The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reached the halfway point of the season at Croft this past weekend (10/11 June) with the title battle closing up considerably come the end of play.
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 saw the series descend on North Yorkshire for the traditional stop on the calendar and the last time the cars will compete before a seven-week summer break.
It proved to be a difficult start to the weekend however with the paddock still feeling the effects of the unfortunate multi-car collision that had marred Saturday’s qualifying session and left three drivers hospitalised.
A medical report on Sunday morning confirmed that MG Triple Eight Racing’s Aron Taylor-Smith had suffered a fractured leg, whilst Eurotech Racing’s Jeff Smith and Motorbase Performance driver Luke Davenport had sustained significant, although not immediately life threatening, injuries.
Once racing got underway, Team BMR’s Ashley Sutton underlined why he is a serious title contender for this year with superlative display in race one. Converting pole position into a lead that he would ultimately never lose, the Subaru Levorg driver produced a resolute drive to fend off Colin Turkington.
Mat Jackson gave Motorbase their maiden podium of the season too with third place to end what had been a barren run for the team in 2017.
Race two proved to be a role reversal at the front as Turkington this time led Sutton for the entirety of the 15-lap blockbuster, going on to take a third win of the season.
Despite carrying maximum success ballast, Sutton proved to be the man with the ultimate pace however his persistent attack on Turkington didn’t buckle the BMW drivers’ defence.
Hot on their heels also was the second West Surrey Racing machine of Rob Collard to finish third and make it a rear-wheel-drive lockout on the podium.
AMD Tuning’s Ollie Jackson was drawn on pole position for the final race of the day and showcased the strides that have been made by the Independent team by leading the opening laps.
Contact however with Mat Jackson at Sunny In saw the Audi driver tumble down the order and out of contention. In the pack, the Sutton juggernaut continued as he firstly found a way around team-mate Jason Plato and then disposed of Rob Austin for second.
With a gap of more than four seconds to close, the 23-year-old set about catching Jackson and did just that come the final lap. Going around the outside of the Ford driver at the hairpin on the final tour, Sutton was forced onto the grass and left to take second place as Jackson took an emotional victory for the Motorbase squad.
Plato meanwhile pipped Austin at the line to take his first podium of the season. Senna Proctor emerged as the winner of the Jack Sears Trophy.
In the championship standings, Gordon Shedden continues to lead the way however his advantage has now been cut to 11 points. Collard and Turkington are inside the top three whilst Sutton has elevated himself to fourth and is now just 20 points off the summit.
The BTCC now enters its seven-week mid-season break before blasting back into action at Snetterton at the end of July.