Realistically, it was a two-way battle between championship leader Colin Turkington and Ash Sutton, with a nine-point gap between the pair. Dan Cammish was patiently waiting in the wings to pounce should either of them suffer issues though.
However, once the weather forecast was seen to provide rain and mixed conditions, the pendulum swung firmly in Sutton’s favour and so it proved. It turned out to be a relatively unspectacular Sunday as Sutton claimed his second drivers’ title.
A wet qualifying session on Saturday proved fruitful for Tom Ingram as he claimed the final pole position of the season from Rory Butcher, Sutton and Cammish. Turkington’s BMW with full ballast qualified 8th.
A 10am start on a wet Sunday morning track saw Ingram lead from the line as Sutton made his way up to 2nd and Cammish 3rd. Sutton and Cammish decided to take different lines at the end of the lap, making for interesting viewing as they both then made their way to the normal racing line. It wasn’t long before Cammish made his move on Sutton for 2nd and he was soon on the tail of Ingram. Although he did briefly take the lead, with the aid of a tap, he relinquished it to Ingram to avoid any later penalty.
A safety car on lap 8 for an incident involving Glynn Geddie and Sam Osborne also brought some humorous hand waving and finger pointing, but at the end of lap 11 it was back to the action.
Cammish made his move on Ingram and this time it was legitimate. While he was making hay, Turkington was down in 9th. Sutton meanwhile was closing in on Ingram for 2nd and after a couple of laps of intense pressure, he made his move with a few laps to go with the aid of much better traction off the corners.
As a result of finishing second behind Cammish, Sutton took the championship lead with a two-point gap over Turkington.
The weather improved for the second race and although the majority of the field started the race on slicks, some gambled on wet tyres. Sutton made the better start and took the lead off the line as four cars, including Ingram and Cammish, had an excursion through the gravel. However, by the end of the lap, Tom Chilton, who’d started 11th, had taken the lead on his wet tyres with Andy Neate up from 18th to 5th.
The second laps saw passes all through the field as the cars on the wet tyres had a clear early advantage. By lap 5, it seemed as though things had settled down with Chilton still leading from Sutton, Neate 3rd and Cammish 4th. Turkington, meanwhile, was making slow progress and up to 7th.
It wasn’t long though until the tyres crossed over and the cars with slick tyres started performing from lap 6 onwards. Sutton’s superior grip meant that he was soon able to re-take the lead and he never looked back from then on.
Meanwhile, Turkington and a host of cars all came together on lap 12 and as a result of cars all over, Turkington came out with some front end damage after seeing Jake Hill fly in front of him. Despite the smoke, he seemed fine to continue, but more importantly he was up to 4th.
Turkington set about after Cammish and with a couple of laps remaining, he found his way ahead of him, albeit under dubious circumstances. Paul Rivett’s Audi S3 had spun at Paddock Hill Bend and was in the middle of the track. Turkington overtook Cammish whilst just avoiding T-boning Rivett, but after not seeing the yellow flags, the position was reversed post-race, meaning Sutton had an 11-point lead going into the final race.
Despite it being a full 12 place reverse grid shuffle, Sutton was never under serious pressure, especially as the heavens had opened once again. Sutton’s teammate started on pole, but by lap 3, Butcher was out in front and disappearing with a 3.3 second gap. Turkington was 5th and Sutton 10th.
An incident on lap 4 involving Stephen Jelley surprisingly didn’t bring out a safety car and his car was left in the gravel.
As Sutton made his way forward through the field, Turkington slipped back as his car just could not compete at the very front in the conditions. Sutton patiently waited behind Turkington for a third of the race, in a clearly quicker car, but eventually he made his way by to make no doubt about winning the championship.
At the front, Butcher cruised home as Ingram took his third podium of the day ahead of Hill. Sutton crossed the line 6thas he secured his second BTCC crown.
The celebrations at the end of the day were just not the same without the fans being allowed into the circuit, but Sutton won’t have minded too much as he was able to raise aloft the coveted trophy, as well as the Independents’ crown . Praise must also go to Michael ‘Creesy’ Crees who secured the Jack Sears Trophy in his second season of BTCC racing.
It is a shame that the conditions at Brands Hatch played into the hands of Sutton, meaning it wasn’t the battle we had hoped for. However, credit must go to Laser Tools Racing and BMR for producing a better car than Team BMW for the weekend. Had it been dry, who knows would have been champion?
Despite Turkington starting the season well, it was evident early on that Sutton’s car was a monster and after he gained early season momentum, he was very much the favourite. Sutton could, of course, have won the championship more handsomely, had it not been for a couple of incidents.
Praise must go to the other contenders as it was another excellent season for Cammish, who in the end, finished just two points behind Turkington and Ingram who was a further eight back. Butcher finished fifth in what was a great debut season for the new shape Ford Focus with Tom Oliphant completing the top six.
All the drivers in the top six scored more points this season than they did last, with three races less. It was a mark of how the best cars and drivers have risen to the top during the season. Is it an indicator of what will happen next year? Who knows? Hopefully, next season the fans will be allowed to return to the circuits as Ash Sutton defends his championship.
Race One: 5/10
Race Two: 7.5/10
Race Three: 6/10
Final Championship Standings:
|Ash Sutton||350 points|