Ash Sutton admits that he felt he was under pressure in qualifying for the British Touring Car Championship finale at Brands Hatch, after he found himself outside the top ten with less than ten minutes to go at one stage.
Sutton managed to improve his lap time to qualify his NAPA Racing UK Ford in third for the opening race of the day, but he was still over four tenths of a second behind pole man and title rival Tom Ingram.
The Motorbase driver was ultimately a slender 0.001 seconds behind Toyota’s Rory Butcher, but feels that starting on the same side of the grid as Ingram could prove to be beneficial.
Despite missing out by such a big margin, Sutton still said it was the ‘best lap of his career’ as he dug deep to keep up with his main rivals.
“I said before that it was going to be the most important qualifying of my career to-date,” said Sutton. “I felt the pressure a little bit – I think we were in P13 at one point.
“I needed to get that – I needed to get close to Tom. I couldn’t have asked for much more; obviously if we could have just nipped Butcher that would have been ideal – but ultimately off the grid, P3 over P2, I’d probably take it.
“If I can get it clean off the line I can slot in behind Tom, so we’ll wait and see.”
Sutton had tried to work together with team-mate Dan Cammish, but in the end had to elect to just focus on his own lap time to get further up the grid.
“If I’m honest we just didn’t switch the tyres on in the correct way. We were tucked up behind Dan, but didn’t quite get the lap together.
“Especially when I was told what Tom had done time-wise, I was like ‘we’ve got to dig deep here’.
“We put a second set of tyres on, went back out, and just hung on – my balls were on the line is, I think, the right way of putting that. It was the best lap of my career to-date, for sure.”
Sutton already hinted that he is expecting Ingram to at least win the opening race of the day.
“There’s myself and 28 other drivers that are concerned about the pace of Tom. He’s been extremely fast – what they did in FP2 was a bit of an insight to what they had. To go that far under the lap record is mind blowing.
“Ultimately, he’s probably going to win races one and two and that’s ultimately what he’s going to want to achieve as well, so we just need to come second best.
“It is British Touring Car racing and we don’t know how it can play out. I’m never just going to settle for second.
“But if he gets away on the first lap, and we know how good Tom can be on the opening lap, second might be all we can achieve in race one, but who knows in race two.”