Silverstone was never going to be an easy circuit for the Subaru Levorgs with the National Circuit favouring the front wheel drive cars and coupled with the fact that the team had been hit with another boost adjustment we knew it was going to be a tough weekend for all four drivers but once again Ash Sutton delivered and remained at the top of the tables.
For the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing drivers, the man with the most at stake was championship leader Ash who arrived at Silverstone with just a 12 point lead ahead of his main championship contender Colin Turkington. The championship lead also meant that Ash would be carrying the full 75kgs of success ballast, so his straight line speed would be greatly affected.
Jason who arrived at Silverstone sitting 10th in the championship standings was carrying 9kgs and James was weight free. Josh in the BMR Academy car was also free of ballast.
With rounds 25, 26 and 27 being the penultimate races of the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, every point that was up for grabs would be absolutely crucial in our bid for the Drivers, Manufacturers and Teams titles.
Qualifying on Saturday afternoon confirmed our performance suspicions and Ash was the quickest of the Levorgs setting the 10th quickest time, with Jason 11th, James 13th and Josh in the BMR Academy Levorg set the 19th fastest time. The entire 32 car field was covered by less than a second with Jack Goff’s Honda claiming pole position.
As the lights went out, the four Subaru Levorgs all got away well off the damp start line and the drivers held their positions for the first few laps with the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis of Tom Ingram taking the lead with Goff hot on his heels. With all eyes on the weather the wet tyres were on standby as the rain then started to fall on some parts of the circuit making for some tricky conditions.
The first set back for the team was on lap 3 when Josh ran wide in the BMR Academy Subaru which resulted in him dropping back down the order to last place.
Ash had soon gained his first position and was up to 9th place with teammate Jason acting as rear gunner right behind him in 10th defending those behind him and allowing Ash to concentrate on those out in front. The next advantage for Ash was on lap 9 when Mat Jackson and Matt Neal ran wide resulting in contact opening the door for Ash to go through to 7th and closing in on Turkington who was now running in 5th after moving up the order from 8th on the grid. Unfortunately for Jason he was caught up behind the incident and subsequently received contact which sent him into a spin that resulted in the number 99 Subaru tumbling back down the order to 26th place. James was also hindered in the incident and had dropped down to 17th from 13th as Josh fought his way back up the order to 25th.
Championship contender, Turkington could clearly see Ash closing n and made a move stick on Rookie Ant Whorton-Eales for 4th as Ash claimed 6th from Dave Newsham keeping just four points between the battling duo. Drama then followed mid pack with a race ending, high impact, multi car incident on lap 14 when the BMW of Rob Collard sent flying across the grass after a clash between Chris Smiley’s Chevrolet and Aron Taylor-Smith’s MG. With broken steering, the out of control BMW came back onto the circuit and was slammed into by the unsighted VW of Will Burns with the second BMR of Andrew Jordan firing itself into the back of Burns which brought out a safety car just after Ash had moved up past Whorton-Eales for 5th. Thankfully there were no serious injuries but the race was red flagged to allow medical teams to attend to the drivers.
The final result was classified with Ash in 5th, right behind his main championship contender Turkington in 4th, with James finishing just outside the points in 17th, Josh in 21st and Jason in a lowly 23rd place after his earlier dramas. It was Ingram who took the win ahead of Goff, with Adam Morgan completing the podium. As the results came in it was confirmed that Ash remained top of the championship standings albeit with a reduced margin from 12 to 10 points.
With Ash starting race two from 4th on the grid just behind Turkington, everything was to play for.
It was lights out once again with Ash getting a great start and positioning himself on the rear of Turkington as the duo passed Morgan. The gained place wouldn’t last long as by the time the pack arrived at Luffield, in a bid to avoid unwanted damage, Ash had no choice but to give racing room allowing Morgan to take the place back. Josh, meanwhile, was up to 18th with James on his tail in 19th and Jason closing in on the pair of them in 21st.
Ingram would lose his lead to Goff on lap three as the biggest battle ensued between Turkington, Morgan and Ash, who was now having to defend from the Mercedes of Aiden Moffat. Luckily for Ash a small mistake from Moffat gave him some breathing space to get back on maximum attack of Morgan who was in turn pressuring the BMW of Turkington.
At the halfway point in the race Jason had picked his way through the field and up to an impressive 16th place with Josh and James holding their positions of 18th and 19th respectively.
The race leaders had soon extended their lead out in front as the third place protagonists continued their battle allowing the Toyota of Rob Austin to creep ever closer to Ash who found himself having to defend once more. Ash then made the successful move on Morgan and to pick up 4th with plenty of ground to make up on Turkington.
With two laps to go Ash had caught his target and waited patiently for the opportunity to pounce when on the last lap when he nipped up in the inside at Luffield, outscoring Turkington and grabbing the final place on the podium behind winner Goff and 2nd placed Ingram.
Jason fought his way through to score an all important point in 15th from 23rd on the grid, with Josh finishing right behind him in 16th and James in 21st.
Ash’s third place position confirmed that he had extended his championship lead from Turkington back out to the 12 points he had at the start of the day.
Ex BTCC racer James Nash drew the number 9 ball for the reverse grid draw placing Dave Newsham on pole position. With the driver that finished race two ahead of him reversed, it would mean that Ash was 7th on the grid for the final race of the day with Turkington a place on the grid ahead of him.
