Well what a start to the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, a pole, a podium and a whole load of points for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing.
Ash Sutton made the most of the cold and damp track on Saturday afternoon for the first qualifying session of the season claiming pole position on what was a tricky session with three red flag stoppages. Ash recorded a lap time of 53.602 seconds with teammate Senna Proctor qualifying in 18th which bearing in mind he was still getting to know his Subaru Levorg coupled with it being his first time in the car on a wet track, 54.452 was a time to be proud of.
Pea soup was on the menu on Sunday with a very foggy Brands Hatch circuit which meant for a cold and soggy track. It seemed that Ash’s wish for a wet track was granted as we set out on wet tyres. However, it wasn’t quite wet enough for his liking and a dry line soon appeared around the track. This didn’t play into our hands and although Ash got the holeshot off the start line, he and Senna soon started to struggle on the wet tyres and were being passed by their fellow competitors out on slicks, although not before Senna had moved up the order to 13th place. Ash eventually finished the race in 9th with Senna dropping back down the order to end the race in 17th.
The on-track conditions were much the same for race two and this time around both Ash and Senna would be on the Prime Soft Option tyre. Once again both drivers made great starts and were quickly making up places. Before long Ash was up to 3rd with Senna up to 13th and then came a stellar move from Ash on Tom Chilton placing him in 2nd. With 13 laps to go Senna was through to an outstanding 10th position, which he would hold until the end of the race. Ash was through into the lead and was now fending off the advances by the new BMW of Andrew Jordan who eventually snatched the place from Ash with a power run on the start finish straight and leaving Ash back to follow him home in 2nd for the teams maiden podium of the season. Both drivers had an awesome drive and showed what the Subaru Levorg is made of. It wasn’t the only piece of silverware that we picked up as Subaru UK were awarded the Manufacturers Trophy for the top scoring team in race two.
Reverse grid draw was made for race three and with the number 11 ball being drawn Senna would be set to start the race from 2nd on the grid and Ash with 10th.
The conditions changed slightly for the third and final race of the day with the track now a dry one. Senna got a rocket start off the line but was forced out wide at Druids and then consequently received a tap at Graham Hill Bend sending him into a spin. Although Senna managed to re-join the race albeit at the back of the pack. Ash Also made another textbook start and was up to 8th a position that he held until lap 11 when contact at the back of his Subaru Levorg sent him in a spin at Graham Hill Bend and into the tyre wall causing rear end damage. Ash also managed to re-join the race and found himself in a lowly 24th place when he was shown the black and orange mechanical defect flag, signalling that he would need to come in for repairs. After a quick visit to the pits Ash was soon back out on track and was now right at the back of the field bringing his battle-scarred Subaru Levorg home in 25th, just behind Senna in 22nd.
Overall a very positive start for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing and we left the weekend with Ash running in 7th and Senna 17th in the Drivers Championship. Subaru sit 3rd in the Manufacturers standings with BMR currently 7th in the Teams Championship.
Next time out we visit Donington Park on the weekend of the 27th and 28th April.
Team Manager, Micky Sergeant gives us his thoughts on the weekend:
“Firstly as always, thanks and praise to all the team behind the scenes for their hard work and sleepless nights in the weeks and months preceding the first race weekend of the year.
A restructure of roles over the winter has strengthened the engineering team and the addition of young charger Senna alongside our “veteran” former champion Ash means we start the season with a pair of fast talented drivers capable of running at the sharp end.
Reflecting on the weekends performance and results, I have to say I believe we left Brands with a good foundation for the season. Six classified race results with 100% reliability and zero self-inflicted damage is once again a testament to the drivers and crew.
Changeable conditions in qualy on Saturday afternoon meant Ash could work his magic and claim a first pole position for himself and the Levorg at the Brands Indy circuit, never before in the top ten! Senna equipping himself well too in his first outing on wets in his new RWD Subaru.
Race 1 proved to be the usual tricky opening race weather conditions with the fog slow to lift and rain in the air and on the radar. We have a well thought out philosophy on how to manage the tyre choice in conditions like these and opted for wets along with all the other RWD teams and many of the established FWD teams too. The philosophy was right for the first 4 laps and probably the last 4 if the tyres were still working, however, hindsight will show that a simple gamble for slicks may have worked for the RWD Levorg.
Race 2 gave both Ash and Senna the chance to prove what they could do, both on the soft tyre and making up 7 places a piece to limit the damage from R1. Ash moving from 9th to lead the race briefly, eventually holding on to 2nd as the soft tyres dropped off. Senna moving from 17th to get into the top ten with some intelligent driving and matching his teammates pace further forward.
Race 3 was the story of what could have been, with Senna starting front row and Ash ready to move up from 10th on the reverse grid draw. Sadly, both drivers suffering needless contact but able to recover to classified finishes.
All in all, plenty of positives and potential coming from an opening weekend on a circuit that has never really favoured our car. Chassis set up and new bodywork package working well and the work never stops to find the ultimate pace. But confident we are in the mix and can be competitive on some of the more favourable circuits and that we no doubt have two young, fast, talented and professional drivers who are hungry to win and the mindset to do it.”
“It was a positive weekend for me, the mixed conditions made it a difficult weekend especially for my first time in the Subaru Levorg. It was an up and down weekend in terms of results, but I believe we have proved we can run near the sharp end in the Subaru. We will reset and go again at Donington Park in a few weeks time.
I must say a big thanks to all the guys at BMR they did a great job all weekend and have worked tirelessly over winter to improve the car.”
“It was great to start the season with a pole position due to the heavens opening. The car felt mega in comparison to Knockhill last year so that shows the work the boys have done over winter has paid off!
Come race day we were stuck in that sticky situation where we were forced to go to the wet tyres on a drying track to reduce our level of risk. Starting from pole was always going to be hard to convert into a win when some front wheel drive cars had put slicks on.
We fought back in race two, starting P9 and claiming our way back to the front, we led the race for a few laps but didn’t have the straight line pace to match the BMW.
I was really disappointed with the result of race three, we could have had three solid finishes but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I was turned around on the way down from Druids by a car that squeezed its way back on track. This left us in the barriers with a lot of damage, we managed to bring it home but outside of the points.”
Written by Maddy Turner, BMR Racing
Photos by Jakob Ebrey Photography