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Ash Sutton continues podium run with ‘phenomenal weekend’

Ash Sutton delighted in extending his run of podium finishes in the British Touring Car Championship to six at Brands Hatch, with the NAPA Racing UK star now leading the drivers’ standings as a result.

Sutton went into the weekend with relatively little hybrid available, after ending the opening meeting second in the standings, making his fourth place in qualifying all the more impressive.

Moving forward in race one, for a time as high as second before long-time rival Josh Cook muscled past, the four-time champion took the finish in third.

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On the medium tyre with only marginally more hybrid for race two, Sutton did well to bring his Ford Focus home in third once again, having again got as high as second before Tom Ingram fought past with a late lunge at Paddock.

Randomly drawn to start from ninth for the final race, Sutton used the softer rubber to good effect and made the most progress he had all day, finishing in third after seizing a late opportunity to pass former team-mate Árón Taylor-Smith four laps from the finish.

Sutton explained to TouringCars.Net how he had used the tyre strategy to maximum effect at the weekend, to secure a strong points haul in his best-ever start to the season.

“If we look back to the ballast years, when you saw a championship contender go into a weekend and struggle with ballast, the only way they would negate the ballast and get themselves back up there was to get rid of the ballast issue, put a better tyre on for race two, and get themselves back at the front,” said Sutton.

“The way the rules work this year, we have to use next hardest tyre available, which kind of negates that [opportunity to recover in race two] and makes it a bit harder to do.

“We’ve got a mix of what we used to see, in terms of the consistency that’s needed and the struggles in race one and qualifying, but now with the new rules there’s a struggle in race two as well, which means there’s a lot more guys on the same tyre come race three.”

Sutton praised the performance of his car, and believes that he could have pushed for a better result in the final but didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks so late in the day.

“If you look at the progress and the pace of the car it’s been pretty phenomenal all weekend.

“If we didn’t have the safety car in race two it could have been a second, which would have been much better.

“If the weather wasn’t as hot, we could have pushed on more in race three and got closer to the front, but ultimately it was about bringing the car home, bringing the tyres home and scoring maximum points.

“I was happy with fourth place – we were settled in there, no problem. Then I saw Tom put a move in on Arón [Taylor-Smith] and I thought I could take the opportunity, and we did exactly that.

“They both ran a bit deep, so I made the most of it and used the hybrid to get past Árón. As soon as I felt comfortable I then just brought it home.

“We could have chased Tom Chilton but I chose not to, as there was more risk than reward.

“Maybe we have changed our approach a little bit. The ultimate goal is still wins – we want them, they’re just harder to get now.”

Despite being more risk averse in the final race, Sutton did acknowledge that he had gone with a ‘riskier’ strategy in running the soft tyre in race three.

“If you look at Colin [Turkington], he had to go soft to maximise his points-scoring weekend. Tom [Ingram] had to go medium to try and utilise the softs in the last race.

“We were the one in the middle that could have gone either way with our strategy, and we chose the riskier option to try and counter-act what Tom was doing.

“Ultimately in my head that’s paid off. It paid off in race one when we moved forward, it paid off in race two when we stayed in the same place and in race three we got back to third on the softs.

“For me, that’s a big tick – we did the riskier strategy and it worked.”

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