Ashley Sutton ignites BTCC title defence with Croft double

Defending Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Ashley Sutton ignited his title defence at Croft this past weekend (June 23/24) with two wins, whilst Daniel Lloyd scored his and BTC Norlin Racingā€™s maiden victory in race three at the Yorkshire venue.

On what was a scorching weekend which saw a bumper crowd soak up the sun trackside, Sutton underlined his credentials as the reigning champion by vaulting up the championship standings.

After a frustrating first half of the season up to Croft, the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver came out of the block flying on Saturday as he charged to pole position, leading a Team BMR 1-2 in the process as Jason Plato ended the session second.

Suttonā€™s charge to the chequered flag in race one was relatively straight forward as he held position as the lights went out and then dually began to stretch his advantage. Behind, Plato diced with the BMW of Andrew Jordan for much of the contest, getting the better of him in the end and then going on to chase down Sutton.

Struggling with tyre degradation, Jordanā€™s hopes of a podium slipped away as he ran wide at Clervaux, which allowed the impressive Tom Ingram to take the final podium spot in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis.

The start of the second race saw Ingram make a flying start as he emerged from the first sequence of corners in the lead having gone three wide with Sutton and Plato.

Further behind Josh Cook found himself in strife as he suffered brake failure at the wheel of his Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra. Heading down the back straight and into Tower Bend, the two-time race winner experienced a heart-stopping moment as he narrowly missed those ahead of him and went sideways into the field. Cook was thankfully okay and managed to return to the pits.

Back at the front and despite being ladened with 75kgs of success ballast, Sutton wasted no time in wrestling the lead back off of Ingram, making his move at the final hairpin on lap two to reclaim control. Plato meanwhile was adjudged to have jumped the start and was forced to serve a drive through penalty, ruling him out of contention.

Almost flying under the radar in race one, points leader Colin Turkington was firmly in the mix in the second, halving the amount of ballast he was carrying on his BMW and hot on the heels of Ingram. Drawing on all of his experience around the challenging layout, the ā€˜King of Croft, couldnā€™t find a way past Ingram, who had put up a resolute defence, for second place. Sam Tordoff meanwhile notched his sixth fourth place finish of the season.

Back at the front, Sutton proved to be a in a league of his own and romped to his second win of the day, becoming the first driver to win two races on the same weekend and with 75kgs on-board this season thus far.

The reverse grid draw was made by double champion John Cleland and the Scotsman pulled number nine out of the bowl – promoting local star Daniel Lloyd onto pole position.

Joined on the front row by fellow Yorkshireman Senna Proctor, the BTC Norlin Racing driver launched his Honda Civic Type R off the line and into a lead that he would never lose. Tom Chilton fired his way from fourth to second off the start but couldnā€™t challenge Lloyd, who ultimately crossed the line little under six seconds ahead of the Motorbase driver.

Further behind Proctor gave the Croft crowd plenty to smile about as he ensured to Yorkshire drivers would end the day on the podium, finishing third. Matt Neal starved off a raft of drivers to take fourth whilst Sutton ended the day with a seventh place finish.

Virtue of the weekendā€™s results, Turkington leads the championship standings heading into the annual summer break, 19 points ahead of his nearest challenger Ingram.

In the BTCC Teams Championship, Team BMW sit at the summit of the standings whilst BMW also lead the BTCC Manufacturer/Constructors Championship. The Independents category sees Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport lead the Driversā€™ and Teamsā€™ Championshipā€™s. Rounding off the list of points leader is Dan Cammish, who controls the Jack Sears Trophy at the half-way stage.

For the full classification of results from all BTCC sessions over the weekend, click here.

The 2018 Dunlop MSA Touring Car Championship returns on July 28/29 for rounds 16, 17 and 18 at Snetterton. As part of the seriesā€™ 60th anniversary celebrations, the third encounter at the Norfolk circuit will be contested over 60 miles, equating to 20 laps.