We arrived at the historic Kent circuit with both Ash and Senna setting their sights on finishing their 2019 campaigns on a high and both were still hungry for their first win of the season.
The most important qualifying session of the season was a wet one that was twice interrupted by red flags. It proved to be another competitive affair and Ash was victorious in setting the 2nd fastest lap time in his Subaru Levorg behind pole man Colin Turkington in the BMW, with Senna setting a time that would sit him 15th on the grid for the first of Sunday’s three races.
The final countdown was upon us and there were three main contenders for the title, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan in BMW’s and Dan Cammish in the Honda. Josh Cook and Tom Ingram still had a mathematical chance of taking the crown, however, with the points deficit it would be a big ask. BMR had our own agenda…… that top step of the podium!
Ash, with 6kgs on success ballast, was on the front row next to championship contender Turkington who was running with full ballast and Senna lined up in the middle of the pack in 15th. The conditions were the worst they could possibly be with an extremely greasy track and the only real certainty was that it was going to make for an interesting fifteen lap race.
Both Ash and Senna had pre-selected to run the Dunlop soft option tyre for race one, there was a dry line and no rain was forecast for the immediate future.
The lights were out for the first race of the day and Ash made a rocket start off the line and into the lead for Paddock Hill bend with Turkington on his tail in 2nd and Jordan right behind in 3rd. Senna had made an equally impressive start and was up to 12th by the time they reached the end of the first lap.
Jordan meanwhile had lost momentum on the second lap and was back to 5th after Jake Hill and Rory Butcher got the better of him.
Turkington was piling the pressure on Ash and took the race lead on Lap 4 up the inside at Druids. It was now elbows out as Ash stayed with him whilst also now defending from Butcher in the Honda. Senna meanwhile was a man on a mission and now up to 10th having made up 5 places in as many laps.
Then came the first safety car period after Matt Simpson ended up in the tyre barrier at Paddock Hill Bend. On the same lap Cook made an exit from the points after losing the rear, firing him across the track and narrowly missing his oncoming competitors, eventually regaining control and continuing in the race. It proved to be a lengthy safety car period as barriers would need repairing along with Simpsons Honda being retrieved. And then came the rain! A few drivers visited the pits for wet tyres however the front runners with a little more to lose remained on slicks.
The safety car came in at the end of lap 10 and as they were racing once again, the Honda of Butcher got the better run on Ash on the start finish straight taking the second place position. With the rain continuing the front wheel drive cars were making progress as the rear wheel drive machines started to struggle with the conditions which resulted in Hill gaining a place on Ash dropping and him down to 4th and in turn Butcher then took the lead from Turkington.
A lap later there was another change up front as Hill then took the 2nd spot from Turkington and Cammish nipped past Ash subsequently dropping him down to 5th. There was then contact between Ash and Ingram which resulted in Ash losing another 2 places to Jordan and Mike Bushell.
Further down the field Senna was doing a sterling job and had gained another position, now running in 9th but with Jack Goff now sitting on his rear bumper he slipped back to 10th and moments later ended up in the gravel at Surtees and was well and truly beached.
Lap 15 brought another change as championship contender Cammish then took a crucial 2nd place from a sideways Hill at Graham Hill Bend as fellow contender Turkington also got through and was now back up to 3rd. A lap later Cammish then got the run on Butcher and took the race lead. As the rain got heavier, Ash continued to struggle with the conditions and was now back to 8th.
Matt Neal was suddenly amongst the front runners after fighting his way through the field and was now running in 3rd position taking Tom Chilton through with him and in turn dropping Turkington down to 5th on the final lap. Neal continued to power through and took the 2nd spot from the Independents Championship leader Butcher taking Chilton with him for 3rd at the chequered flag.
Ash crossed the line in 11th cementing his spot for the penultimate round.
Turkington’s 5th place finish secured his lead in the championship standings although Camish was now just 8 points short.
Race 2 once again brought about the worse conditions with the track being greasy and so we took the decision for both of the Adrian Flux Subaru Levorgs to start on the Dunlop Blue Response wet tyres which were the perfect choice for Nemo!
Once again Ash got a rapid start off the line and was running in 8th by the time they got to Druids. Further down the field, there was a coming together for Adam Morgan, Jack Goff and Tom Oliphant which thankfully Senna avoided.
Drama then unfolded at Graham Hill Bend as Cammish’s wingman Neal, running in 3rd place, tapped the rear end of the BMW of Turkington sending him into a spin and ultimately ruining the chances of his championship lead as he re-joined the race dead last. Ash, however, had capitalised on the situation and was now running in 4th position.
They were racing again on Lap 6 and Ash and Chilton were side by side at Pilgrims Drop and Ash went through to 3rd as they dropped down to Hawthorns.
A lap later Ash then got by Neal into 2nd and subsequently took the lead from Cammish at Clark Curve. With Ash now having less weight he should now be able to drive away and get out in front to get his first win. Jordan then also made a very brave move on Neal and into 3rd.
Further down the field, Senna was now up to 16th place having made up a very impressive 11 positions.
Mark Blundell then ended up in the gravel at the Paddock Hill Bend causing another safety car period.
Ash controlled the restart perfectly on lap 13 keeping his head down and holding onto the lead with 6 laps remaining and Senna had made up another 2 positions and was now securely in the points in 14th.
A superb race for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing with Ash managing his tyres, holding onto the lead and finally taking his first and well-deserved win of the 2019 season, having made up 10 places from his starting position. Senna continued his charge and crossed the line in 11th place after a very impressive drive making up a total of a staggering 16 positions. Ash’s win also awarded Subaru UK with the Manufacturers award and a delighted Paul Tunnicliffe collected the silverware to add to the collection back at Subaru head office.