Then came the bombshell that Colin Turkington and his team West Surrey Racing had protested Ash’s final lap move into third place, that resulted in the stewards handing out a one second time penalty making the result of race two, Turkington 3rd and Ash 4th. Ash and BMR Racing categorically disagreed with the decision and lodged an appeal which was unfortunately unsuccessful. The final nail in the coffin was that the penalty counted as a strike against Ash and as it was his 3rd of the season he would be forced to start the third and final race of the day all the way down at the back of the grid in 30th place, with the added drama that he would also be made to carry the 48kgs of success ballast for ending race two in 4th.
With added determination, the team focussed on the task in hand and Ash set his target of getting up through the field and into a point scoring position. Although it was a huge feat we all had faith and knew that if anyone could do it Ash could. At this stage in the game every point is crucial to take away from this final race before Brands Hatch finals day. With Turkington starting in 6th all the BMW driver had to do was have a clean race and outscore Ash.
The lights went out for the final time of the day and all four Subaru’s got away cleanly. Turkington however received contact in his BMW and was immediately shuffled down the order to 21st place, Ash now had him in his sights as he had made his way through to 26th. Jason meanwhile had stayed out of the trouble that was ahead of him and was well up the order and through to 12th, with Josh in 19th. James had also been hindered along with Turkington and found himself down the order in 28th. The race was being led by Tom Chilton’s stand in driver Rob Huff in the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall.
On the third lap of the race there was drama for Jason which ended his race after an altercation with Josh Cook’s MG that resulted in further contact with Stephen Jelly’s Ford Focus which stopped on the track only to be ploughed into by Turkington. Heavy damage forced Turkington into the pits for repairs as Ash moved up several more places. For Ash, it was a great deal of weight lifted and he now knew that whatever points he scored would be a gain on Turkington as the BMW went a lap down before joining the race once more as the safety car came out to remove Jelly’s stricken Ford. During the safety car period there was a further incident for BMR Racing as Josh was forced into the gravel trap by Matt Simpson’s Honda putting an end to the day for the youngest member of the team.
Racing soon commenced once more and Ash had made up further places to 19th by the halfway point of the race with the only other surviving Subaru of James in 21st.
Ash continued his mission and by lap 19 was up to a point scoring position in 15th. He wasn’t quite done yet though as throughout the remainder of the race he gained a further four places to an astonishing 11th where he took the checkered flag and more importantly stretched his championship lead back to 10 points. James also picked up a point after returning home in 15th place.
The race was won by Honda’s Matt Neal, with Huff and Newsham rounding out the podium.
Speaking of his weekend Ash commented “Silverstone was always going to be a tough weekend for us as a team but even more so for me due to carrying full success ballast. The goal this weekend was to try and take as little of a hit as possible in regard to the championship, matching my rivals was key and taking advantage of a gap to gain would be great.
“I was really pleased with the outcome in qualifying, the aim was to try and get within the top 15, so to better that by another five places and end up in the top 10 was a great start to the weekend. The progress made through the field in the opening race, with full ballast, gave me confidence that we had strong car under us to set us up nicely for the day. I minimised the points hit from Colin by finishing directly behind him.
“Race two was just an emotional rollercoaster in my perspective, I feel that we were a little hard done by in race two after the appeal was dismissed, I have always been a racer and if I see a gap that is there for the taking I don’t need a second invitation. The move was on, it is a move I had been pulling off all day without any contact, it’s hard to not leave the circuit when you are forced there whilst having an overlap.
“I just had to hit the reset button heading into race three, starting stone cold last and seeing your rivals all within the top ten was a kick in the back side but I stand by the move I pulled off, so it just made me even more hungry to bounce back. I was aiming for a top 15 finish and try and get some points but we definitely over achieved for sure and managed to actually score enough points over Colin to stretch out the championship lead back to 10 points.
“This has left me in a very strong position heading into the final round and I am looking forward to carrying this momentum. It is my strongest track of the season, I love Brands Hatch GP and after last year’s performance I am feeling confident heading into the finale.”
James shared his thoughts from his weekend at Silverstone “Even though the results don’t show it, I’m really quite happy with mine and the team’s performance over the weekend over on car twenty. I was really happy with our pace considering the boost adjustment that was made to the Subaru for Silverstone, it was never going to be our strongest circuit but to be as close to we were to pole position in qualifying, to be only two tenths off considering our straight-line deficit was very very impressive for everyone at Subaru and to have all cars within a couple on hundredths of each other was also fantastic to see.
“As expected the races weren’t as easy and being in mid pack and surrounded by TOCA engines is never easy but to get a couple of points was the aim and we did that and we live to fight another day and go on to Brands, a circuit that is a drivers circuit with lots of corners that should suit us down to the ground so we’re counting down the days.”
Josh commented “Silverstone was always going to be a tricky weekend for us but we fought hard. Race one didn’t go to plan and after dropping down the order but I was pleased to fight my way back up to 21st place. Race two was tough being mid pack and I was disappointed to just miss out on a point scoring position finishing in 16th. We were very unlucky in race three having our race ended early after being hit under the safety car. Roll on Brands Hatch!”
We left Silverstone with Ash remaining in the championship lead with 338 points and Turkington 10 points behind with 328. Subaru remain 2nd in the manufacturers standings just 46 points shy of the BMW rival outfit.
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing are 3rd in the teams standings with 479 points with rivals Halfords Yuasa Racing a single point ahead with 480. Team BMW remain at the top of the standings with 573 points.
The provisional Jack Sears Trophy Champion is Senna Proctor with an impressive 466 points with Josh currently third with 271 points.
Brands Hatch will play host to the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship finale next time out on the weekend of the 30th September and 1st October. It is sure to be a sensational final and one that we are ready for!