Adrian Flux Subaru Racing made a dramatic return to the second half of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton last weekend (3-4 August), as Ashley Sutton and Senna Proctor both endured a tricky weekend to say the least.
After the two free practice sessions from earlier in the day on Saturday, both drivers showed a lack of pace and it was clear that the Subaru Levorg’s were the slowest cars in all three of the speed traps, therefore we headed into qualifying fully aware that our positions for race one would be absolutely crucial to set us up for Sundays racing. It was always going to be a tough one, however we knew we had to pull out all the stops and extract the absolute maximum from both drivers and cars to place us as high up the grid as we could achieve.
Sitting 5th in the championship standings, and therefore carrying 30 kgs of success ballast on board his Levorg, Ash lapped the 2.97 mile twisty Norfolk circuit in a time of 1m 55.986s which would unfortunately only be good enough for 18th position after his best run was disallowed for track limits. For 20-year-old Senna, whose Levorg was ballast free, a best time of 1m 56.686s would position him 23rd on the grid. It was Tom Ingram that was on pole-position.
A sun drenched Snetterton greeted the Subaru factory squad on Sunday morning and things were made a little more interesting by Dunlop with the drivers having to manage three different tyre options in each of the days three races, with a choice of soft, medium and hard compound Dunlop rubber. The softs are quickest by half a second, with medium being half a second quicker than the hard tyre, the choices would not need to be made until the cars left for pit lane on their way to join the grid.
Both Ash and Senna opted to use the hard and slowest tyre for the first race of the day, mainly to get it out of the way and make progress as the day unfolded.
Both drivers made a great getaway as the lights went out for the opening encounter. Ash made up places on the first lap and was up to 15th as Senna also made up a place and into 22nd. On lap 2 Matt Neal retired his Honda following contact from the Ford of Ollie Jackson, handing a further place to both BMR drivers.
Both Ash and Senna held station for the next few laps until lap 6 when Tom Chilton crashed out at Coram with a puncture in the Ford ending his race. On the same lap drama also struck for Adam Morgan in the Mercedes meaning both Subaru’s gained another two vital positions.
It wasn’t long before Ash was up to 12th with Senna hounding the back of new car on the block, the Infinit of Aiden Moffat. Both Moffat and Senna soon capitalised on the struggling Honda of Josh Cook and Senna was now up to 19th.
On the final lap Senna was involved in some great on track action battling for the 16th place with the Volkswagen of Jack Goff, Moffat’s Infiniti and the BMW of Tom Oliphant and although the four were separated by less than a second he could only manage a finishing place of 19th. There were some welcome points for Ash who took the flag in 12th and a position gained in the championship standings, now back up to 4th.
A great job done by the BMR pair with the hard tyre out of the way.
For race two Ash would line up in 12th on the grid with Senna 19th, although before the lights had even gone out Senna was up to 18th after the demise of Jack Goff who had brought his Volkswagen CC back into pit lane. Ash was now on the medium tyre with Senna opting to use the soft compound rubber in an attempt to move himself further up the grid in the hope of a better position for the race three grid reversal.
As the lights went out for the second time of asking, both Ash and Senna made up a place each to 11th and 17th respectively, positions they would hold until lap 5 when there was contact between Josh Cook in the Honda and Stephen Jelley in the BMW causing a concertina effect with Senna receiving both front and rear damage which subsequently ended his race.
Ash made a pass on Rory Butcher in another of the Honda’s for 10th on Lap 7 and then on the next corner found his way into 8th as his rivals were slowed by a struggling Ingram in the Toyota, who was now struggling on the hard tyre. Gaining a final place at the end of the race Ash crossed the line in 7th and remained 4th in the overall championship standings.
The reverse grid draw was made and the number 8 ball drawn placing Chris Smiley on pole-position with Ash starting from 2nd and on the favoured soft tyre with Senna starting from 27th on the medium compound.
The last race of the day was bound to be a memorable one with Smiley in the Honda in front and ex-teammate Plato alongside Ash in 3rd, the plan would be for Ash to get out in front and try and build a lead although with the Subaru’s lack of pace it wasn’t going to be an easy task. For Senna he would be giving it his all to fight his way through the pack.
Ash got a great start and was alongside the Honda as they went down towards Riches but it was Smiley who led into the first corner with Ash being hung out to dry on the outside. Plato was now up alongside Smiley with Ash back to 3rd at turn three briefly before getting past Smiley again and back into 2nd once more.
