jason not far behind in 19th.

Disaster would then strike for Jason who had contact with Bobby Thompson causing extensive front end damage which in turn caused the bonnet to flip up onto the windscreen the #99 Subaru Levorg forcing him to retire from the race.  He did, however, manage to get back into the pits for the team to start work on the repairs ready for the next race.

Before long Turkington had made his way up to 9th and the fight was on for Ash to make further ground and get as close to the BMW as possible in order to bank some points as well as attain a  comfortable grid position for the second race of the day.

Ash eventually took the chequered flag in a superb 11th place, with Turkington and Ingram finishing 8th and 15th respectively.

Although Ash had outscored Ingram he remained 3rd in the championship standings with a gap of just 4 points as Turkington extended his lead out in front a further 50 points up the road. 

 

Race 2

All of the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing crew did an amazing job to get Jason’s  #99 Levorg ready in time for the second race of the day, along with making some set up tweaks to the #1 Subaru of Ash which was now running ballast-free, in order to maximise his chances of a podium finish. 

With a tight schedule to run through, the team were up against it and with the clock ticking the pressure was on.  When Ash’s Levorg was lowered to the ground on its air jacks minor damage occurred underneath.  It was immediately assessed, and the damage was deemed to be very slight and would not have prevented us from racing.  With plenty of time to make the grid the decision was made that we would make any small repairs that may have been necessary once we were out on the grid. 

Unfortunately, we were then denied access to the grid by a TOCA Official who was watching us work in the garage and he informed us that he would not permit us to release the car from the garage, which effectively meant that we had to change the entire flat floor which was an unnecessary and timely process.

Although it was all hands-on-deck this would force Ash to start from the back of the grid with any hope of him retaining his championship title crushed.  Yet another blow to our 2018 season.

With the start lights out Jason got off the line well from 25th with Ash starting from pit lane and both drivers came through the first lap unscathed although Ash had quite a gap ahead of him behind the rear of the pack.

Both drivers held their positions throughout the first few laps with Jason gaining a place on Lap 7 after narrowly avoiding an out of control James Cole in the Ford Focus.

Meanwhile, out in front Ingram was rocketing up the order and was leading the race by the end of lap 10 after making up 14 places, with Turkington now up to 8th where he had started the race.

By Lap 17 Jason was up to 16th whilst Ash was still unable to catch up with those racing ahead of him.

The race was eventually won by Ingram with a huge 6.4-second gap with Turkington coming home in 8th.

Jason finished just out of the points in 17th as Ash came home in 27th place.

As a result, Ash had now dropped back to 5th in the championship standings and was some 62 points behind leader Turkington with Ingram remaining in 2nd some 36 points behind.

We were all devastated that such a small error with very minor damage had cost us so much.  Every team in the paddock is working under immense pressure, sometimes within very short timeframes between sessions, and very occasionally, even in the most established teams, mistakes happen with most of them going unnoticed, but the spotlight is always on the reigning champion especially with there being such a close fight for the championship.

 

Race 3

The reverse grid draw was made with the number 7 ball being selected promoting Aidan Moffat to pole position for race three.

Both Jason and Ash would be on the slower hard tyre for the final race of the day and would start from 17th and 27th respectively.

Once again both of the Subaru drivers had good clean starts with Ash gaining three positions in the opening lap.

By the end of lap 9 Ash was picking his way through the field and was up to a fantastic 17th position having gained 10 places with Jason now running in 19th.

Ash showed superb pace on the hard tyre and eventually finished the race in 12th place with Jason crossing the line in 18th.

The race was won by Moffat in the Mercedes with Ingram taking 2nd and Turkington 3rd.

The final positions of race three resulted in Ash finishing the weekend 4th in the standings and 73 points behind Turkington, and with only 67 points to play for in the final three rounds at Brands Hatch at the end of the month it is now impossible for Ash to retain his title.  We will, however, continue our fight for the 2nd place runner-up spot and hope to take the title of the most race wins of the season.  Ingram has now reduced Turkingtons lead to 34 points behind with Tom Chilton jumping up to the 3rd spot a further 30 points adrift, making it a three-way title fight.  However, for Chilton to be crowned Champion he would need to score every point available and for Turkington to score zero.

A positive to take from the weekend was Ash’s Silverstone performance securing the Dunlop Forever Forward honours after completing a massive 29 overtakes over the course of the weekend.  This resulted in him moving up to 2nd in the overall Dunlop Forever Forward season standings.

Speaking of his weekend Ash commented - “The weekend was the make or break of the championship. Silverstone has always been the weakest circuit on the calendar for us, not forgetting how competitive the championship has got in the space of a year.

“Unfortunately, the weekend took a turn for the worst and it soon became clear it was going to be difficult to stay in the hunt for the championship. Qualifying 25th on the grid was not the way I wanted to start Sunday off. After the situation that occurred on the day left us out of the championship come the end of Race 2, 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…!”