We headed to Snetterton eager to return to racing following the annual BTCC summer break, after all of the BMR Racing drivers took part in the Dunlop tyre test, followed by a swap of cars between Ash and Jason during a test at Donington Park, where fresh data was gathered and analysed benefitting all four of the Subaru Levorgs.
Heading into Qualifying Ash was carrying 48kg of ballast on his Levorg whilst Jason, James and the newly liveried A-Plan Academy car of Josh were all ballast free. Ash made a good start setting an early quick lap before having his time disallowed for exceeding track limits, but bounced back to set the third fastest time. Jason put in a quick last-minute lap at the end of the session securing him a 9th place grid position with Josh lining up in 18th and James 26th.
With the rear wheel drive Subaru Levorg having the advantage on a slightly up hill start at Snetterton, we were optimistic of a good getaway off the line sitting behind front wheel drive Honda of pole sitter Jack Goff. However, in second position and just to the left of Ash was the rear wheel drive BMW of Colin Turkington so it was game on to see which of the rear wheel drive machines would make the better start. Jason had a new front sub-frame fitted overnight, the second replacement since his drama at Brands Hatch earlier in the season, which he hoped would make some difference to his performance and had selected the soft option tyre for race one along with Josh.
With the lights out Ash got a great start and held his 3rd position into the first corner with Turkington taking the lead from Goff, with Jason also holding his position of 9th with Josh 12th and James 25th. Unfortunately for Josh it was deemed he jumped the start so was instantly hit with a drive through penalty that dropped him back down the order to 30th position. Meanwhile, up front race leader Turkington spun out at the exit of the Bomb Hole which gave Ash the advantage of 2nd place with Jason also capitalising and moving up to 8th. Rob Austin and Tom Ingram then had a coming together allowing Jason through to 6th, which then became 5th after Adam Morgan’s Mercedes suffered a mechanical issue, which in turn forced a race long battle with Andrew Jordan for 4th position. James however was caught up in mid pack traffic but soon benefitted after a coming together between Ollie Jackson and Senna Proctor, allowing James to sneak up the inside gaining three places in the process. The gap out in front between Goff and Ash was down to less than a second by lap 8 with Ash closing in on the leader with every lap as Jason remained nose to tail with Jordan. James was up to 17th as Josh fought his way back up the order and into 23rd before receiving damage on lap 9 forcing his retirement from the race. Ash finally spotted a slight mistake from Goff on lap 11 as his soft tyres began to drop off and stuck his nose up on the inside to take the race lead which he then held until the checkered flag, taking his third win of the season for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing. Jason crossed the line in a well fought fifth place with teammate James also in the points in 15th. The win moved Ash two places up the championship standings into second and just two points shy of the championship leader Gordon Shedden. The two top 5 results also gave Subaru UK the manufacturer win with points being classified for the first two finishers.
With Ash on pole for Race 2, we were hoping for more of the same albeit with him now carrying 75kg of success ballast on board. Jason’s 5th place finish would see him have 39kg added to his Subaru Levorg with both James and Josh remaining ballast free, the former now running on the soft option tyre as last minute repairs were made to Josh’s car just in the nick of time to join the warm up lap and the start of the race in 26th place.
Once again Ash made a great getaway off the line, with the lighter BMW of Jordan flying up the order to 2nd from 4th with an even lighter Jason following him up into 3rd. By turn two Jason was crawling all over the back of the BMW and made an amazing pass up the outside when he took a forceful hit from Jordan forcing the number 99 Levorg off the track and onto the grass shuffling him all the way down to 15th place and ruining his race in the process. James also got a clean start and made up some early places to 12th as Josh got held up in traffic and dropped a place down to 27th. Ash had soon pulled an impressive gap out in front before the safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken car of Stuart Lines following a huge impact with the barrier. Two laps later Ash made a perfect restart and soon retained his gap in the lead whilst his teammates all gained another place after Aiden Moffatt was ordered to visit the pits to have trailing bodywork removed. James made a stellar move on Tom Ingram and into 10th as Jason continued to tumble down the order due to the damage received from his earlier incident and was now running in 17th. Josh continued to make progress and was soon up to 22nd place by the end of lap 8, with James passing the Volkswagen of Jake Hill for 9th on lap 11 and was now hunting down the Honda of Matt Neal, making a text book move up the inside on the following lap and into a superb 8th place. Unfortunately for Josh he had a brief off on the penultimate lap after losing the rear on dirt on the track and managed to re-join only to lose the places he’d made up earlier in the race, finding himself in 26th. With all of the extra weight on Ash’s Levorg it was very difficult to extend his lead out in front, but with those fighting behind him for 2nd place he drove a perfect race to take a lights to flag victory and his second win of the day for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing with a gap of 3 seconds. Ash’s second win of the day moved him to the top of the championship standings for the first time in his short BTCC career as Subaru celebrated their 10th victory in the series for the Subaru Levorg. James finished in an outstanding 8th place, a career best as Jason hobbled home in 24th and Josh after all his hard work finished in 26th. He did, however, score a point for setting the fastest lap of the race which is very encouraging. The move on Jason by Jordan was looked at by the officials and it was deemed that no action would be taken.
