Access All Areas 7. Ashley Sutton's Rise Into The Touring Car Stratosphere
There are very few racing drivers that hold respect for achievements so early in their career but Ash Sutton is well regarded as the Ultimate Touring Car driver. Mainly because he has had success everywhere he has driven. From MG Racing RCIB Insurance in 2016, Ash's first season in BTCC, to Napa Racing UK in this current 2022 season.
Coming from the Touring Car breeding ground, the Renault Clio Cup, Ash was well ad versed to wheel-to-wheel racing in the one make series. where Ash was also a serial winner and only 4 times finishing outside of the top 3, winning 6 races out of 19 in the 2015 season.
Ash really did show his pedigree early on and was snapped up by the MG Racing RCIB Insurance racing the MG6 GT with Josh Cook as his team mate who was still new to the BTCC himself. Ash had a difficult first half of the season until visiting the Yorkshire circuit, Croft where Ash had his best meeting of the season, finishing 3rd, 5th and a maiden win in the last race of the day. Ash had announced himself into the BTCC limelight. The rest of the season wasn't the heights of the success at Croft but it gave Warren Scott, Team Owner, enough to see that Ash was the future of Touring Car racing and signed him up for a total of three years at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, driving the Levorg GT alongside BTCC Legend and TV personality Jason Plato as Ash's team mate.
While Jason struggled to get to grips with the Levorg, Ash was making his name a force to be reckoned with in the rear-wheel drive Subaru. After the first 4 races, 3 at Brands Hatch and 1 at Donington Park, Ash rarely found himself outside the top 6 and went on an 8 race streak of finishing inside the Top 4. By the seasons end, Ash had accrued 372 points with 6 race wins and 15 podiums in 30 races, meaning in his second full season racing in the pinnacle of UK motorsport, Ash Sutton won is maiden BTCC Championship title. and also became the youngest BTCC Champion since John Fitzpatrick in 1966.
Going into the final race weekend of the season, it was all to play for as there were only 22 points between Ash and rear-wheel drive specialist Colin Turkington who is also a BMW stalwart and already a 2 time BTCC Champion. Qualifying couldn't of been more different for the two title rivals with Ash starting a lot further ahead on the grid than Colin. Ash had the upper hand by qualifying in 3rd place for race 1 while Colin was starting in 17th place and with all the work to do. Race day was very unpredictable with the weather as Race 1 was dry/damp. Would it rain harder? Would the heavy weather stay away? As good as Turkington is, the BMW has tended to struggle with in between conditions and this race wouldn't be any different, while Ash was driving his own race, trying to attack but not too aggressively as he had a mega points advantage. Race 1 of 3 finished with Ash on the podium in 3rd and Colin scoring a single point for finishing in 15th place. Ash had one hand on the trophy but Colin wasn't about to give up easily, and this was BTCC after all...
Starting Race 2, the penultimate race of the season, with a dry track, Colin had one of the famous RWD launches off of the line and carved his way through the field, whereas Ash was really struggling with his Levorg, I think Ash was maybe thinking about the title or maybe he couldn't get the tires switched on but he was sliding down the order and rather quickly. Then came the moment that the fans were waiting for, the pair were together on track and Colin was behind Ash into the first corner (more like a corner on a cliff), Paddock Hill Bend and Colin got a much better run in the compression and dived to the right to make the most of the momentum he had, Ash tried to cover the move by driving to the right too. Contact was made between the duelling rivals, Colin found himself with two wheels off on the grass and 2 on the tarmac but was determined to make the most of this opportunity and made the move into Druids hairpin. Unfortunately for Ash, Colin continued to drive like a man possessed and kept making moves on the field and gaining points on Ash. Colin then overtook Tom Chilton in his PMR Vauxhall Astra, Championship stalwart and 3 time BTCC Champion Matt Neal in his Honda Civic Type R, Tom Ingram in his Toyota Avensis, Gordon Shedden who was Matt Neal's team mate and also a 3 time BTCC Champion, Mat Jackson in his Ford Focus ST and Race 1 winner Aiden Moffat in his Mercedes A Class, unbelievably for the race lead! Although somewhat questionably with a 'push to pass' move on Aidens bumper just to ease him out of the way and off line. At the close of Race 2 there was a massive overhaul of points by Colin and we were back to the same difference as there was at the start of the meeting, just 22 points. As if there wasn't enough drama, for the third and final race of the day and indeed the 2017 Championship, Race 3 for the BTCC, the grid is decided by a reverse grid draw where a selected random number is picked and the number picked gets promoted to pole position for that race. The first 5 positions are reversed anyway so its positions 6 through 12 that are eligible. Position 10 was pulled from the pot so with Ash finishing the penultimate race in 12th, he will start the final race of the season 2 places behind his title rival. All Ash has to do is not let Colin get too far ahead and shadow him. Turkington had it all to do and make moves while hoping Ash ran into problems. To top it off, the heavens had opened as well!
