Ash Sutton lifts his fourth, record-matching world title
NAPA Racing UK star becomes record-equalling four-time champion
Ash Sutton is a record-equalling four-time British Touring Car Champion, clinching the crown with two wins around the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit last weekend.
The 29-year-old achieved a record-matching six pole positions and 12 race wins during the campaign, becoming the first driver to claim the title in both rear-wheel and front-wheel-drive machinery.
The only driver to previously score six pole positions in a season was James Thompson in 2003 and the sole racer to take 12 race wins was Alain Menu back in 1997. Sutton’s four crowns now match Andy Rouse and Colin Turkington.
Sutton was chased home all the way by runner-up and outgoing champion Tom Ingram, as the Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 man finished second in both of the opening two races.
“It feels phenomenal, I don’t know what to say, I genuinely don’t know what to say,” said Sutton. “The car has been absolutely mega, I can’t thank NAPA Racing UK enough and everyone that’s involved. Four-time BTCC champion… come on!”
“It’s such a relief I’ll be honest, as much as we had a huge points gap, Tom [Ingram] was right, it has been all ours to lose. One bad race and it could have all suddenly swung round… People have spoken about records and that’s great. We always want to keep fighting! But the special bit is being the first driver to claim it in both a front-wheel-drive and a rear-wheel-drive. That was what we were ultimately chasing because I don’t plan to end on four.”
BMW ended its 2023 campaign on a high as Jake Hill won the final encounter for Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport, although the Bavarian marque just fell short in its quest to win an eighth successive manufacturers’ title.
That honour went to the NAPA Racing UK/Ford outfit, as did the Teams’ title, whilst Josh Cook and his One Motorsport with Starline Racing squad took Independent Drivers’ and Teams’ laurels.
The Jack Sears Trophy – which has been a five-way scrap throughout the year – was eventually won by CarStore Power Maxed Racing’s Andrew Watson in his rookie BTCC season.
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship returns next April with the opening rounds of the 2024 season taking place at Donington Park.
Sutton seals the deal with race one success
NAPA Racing UK’s Sutton took a lights-to-flag victory in the opening contest, as he moved into an unassailable lead in the race for the title.
It was a fitting victory for the undisputed star of the 2023 BTCC season, and equally fitting that he was followed home by his main championship challenger – Ingram.
The Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 man kept Sutton honest throughout the race and had one final attack at victory following a late safety car period, but it remained unchanged until the finish as wild celebrations ensued in the NAPA Racing UK garage.
Huge cheers could also be heard at Team HARD, as Essex man Bobby Thompson grabbed a fantastic podium for Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown.
Sutton takes 12th triumph of 2023
Sutton equalled Menu’s modern-day record of 12 race wins in a single BTCC season, as the Ford Focus driver produced a lights-to-flag double around the 2.43-mile circuit.
He made it look extremely comfortable from the front, taking another commanding victory ahead of Ingram (Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8) and Dan Cammish (NAPA Racing UK).
Cammish was involved in a lap one incident when his Ford Focus made contact with the right-rear of Colin Turkington’s Team BMW 330e M Sport at Druids, breaking the suspension of the #4 machine.
As Turkington’s car slowed, he was collected by the Hyundai of Ronan Pearson (Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8), who was subsequently hit by Michael Crees’ Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils Cupra.
The first of two safety car periods followed and when the dust eventually settled it was Ricky Collard (Toyota Gazoo Racing UK), Thompson (Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown) and Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) that completed the top six.
Hill ends BMW’s season on a high
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Hill clinched victory in the final Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship race of the season, ending BMW’s campaign on a high.
Hill got the better of a sensational battle for victory, which initially involved Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) and Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) swapping positions on a number of occasions at the head of the field.
While Jelley and Cook had an eye on each other, Hill spotted his chance as he incredibly sliced past both of them in the same move through Westfield.
Cook and Jelley completed the podium, whilst Ingram (Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8), Dan Rowbottom (NAPA Racing UK) and Collard (Toyota Gazoo Racing UK) rounded out the final top six of the season.
Newly crowned four-time champion – Sutton – had to settle for a points paying position in the finale after a wild mid-race melee, but that couldn’t dampen the spirits of one of the world’s best touring car drivers and a phenomenal fourth crown.