2nd place went to Andrew Jordan, 3rd to Dan Cammish and Colin Turkington took the flag all the way down the order in a lowly 25th place. The results meant a change at the top with Cammish now being 8 points ahead of Turkington with Jordan now trailing by an additional 5 points.
The reverse grid draw for race three was made by the legendary Howard Donald from Take That and we were delighted that he picked the number 11 ball placing Senna on pole position for the final race of the day.
The final showdown was upon us and the sun had finally decided to join us. Senna was on pole and ballast-free as Ash was starting from 10th with 54kg of weight and both Subaru Levorgs were on the medium Dunlop tyres.
The lights were out for the final time of 2019 and Stephen Jelley in the BMW got out in front ahead of Senna by the time they reached Paddock Hill and Senna found himself with Jason Plato on his rear bumper. Ash was up to 8th by the end of the opening lap.
Plato was then past Senna on the 2nd lap with Butcher following him through and dropping Senna back to 4th.
Ash had made up another place to 7th on the following lap whilst Senna was fighting hard and back through to 3rd as Jelley went out wide. There was then contact between Senna and the Honda of Cook sending Senna sideways and off the road, he managed to regain control and collected himself to fight back, albeit way down the order.
Ash was soon up to 4th a position he held for a number of laps until he made a move stick on Cook and into 3rd.
With only two laps to go there was drama for Cammish as his brakes failed and his Honda had nowhere to go other than into the barrier at high speed quashing his championship dream. With just over a lap to go the whole championship was turned upside down and it was now between the two BMW’s of Jordan and Turkington. Jordan was running in 5th with Turkington now behind him in 6th after making it through from 25th on the grid.
Ash crossed the line in 3rd to take his 2nd podium of the day with Senna eventually crossing the line in 21st.
Turkington was crowned 2019 BTCC Champion with just 2 points in it. Ash finished 8th in the overall season standings.
It has been a rollercoaster season with both drivers experiencing the highs and lows of the BTCC. None of this would’ve been possible without the support of our loyal fans sponsors Adrian Flux Insurance Services, Subaru UK, Samco Sport, Milltek Sport, Funk Motorsport, K&N Filters, Brown and Geeson, Rolling Rims, Harlequin Teamwear, Hel Performance, HRX and Autoglym.
Senna Proctor - Brands Hatch was a very mixed weekend for myself, we had good pace in the wet however never really got the chance to show that in qualifying with my potential best lap being interrupted with a red flag.
“Race day was no different, full of what could have been. A battle through the pack in race two and to get drawn out on pole for race three was great for all the team and a promising result was on the horizon until contact from another competitor ruined mine and the team’s chances of a podium, after running in 2nd/3rd in the race until the contact was made. Alas, it was not to be. However, we showed great speed this season, we just had no luck.
“A huge thanks must go out to all involved at BMR Racing, they have worked their socks off all year so credit to them and all of our sponsors that make it possible.”
Ashley Sutton - “It’s been a tough season so it is fantastic to round out the year with a win and some more silverware - the team have worked tirelessly throughout so it is a great reward for them all. I was going into the finale wanting to win a race and that is exactly what we achieved!
“We knew we would be strong after qualifying but the weather didn’t help us in race one. In race two though the car was hooked up as soon as the lights went out; I was into third by lap one and then it was just about picking my moments to take the lead.
“Once I got out front it was relatively easy and I can dictate the pace, look after the tyres and bring it home. To finish third in the final race is the cherry on top and the perfect way to sign off 2019.
“It has been no secret that this year has been a frustrating one but we’ve kept pushing and reaped the rewards. It felt great to be in the fight on Sunday! It will be nice to relax for a little while, hit the reset button and then I’ll begin plotting for next year.”
Gerry Bucke, Adrian Flux General Manager - "The season has ended with a very well-deserved first place trophy, a reward for hard work by the whole team over the year and a stellar drive by Ash. Had Senna had more luck he may well have finished his season on a similar high.
All in all, it was a thrilling last day of BTCC for 2019 and that's a great advert for BTCC as a whole. Congratulations to the championship winners Colin Turkington and BMW, and well done to Dan Cammish for making them work hard for their championship until the very last minute."
Paul Tunnicliffe, Subaru UK – “2019 will live in the memory as a campaign that fell short of expectation. Bad luck, along with lack of straight-line speed, plagued us throughout. It was satisfying, therefore, to enjoy the fruits of success at Brands Hatch, even though we were too late to spoil the party for BMW and Honda. Ash showed just what a formidable competitor he is throughout the weekend, and so we were left wondering what might have been.
“Sadly, we have to accept that amendments on rulings mean that the Subaru Levorg may have raced for the last time. The car’s uniqueness brought something different to the grid, which we think connected with people – certainly, there was never any shortage of Subaru road cars in all the car parks.
“Huge thanks must go out to all at BMR, there has certainly been highs and lows, but throughout I have been impressed by the team who have gone about their business and kept focussed on delivering the results.
“Whatever 2020 brings for BMR, I hope it’s successful”.
Warren Scott – “It has been an absolute pleasure to represent Subaru UK over the past four seasons in the BTCC and we are all very disappointed that it has had to come to an end. The results, particularly in 2017, show for themselves that the Subaru Levorg was a superb machine and all of us at BMR are proud of the success we achieved for the Subaru brand.
“Thanks must also go to Adrian Flux Insurance Services for their support again this year, we were honoured to represent the Adrian Flux brand for you one again.
“Last but not least thank you to Ash, Senna and everyone in the team, we didn’t win the championship but we had some superb results to be proud of".