Senna had already made up a few places on the start and then capitalised on the demise of those around him as he narrowly missed the carnage of Jelley and the Volkswagen CC’s of Carl Boardley and Micheal Crees and was now up to 22nd.
By the time Ash had reached Oggies on the second lap he had caught up with race leader Plato on the hard tyre and although he was quicker on the corners, he was once again slower on the straights and therefore any momentum made was soon lost again.
Ash was trying every which way to pass Plato but was biding his time and not taking too many risks. It was lap 5 that Ash made an attempt to pass at Hamilton and was pushed out wide. Ash was on the outside line for the next corner, was late on the brakes and had his nose out in front when there was contact from Plato forcing Ash out wide once again, forcing him onto the grass allowing Smiley back through into 2nd. A desperate Ash cut to the inside at Palmers on the following lap and nipped back past Smiley to retake the 2nd spot and once again go on the attack to hunt down Plato who was still leading the race.
Senna meanwhile was having his own fight and was through to an amazing 17th.
Lap 7 saw Ash make another attempt to pass his old teammate at the end of the start finish straight and again had his nose out in front but couldn’t make the move stick as he was again forced out wide and onto the grass. However, Ash persevered and on the next corner made the move stick and went through to take the lead. Jason wasn’t going to give up that easily though and at Agostini contact was made with Ash to make a pass back inside and Plato retook the lead. Ash had another go at the next corner and once again was pushed out wide again in a bid to avoid contact.
Ash now found himself having to defend from Rory Butcher in the Honda, who was much quicker in a straight line and managed to hold him off until lap 9 where he, Ash and Plato were three abreast under the bridge where Jason turned Ash around and off the circuit narrowly missing his oncoming competitors as his Levorg ran backwards along the track. Butcher went through to take the lead with Jason losing out and back to 4th. Ash managed to re-join the race although all the way down the order in 23rd.
Will all the focus being on those out in front the commentators had failed to notice that Senna was up to an astonishing 10th having made up 12 places. However, disaster struck once again on the final laps after contact with Matt Simpson with the damaged forcing Senna to retire his Subaru Levorg to the pits with more damage,
Ash left Snetterton having dropped to 6th in the overall championship standings, Subaru sit 3rd in the Manufacturers championship and Adrian Flux Subaru Racing sit 7th in the Teams table.
Next up in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship is a return visit to Thruxton on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of August.
Gerry Bucke, Adrian Flux General Manager – “Once again the team and both drivers managed to get results from a tricky qualifying session, as they worked incredibly hard to overcome hurdles throughout the weekend and deserved many more points than they collected on race day. In terms of entertainment, Snetterton seems to be on everyone's lips with people desperate for more action-packed races and less single-team dominance than we've seen so far in 2019”.
Senna Proctor – “Snetterton was a challenging meeting for all at Team BMR, the pace on Saturday was not so good for both cars and the reasons for that are clear. We made the best out of a bad situation and both Ash and I were around the 20th mark.
“Come race day the tyre choices we made were the right ones getting the hard tyre out of the way to then receive contact in race 2 putting us out and undoing all of our hard work, race 3 we started 27th and fought our way up to 10th before once again receiving contact on the rear causing extensive damage and meaning I had to retire the car again after such a brilliant comeback and many overtakes.
"Our Sunday on track performance was hindered by actions out of our control on both sides of the garage, all in all we did the best job we could and everyone at Team BMR did a fantastic job as ever."
Ashley Sutton - “After qualifying down the field we came up with a strategy that would hopefully mean we would be in the mix and on the right tyre for race three, which paid off. Races one and two were tough but I managed to stay out of trouble and utilise the cars strengths to make progress.
“Getting drawn on front row of the reverse grid and with the soft tyre, whilst those around us were on the hard compound, couldn’t have been better. I gave it absolutely everything in race three; kept it clean whilst battling for the lead, gave racing room, etc - but that still wasn’t seemingly enough as it came to an end through no fault of our own.
“I can’t thank the team enough; they’ve worked their socks off all weekend and deserved a result in that last one. We go back to Thruxton in a few weeks and that will likely be tough for us given the characteristics of that circuit, but we’ll do our best to bounce back from this weekend and keep fighting.”
Written by Maddy Turner
Image by Jakob Ebrey