Adrian Flux Subaru Racing achieved better than expected results at Thruxton this past weekend with Ashley Sutton finishing in the points in all three races, which included a podium position in race 3 after crossing the line in third, as his younger teammate Senna Proctor also picked up points in the final encounter.
Built in the 60’s the Old School Thruxton Circuit has always been a tricky hunting ground for the rear wheel drive Subaru Levorg, and the plan was to keep out of trouble and bank as many points as possible to keep us in a comfortable position in the championship tables following the third weekend on the BTCC calendar.
Qualifying well at the fastest circuit on the BTCC calendar was vital for us on Saturday afternoon and with Ash leading the championship standings, the extra 54kgs of success ballast was always going to take its toll, and as for Senna his first weekend in the Subaru around the 2.36 mile circuit was always going to be a tough one, and the pressure was on.
With rain predicted all week in the run-up to the event, the whole team and both drivers were upbeat about their coming weekend, as the rain can always throw up some unexpected results and with that comes the fact that the success ballast doesn’t hamper a car's performance and both boys always excel in wet weather conditions.
However, when Saturday came the sun came out and everyone in the team had to dig deep to get some good results and they did just that. It wasn’t an easy session and with 30 cars out on track for the 30-minute session it really could have been anyone who ended up on pole position as 24 fastest laps were disallowed throughout the session as many fell foul to the track limits rule at the chicane. It’s a difficult one to call as it’s a very fine line and is judged by the human eye of the officials. Then just as the session was due to end the red flag was brought out to halt proceedings after Mark Blundell’s Audi and Tom Chilton’s Ford Focus had a coming together at the chicane, which resulted in heavy impact into the barriers for the latter. At this point, there was no surety whether or not there would be time for the session to be re-started when the call came that there would be a final five-minute shoot out as soon as the barriers were made safe again. When the five minutes were done the boys in the garage were full of smiles as Ash had bagged an almighty 7th place with Senna in 20th, less than a second off the pace of the pole sitter.
For the first of Sunday’s three races both Ash and Senna made great starts as the lights went out, with Ash soon finding himself defending from the Honda Civic of Mat Neal as the duo ran side-by-side going through Church corner and on the straight up Woodham Hill and into the Chicane at the end of lap 7, with Ash coming out on top until Neal finally passed two laps later after pulling the same move he had previously attempted, only this time with a little bit of paint trading between the duo and Ash having take a little bit of grass with Neal having to cut through the chicane to avoid any further contact. In all fairness Neal had no other option, as overnight the officials had placed a tyre stack at the chicane to avoid any “track limits” issues that had occurred in qualifying the previous day. For the next couple of laps Ash encountered more pressure from behind, only this time it was the Vauxhall’s Astra of Rob Collard who was piling on the pressure and he finally made the move stick placing Ash in 9th, a place he would hold until the checkered flag fell at the end of lap 16.
During the opening laps Senna had also lost a couple of positions and was soon back on the attack of Jack Goff’s Volkswagen CC and although he put up a strong fight, he just didn’t have the speed to take the position back and took the flag in 22nd place.
Andrew Jordan took the win in his BMW as his teammate Colin Turkington finished 4th. Turkington’s 4th place finish was enough to secure him the championship lead by just a single point from Ash.
For Race Two Ash would lose 48kgs of success ballast due to his first race finishing position and would now carry just 6kgs, whilst Senna would remain weight free.
Once again, the Subaru Levorgs were good off the line and by the end of the first lap Ash had made up a place to 8th whilst Senna had held his position. At the end of Lap 2 there was a coming together between Chris Smiley and Ollie Jackson which resulted in Senna inheriting a couple of places and up to 19th.
At the halfway point of the race the rain finally started to fall, although not enough for BMR’s liking and both the Levorg’s struggled with the Thruxton pace. Once again Ash lost a couple of places at The Complex to Rob Collard and Tom Ingram and dropped back to 10th. Subsequently, Senna had also dropped a place and was now back to where he had started the day in 20th. Driving to the absolute limit, Ash had a couple of hair-raising moments through Church, the fastest corner in British motorsport, and somehow managed to claw a place back from Collard at the Chicane and back through into a fine 9th position.
