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Ash Sutton in 2023: ‘We’ve got a better car, a better driver, it’s all just ticking’

Ash Sutton took his second British Touring Car Championship pole position in a row at Thruxton adding to what has been a mega start to the season for the NAPA Racing UK driver.

Despite the three-time champion’s previous performances this season, it did not seem clear to Sutton that this year would go the way it has over the winter.

“The car’s mega, but around here, the hybrid doesn’t make as much of a difference.

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“I’ve worked a lot on myself over winter, obviously,” Sutton told TouringCars.Net. “We were trying to chase [Tom] Ingram last year, and at some points I questioned whether I needed to improve. Ultimately we’ve got a better car, a better driver, and it’s all just ticking.”

The pace of the Ford was not displayed in the opening sessions of the day with Josh Cook setting the pace. Even though this was the case, Sutton was confident in his car.

“I’m really confident we had that pace in the car,” added the NAPA Racing UK driver. “I just didn’t want to scare myself in FP1 and FP2.

“But no, there’s an element of risk here. We’re just tweaking the car, finding the car, making sure we’re happy, and it got into a place where I know I can just go hell for leather, push, and that’s what we did in qualifying.

“The car’s mega, but at the same time, around here, the hybrid doesn’t make as much of a difference as it does at somewhere like Snet or Brands. It just ultimately comes down to momentum, and once you’re up at that momentum, you’re not deploying from a low speed here. It doesn’t have as much of an effect as others.”

Having pace on Saturday does not always translate to pace on Sundays. Even though this may be the case Sutton is sure the car will be better on race day.

“Yeah, you’re going to have to play around with the car. These are a couple of things we’re working on in FP1 and FP2, but just dial the car in. I think now we’ve got a race set up on it.

“It’s not too dissimilar from our quali set up, but we need to make tyres last, and I know Tom and Josh are going to be going for it. So it’s just going to be a bit of management from trying to cover them off, but at the same time, looking after the tyres. It’s going to be an interesting one.”

Sutton has said on many occasions this year that the car is ‘on rails’. The lap at Thruxton that got him pole, was not quite as on rails as other laps he has produced this year.

“I’ll be honest with you, around here, you have to run the car such on a knife edge to maximise performance, and the two laps I did beforehand were absolutely fine through Church.

“I just maybe asked a little bit too much, and they really let go. Big old snap in the middle of the corner, which hurt our run-up to the final chicane, but other than that, we’re just about finishing the lap.”

Even after having confidence in the cars pace on a Sunday, the immediate worry is on the tyres and their longevity come race day.

“There’s always going to be a worry. You can burn through the fronts within one lap here, so like I said, tyre management is going to be key, but then at the same time, you can’t just cruise around. You’re going to have your rivals pushing you hard, so it’s going to be good, it’s going to be interesting, and you just have to fight as it comes.”

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