All that remained for the weekend was to see if Ash could do the treble and take the jackpot of taking all three victories in one day, it would be a tough ask of the Subaru Levorg as once again it would carry the maximum ballast of 75kg on board as well as the fact that he would now be running the soft option tyre. Ash was committed, the team had given him an outstanding car and he was well prepared to do all he could. We awaited the results from the reverse grid draw to determine where the top ten finishers from race two would line up for the final showdown at the Norfolk venue.
The series very own medical expert Dr Paul Trafford was asked to do the live draw and when number 8 was pulled there was another big cheer from the Subaru garages as James would be promoted to pole position for the final race of the day. Ash would line up 8th with Jason 24th and Josh 26th.
It wasn’t to be all plain sailing though as we were then handed a boost restriction adjustment for the final race which would mean that the cars would not have the pace that they’d had earlier on in the day. This was especially disappointing for James whom, having been phenomenal in the earlier races, had a real chance of a race win and would also hinder Ash from getting up front to challenge for his third podium of the day.
When the lights went out for the final race of the weekend James made a good start and led until turn three as Jordan passed when, on cold tyres, a slide from the number 20 Levorg made him slow out of the corner allowing both Shedden and Collard to sneak past dropping James back to 4th. Disaster then struck for Ash when a wayward Rob Austin was forced across the grass and into the side of Ash’s Levorg causing devastating damage which put an end to his race. On lap 3 James lost another place and dropped to 5th, as Jason and Josh moved up to 23rd and 24th respectively. By lap 5 Neal had caught up to the rear of James that allowed Matt Jackson to pounce on the pair forcing James down to 6th. It wasn’t too long though until Neal made an enthusiastic move that resulted in him losing control of his Honda and ended up in the barrier. Meanwhile, Jason and Josh continued to make up places with Jason up to 16th and just out of the points and Josh up to 19th, positions they would hold until the end of the race. On lap 11 there was drama for race leader Jordan as he lost power and slowed handing the win to Shedden. Jordan’s demise also handed a place to James who ended the race in 5th beating his season best for the second time in as many races.
Ash’s non finish moved him back to 4th in the Drivers championship albeit with a reduced gap from 20 to 11 points astray of leader Gordon Shedden, Subaru remain 3rd in the Manufacturers standings, with Adrian Flux Subaru Racing also 3rd in the Teams standings. Josh is now 4th in the Jack Sears Trophy championship for drivers who made their BTCC debut in 2017.
Ash Sutton – “Overall Snetterton has been a positive weekend, we came into the weekend with a gap of 20 points to the championship leader and now we leave only 11 points behind, plus we are still 4th in the standings despite the race three antics. Racking up two more wins to my name as well as the first driver this season to win back to back with full success ballast was another great achievement for myself, team and sponsors. We keep on making progress with the Adrian Flux Subaru Levorg and that really showed in race two, especially whilst carrying full success ballast, the tweaks have brought the car alive and it was dialled in perfectly. The final race put a downer on the weekend and unfortunately the car took a huge hit after being a victim of an incident from behind. It is going to be a real push to get it ready for Knockhill but I have no doubt in the guys at Team BMR and WP Motorsport will make sure she is as good as new and ready for the action to unfold in Scotland!”
James Cole – “Snetterton was a weekend of mixed emotions, to start the weekend in 26th place and then come away with three point-scoring finishes is very good day. Obviously, I was disappointed to start on the front row and not to convert it to a win, but given the boost adjustment that we were dealt just before race, we did a good job. Unfortunately, it was one of those things, the cards were dealt before the start of race three and we had to race accordingly but it did mean we didn’t have the same pace in the Subaru that we’d had earlier on in the day. Ash is making us all look a bit crap at the moment, so we are all having to pull our fingers out! The Subaru Levorg is a really good car when you’ve got it dialled into the window, and my window is a little bit narrower than Ash’s. For Race two it was in my window and I was racy, and Race three it wasn’t far off, but disappointingly there were other circumstances.
“I’m looking forward to Knockhill and feeling confident as it’s a circuit very much like Croft and we know that the car performs well around Croft”
Jason Plato – “Well what a fantastic weekend for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, Ash had a dream weekend with two wins, James Cole had his best result this season and we are making progress in getting to the bottom of my ill handling car. There were positive signs in the chassis after some major changes and a great result in race 2 was on the cards until I was shovelled off track by Andrew Jordan. Changes we made to the car in Race 3 gave me the best balance I have had this year so all to play for come the next race at Knockhill”.
Josh Price – “We came into the weekend feeling positive due to the changes we made during the summer break and this confidence was demonstrated in FP2 and our pace in race one and two. However, the positions we gained definitely did not reflect the position we should have been in with the pace we had. This has made me feel confident as ever to get back in and push for the higher places at Knockhill.”
Next time out we head north of the border to Knockhill in Scotland for rounds 19, 20 and 21 in two weeks time.
We would like to thank all the BMR Racing team for their continued hard work, Subaru UK and all the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing sponsors along with our fantastic fans for their continued support.