Adrian Flux Subaru Racing brought the curtain down on the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit last weekend with a spectacular podium winning performance from Ash Sutton in the final race.
Heading into the finale and sitting in 4th position in the overall driver's championship Ash was setting his sights on 3rd place but try as he might luck was against him with dramas during qualifying and race one. He did, however, finish on a high with fine performances in the last two races of the season.
On Saturday Ash dominated the timing screens during the first free practice session with Jason finishing in the top half of the field in 16th.
The second free practice session was looking good for Ash with him being the 2nd quickest out on circuit but in the last ten minutes of the session, disaster struck for Ash who was on a flying lap when the throttle body failed on his Subaru Levorg sending him into the barriers at Paddock Hill Bend at high speed.
Thankfully other than receiving bruising Ash was ok but the Levorg needed a complete new front end and with only two and a half hours until qualifying commenced the team had a mammoth task on their hands to get the car fixed.
In true BMR style, the team pulled together and amazingly had the car ready to go just in time bar the first 5 minutes of the session. As soon as the tyres were up to temperature Ash set a quick time but that was then disallowed due to track limits. We then had to visit the pits due to the transponder not working so that cost us even more time. With all this against him Ash still produced a great lap securing him of 10th on the grid.
Jason struggled with balance on the car but still managed a good position of 13th for the first of Sundays three races.
Basking under the autumnal sunshine, both drivers elected to use the soft option tyre for race one and it was lights out for the first time in asking. Both drivers got a good start, however, Ash’s run of bad luck wasn’t over as he immediately received contact from Chris Smiley at Druids causing damage that forced him to retire from the race. The team were devastated, this was the first time in the entire season that Ash hasn’t been able to finish a race and the result dropped him down a place in the championship standings to 5th.
Jason finished the race in 18th.
Ash would start race two from the back of the grid in 30th and we knew he’d be determined to get into a point scoring position and he didn’t fail to deliver. He had an awesome race using the Grand Prix track corners to do what he does best. With the assistance of having no success ballast on the car he nipped past his competitors and finished the race in an outstanding 8th place, a massive 22 positions gained!
Jason finished the race in 17th position and although Colin Turkington went off the circuit on Paddock Hill after contact with Lloyd the race two result meant that he had a lead of 23 points which was too great for anyone else to match and so was crowned 2018 BTCC Champion.
With number ten confirmed for the reverse grid draw, it was Josh Cook in the Vauxhall Astra that was promoted to the prime pole position for the last race of the day which would mean that Ash would start from third. With Ash and Josh being former teammates, we knew we’d be in for a treat.
With the lights out for the final race of 2018 it was a good clean start for all, but it was Rob Austin in the Alfa Romeo that took the lead from second on the grid with Ash soon finding himself back in 4th behind Tom Chilton in the Ford Focus.
Cook soon snatched the lead back from Austin and it wasn’t long before Ash got up the inside of Chilton to take third and then Austin to take second.
What remained was a true outgoing champion drive with an enthralling race battle with Cook with the lead switching between the two of them. On the very last lap Ash was trying every which way to find a way past but wasn’t successful and on the final turn onto the start-finish straight it was Cook that was still in the lead but with Ash’s never give up attitude he amazingly managed to get side by side with cook along with straight and just have his nose past him on the line sealing the victory but just 0.032 of a second.
What an end to the season Ash took the 20th win and the 40th podium for Subaru in just three years of being a manufacturer in the championship as well as finishing fourth in the overall driver standings.
We would like to thank our fans, sponsors and everyone in the team for their tremendous efforts this year and we have already started our plans for 2019, we will be back and we have some very big intentions. Watch this space!
Ash Sutton Commented: "Brands Hatch was all about signing the season off with on a positive note! The pace we set in both free practice seasons was a very good start to doing exactly that! Unfortunately we had a curve ball thrown in the mix after I had an accident into paddock hill bend. The throttle body failed and sent me sailing into the barrier at some speed!
"Straight away we knew we had a fight on our hands getting the car ready for qualifying. The BMR boys did a Stirling job and having a complete front end with engine sat in the truck, meant the rebuild time was at least halved! Despite not having enough time to complete dial a setup onto the car we still managed to finish up P10 ready for Sunday.
"Sunday didn’t get off to a great start after being taken out at turn two and having to limp it home and retire. This meant we now had a big job on our hands, we started P30 on the grid and had a mega charge through the field to get up to 8th! This placed us perfectly for the reverse grid. Race three suddenly looked like the prime opportunity to end the season on a high, starting third on the grid. This was one of my best races to date in my career, after a 12 lap battle with Josh Cook it said to be one of the best BTCC races in this period. Some clear hard, far, racing which ended with a drag race to the line where we just managed to pip josh by 0.032 for the win.
"The perfect way to sign the season off and at the same time display the number one on the car in the best possible way!"
BMR Racing Team Principal, Warren Scott commented: “What an amazing end to the season, Ash has been the star of the paddock again this year with many outstanding performances and although we didn’t clinch the title for him he is a true champion in our eyes.
“2018 hasn’t been easy, but the team have performed outstandingly and have continuously fought against all odds again this year, so my sincere thanks go to every single one of them. Huge thanks must also go to our title sponsor Adrian Flux Insurance Services and the backing from Subaru UK, Autoglym and all of our technical sponsors, thank you for being on board with us again this year. Lastly, I would like to thank the track marshals for their hard work in keeping us safe and the fans for their continued support without any of you there would be no BTCC.”
Gerry Bucke, General Manager of Adrian Flux Insurance Services commented: "The final race of the BTCC season perfectly summed up the team spirit and gutsy performances of Ashley Sutton and Jason Plato this year.
"Despite Ash not being able to retain the BTCC championship title, we can be proud of the way he conducted himself this season. Even the final race was a close finish, and congratulations to Ash who clinched victory at the very last second by just 0.032s.
"Another positive is the immense support from fans throughout the season. It has certainly been a rollercoaster of highs and lows - and the entire team now deserve a well-earned break before racing starts up again in April."
Paul Tunnicliffe, Automotive Development Director, Subaru UK commented: “We went into the weekend knowing that the championship was sadly out of reach but that did not mean that we were there to make up the numbers, the team worked relentlessly to ensure the best possible results and nobody bothered to tell ash Sutton that there was nothing to fight for. His drive in the final race was little short of inspiring and bodes well for an aggressive assault on the championship in 2019 from Subaru. We can’t wait!”
Paul Caller, Chief Executive Officer of Autoglym commented: “It was great for the team to end the season on a high with such a great performance at Brands Hatch. Ash’s impressive and entertaining display of driving in the second and third races were nothing short of outstanding. A very positive end to what has been another enjoyable season in the BTCC.”
Written by Maddy Turner
Images by Greg Toth Photography