Ash Sutton admits that Croft ‘led to false hopes’ after the Subaru driver failed to secure any podium finishes in the three British Touring Car Championship races, having won on all of his previous visits to the circuit.
Sutton had hoped to challenge for wins at the North Yorkshire circuit, after he had previous won four times at the track, with victory in each of his BTCC visits in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The 2019 visit would prove to be more of a challenge for the 25-year-old, who qualified sixth in a truncated qualifying session on Saturday, going on to finish seventh in race one after losing out at the start.
In race two Sutton was challenging Chris Smiley for fifth when the pair made contact at the Complex on the final lap, which speared the Honda driver off the circuit.
Although Sutton kept fifth, he was handed a five-place gird penalty for the contact, which took the Subaru driver out of the running for the reversed grid, leaving him to start tenth.
Despite that setback, Sutton excelled in the wet-to-dry conditions which affected the race and he went on to finish in fourth. That performance left Sutton with a sense of what could have been, as he felt a first win of the season might have been on the cards but for his grid penalty.
“If you look at what could have been, if we’d started from P5 we could have had a podium, if not a win,” said Sutton to TouringCars.Net. “The last race was my sort of conditions; they were conditions which I favour.
“But Croft this year has been a bit of a hard one. It’s kind of led to false hopes, I think.”
Looking back at the contact with Smiley in race two, Sutton insists he wasn’t trying to pass the Honda driver at the corner where they made contact, feeling that Smiley had turned himself into the contact.
“Whether he didn’t know I was there or not, it was the case that he just came across the front of the car and unfortunately the front of my car was at his B-pillar. I was a good half a car length there and contact was made.
“I wasn’t actually trying to complete a move, I was just putting myself in a position to actually stay on the track, because if I had tried going around the outside of him, I would have ended up off the track.
“He just moved in the braking zone and it meant that he turned himself across the front of the car.”
Sutton leaves Croft third overall in the drivers’ standings, 13 points from the top of the table, although yet to score a win – which he admits means the season feels very different compared to previous years.
“It is a bit different – we’re not in a position to be fighting for the wins. We’re giving it everything we can – the boys and girls at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing are doing a mega job in terms of that – but unfortunately, we just weren’t there to fight for the wins today.
“We’re going to keep always giving it 100% and analysing everything we do as a team and as a driver and hopefully we can extract some more.”