Ashley Sutton has cited his personal adaptability as crucial to his success in qualifying this afternoon after he secured pole position for Round 4 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park in his MG6.
Sutton, who clocked a fastest lap time of 1:11.729, will line up alongside his MG Triple Eight Racing team-mate Josh Cook for the first of tomorrows triple header of races, with a margin of 0.494 seconds separating the rookie from the series sophomore on circuit in a dramatic, intriguing and changeable thirty minute session.
The reigning Renault Clio Cup UK champion has made arguably the best start to a BTCC career in recent years, after securing a hat-trick of top ten finishes on his debut weekend at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago, and claims his maiden pole position at just his second race meeting in the championship, and on his first proper run on wet tyres.
Sutton spoke to TouringCars.net in the pit lane after one of the most exciting qualifying sessions of recent years had concluded, and pointed to his own ability to adapt to different machinery and situations as a pivotal factor in his continued success.
“It’s always been something I’m quite good at, I’m not being big-headed,” he joked. “We can see when we jump in a car, condition-wise and crack on. That was my first time on the wets, so that was a learning curve and we adapted to that quite quickly.
“As soon as we saw it going dry, we made that team decision to come in and go for the slicks. It paid off; we were one of the first front-wheel drive cars out on them, and it paid off for both of us to be honest. We proved what the team is capable of and what the car is capable of.”
The session itself saw a new leader atop the timesheets on virtually ever tour of the circuit as the earlier wet weather conditions dried consistently and enabled the teams and drivers to post progressively faster lap times until the circuit reached a point at which slick tyres were a feasible option in the closing stages.
The ensuing chaos meant that at one stage defending champion Gordon Shedden dropped nearly immediately from pole to tenth, before propelling himself back into the top six later in the session.
Sutton, giving his insights on managing such a challenging scenario, insists it was important not to let his focus widen beyond his own MG6 and his own program for the session.
“Every driver has their own opinion on the circuit [conditions],” he explained. “But you’ve just got to focus on what you’re doing, as soon as those lights went green I was pushing from the word go, even on the out lap to make sure we had some clean air.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get clean air and we had to pass two cars on our flying lap, but we hooked it up and we did what was needed.”
Looking ahead to the opening race of the day tomorrow, Sutton also admitted it is likely that both he and Cook will work together to achieve a first 1-2 finish for MG Triple Eight Racing since 2014, though he acknowledged the two are very mutually competitive on circuit.
“Me and Josh [Cook] are very clued up together. We understand what we both want, we both know that we want to win, but at the same time we both know that if the car is quick on track we will help eachother. There is a very strong team element between me and Josh, and that will show tomorrow.”
The opening contest gets underway at 11:37 tomorrow and is live on ITV4 and in HD.