Ash Sutton admitted that his weekend in the British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park had been ‘better than expected’ after he eked out his points lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Having qualified on pole for the fifth time this year on Saturday, Sutton mastered the wet conditions in race one to score a comfortable win over the BMW of Jake Hill.
The NAPA Racing driver was then beaten in the dry by title rival Tom Ingram in race two, although Sutton nonetheless scored another podium – his 16th of the season – with second.
Drawn to start all the way back in 11th for the final race of the day, Sutton made little progress until three laps from the finish.
The three-time champion had in fact been passed by Ingram on the second lap of the race, but got ahead of his rival near the end when team-mate Daniel Rowbottom picked up a puncture and his rivals got held up trying to avoid the ailing Ford.
That gave Sutton sixth at the chequered flag, and allowed him to extend his championship lead to 42 points, having gone into the weekend with a 37-point advantage.
“Coming here with 37 points, I thought if we left with 37 points I’d be over the moon, so to stretch it out, to 42 now, is great,” said Sutton to TouringCars.Net. “t just gives us a bit more of a buffer moving forward, and we’re three races closer.”
Sutton praised Ingram and EXCELR8 Motorsport for the pace they demonstrated in race two, where he had to accept second best.
“Credit where credit’s due, the EXCELR8 guys and Tom had a mega package and I think they still had a strong package in that last one.
“But in the wet, the car was in a really nice place. I was pleased with our performance in race one. We had a few little brake issues in races two and three, but ultimately, I was quite pleased to finish directly behind Tom on the road, so that was the key thing.
In race three, Sutton admitted that he would have been happy to have followed Ingram home, and thus to beat him and extend his lead was better than he had hoped for.
“When Tom got past me I was quite happy just to sit there and mirror what he did – if he made a move I’d try and go with him.
“I was just playing it safe – people were hitting tyre stacks left, right and centre and running into each other, so I was kind of picking up the pieces of other people’s mistakes.
“I got past Jake when there was a move down at the hairpin on the GP loop and I managed to get past him and Colin [Turkington] in one move which was quite a nice move, and then Tom got caught out with Rowbottom who had a puncture at Turn 1. Tom went on the wrong side of him, which allowed me to nick through.
“It was a little bit of lady luck then, but we were quite happy just to bide our time on that one.
“It’s better than what I was hoping for! It sounds silly but we were quite happy to leave here with 37 points, so to extend that was a key thing, so it’s been a good weekend and we’re one step closer.”