There was last lap drama for Stephen Jelley and Aiden Moffat which Senna capitalised on once again and grabbed two positions by nipping up the inside of both and into 18th before gaining an additional place and taking the checkered flag in 17th. Ash dropped back two places after getting caught up on the back of Ingram and crossed the line in 11th, banking a handful of points in the process. The race was once again headed by the BMW of Jordan. Post-race Chilton was handed a penalty for a start line infringement which promoted Senna to 16th.
The race three reverse grid draw was made by Former McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, who selected ball number 11 placing Ash on pole position for the third and final encounter of the day.
With rain in the air the lights went out and the cars left the grid for the final time of asking. Ash got a good start however Josh Cook, who was alongside him on the front row of the grid, got a better run on the inside line and took the lead of the race. Senna also got a good start until he had to take to the grass due to a sideways Collard who collected the Mercedes of Adam Morgan in the process. Unfortunately, Senna lost a place in the process, dropping him back to 17th. The safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken machine of Morgan with the race being restarted on lap 5, as officials extended the race to 19 laps. Shortly after the restart the Honda of Rory Butcher found a way past Ash dropping him into 3rd and Senna started to claw his way back up the order and into 16th and on the verge of a point scoring position. The safety car then returned on lap 9 following drama for Carl Boardley and Rob Smith which left debris on the track. The race resumed once again on lap 12 with both Adrian Flux Subaru Racing drivers getting good restarts as Senna made his way through into 14th place. Ash eventually crossed the line in 3rd, behind race winner Cook and second placed Butcher, grabbing his fourth podium of the season, with Senna also finishing in the points in 15th place after losing a place at the end of the race to Tom Chilton.
Ash now sits 4th in the Championship standings just 5 points adrift of joint leaders Turkington and Butcher. Subaru are 3rd in the Manufacturers table and Adrian Flux Subaru Racing sit 6th in the Teams Championship.
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Quotes:
Ashley Sutton – “We knew Thruxton was going to be our weakest of them all so it was just about trying to bring it home and bag some points. I feel we overachieved in qualifying which showed in the races as I wasn’t able to maintain my positions. Both races one and two where very tough, no matter what I did I just couldn’t make progress and was on the limit. We were lucky enough to be pulled from the hat and secured pole for the final race, that was our chance to make up for the points we lost to our rivals and claw something back. I knew we weren’t going to be able to stay out in front but loosing as few places as possible was the aim.”
Senna Proctor – “A tough weekend, all in all with what we had I think we did an ok job I was closer to Ash than I ever have been so that gives me good confidence going forward. Yes, the racing was difficult, but we will bounce back and do everything in our power to try and have a successful Croft and hopefully bring home some trophies.”
Gerry Bucke, General Manager at Adrian Flux Insurance - "It's a testament to the hard work of the team and the prowess of our two young drivers that we managed to score vital points at a circuit which some people hadn't given us much hope for.
"For Ash to sit just five points from the championship leaders heading into Croft is simply unbelievable, and we cannot wait to show what we're made of in North Yorkshire."
Paul Tunnicliffe of Subaru UK – “Uncharacteristically, Thruxton was very kind to us this weekend, and we enter the next phase of the championship very handily placed. Well within striking distance of the lead, and with our best circuits still to come. This year has seen our best ever start to a campaign. Ash is in excellent form, ably supported by a fast-improving Senna Proctor, don’t bet against us being in contention come the final stages.”
You can catch up with the Thruxton highlights on ITV4 on Saturday 25th May at 4.15pm, Sunday 26th May at 7.00am and finally on ITV1 on Wednesday 29th May at 11.45pm
Next time out we visit Senna’s home track at Croft in North Yorkshire on the weekend of the 15th and 16th June for rounds 10, 11 and 12.
Written by Maddy Turner
Photos by Jakob Ebrey