29 races down and 1 more to go, A soaked track as the lights went out and away we go! Through the first corner, Ash took the wide, wet line and made up 2 places so he was now right behind Colin on the track. Cars and drivers were so tentative on the accelerator, brakes and steering input through lap 1 and on to lap 2. Colin had to take his chances to make up places and sure enough the 2 cars in front of Colin slithered wide at Graham Hill Bend and gave him his opportunity. He got by Tom Ingram on the inside and was on his way past Mat Jackson when disaster struck! Jackson slid wider and was not in sight of Colin when he tried to take the racing line. Jackson was trying to re-join the same piece of track that Colin was trying hard to occupy. Colin's BMW and Mats Ford collided, Mats left front wheel hit Colin's right rear wheel and instantly broke the suspension. Colin's title attempt was left in tatters and heartbreak. As for Ash, he just had to keep his nose clean and cross the finish line, but in true Ash Sutton style, that want enough, he finished the final race of the season in 3rd place AND THE 2017 BTCC CHAMPION!
The second and third seasons at Subaru were more challenging for Ash, while in 2018 he amassed the same amount of wins as his previous championship winning season. However, the level of consistency in the result just wasn't there in the higher points finishes. a 4th and an 8th placed finish in the final Championship standings for Ash in the 2018 season. In 2019, Ash was to fair even worse by finishing 8th in the standings with 6 podiums and 1 single win on to the career tally. It was time for a new start and boy what a decision it was!
2020, the year everything changed for everyone! When the powers that be told us we could go racing again Ash had already signed for a new team, Laser Tools Racing and would be piloting another RWD rocket ship, the Infiniti Q50. This car suited Ash's mentality of attack attack attack! and driving style. He could put the car in positions just where he wanted to overtake that seemed like witchcraft to seasoned professionals and TV pundits alike. Even with a truncated season, 27 of 30 rounds actually raced, Ash became a 2 time BTCC Champion with 5 wins and only 7 times finishing outside the top 5 and only twice outside the points. 2021 was sure to be a repeat of 2020 with Ash continuing in the Infiniti Q50 and with Laser Tools Racing, consistency was the key as Ash didn't win as many races but managed to score high points on a regular basis when rivals failed to do so and even managed to secure the Championship with a race to spare.
And so on to the current 2022 season. Not one to hide from a challenge, Ash is chasing a 4th BTCC Championship and 3 in a row putting his name with past and current legends Colin Turkington and Andy Rouse. If Ash manages to secure that 4th title, surely he has to be regarded as the Ultimate Touring Car Driver as he is in the FWD Napa Racing UK Ford Focus. As of writing this we are 9 races down and Ash is sitting 2nd in the standings having scored 3 3rds at Thruxton and now on to Oulton Park in Cheshire, where Ash hopes to close in on buddy Josh Cook, who is leading the way.
As long as Ash Sutton continues to let the fire burn inside him, there is no reason why he couldn't rewrite the history books in BTCC. So early in his career, Ash has amassed 3 Championship titles and after already scoring 24 race wins, Jason Plato's 97 win (as of writing this) record is certainly within touching distance. However with chargers like Josh Cook, Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan in the fray, there are plenty of wing mirrors to be falling off, plenty of panels to be beaten and replaced. Immortality is just around the corner! This is your mission... should you choose to accept it!