Jake Hill and Ashley Sutton blasted their way to victory at a wet and wild Knockhill this past weekend (August 12/13) as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship delivered its most thrilling event of the season to-date.
Approaching the business end of the 2023 campaign, the annual trip north of the border had everyone on the edge of their seats as the country’s best tin-top drivers went wheel-to-wheel in remarkable weather conditions – with Hill and Sutton ultimately coming out on top.
As expected, Saturday’s qualifying session around the undulating 1.27-mile proved to be an ultra-competitive affair with more than half the grid covered by less than a second. At the top of the times, Sutton emerged as the driver to beat as he charged to pole position in style.
Despite encountering a few troubles in practice, the NAPA Racing UK driver progressed into the Top Ten Showdown and then punched in a superlative lap to pip One Motorsport with Starline Racing’s Josh Cook to top spot by just 0.006s.
The session – which saw conditions improve from wet to dry – saw Hill bounce back from an earlier off to clinch third whilst home hero Rory Butcher and reigning champion Tom Ingram completed the top five.
Race one will undoubtedly go down as a modern day BTCC classic as Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Hill inherited victory. Sutton had looked on course for a comfortable win after Cook had crashed out but the tide – and the weather – soon changed.
Heavy rain battered the circuit and within a minutes drivers began heading for the pit lane for wet tyres. Despite conditions continuing to worse, Sutton remained on slicks, showcasing sensational car control but it proved unsustainable and he too pitted after a brief safety car period.
Ingram had been one of the first front runners to dive into the pit lane and when the tyre change shuffle was complete, he emerged out front and cruised to victory ahead of Hill and team-mate Tom Chilton.
Unfortunately, Ingram’s joy soon turned to despair in parc ferme as both he and Chilton failed post-race ride height checks and were disqualified from the result. That gave Hill the win whilst Andrew Watson and Ricky Collard were promoted to complete the podium.
Hill doubled up in a breathtaking race two as the BMW ace held off the charging Ford Focus of Sutton to clinch his fourth victory of the season.
Held in much drier conditions, Hill quickly established a commanding lead out front but all eyes were on Sutton as he carved his way up the order from sixth, moving into second and then setting off after the race one victor.
Closing down a two-second lead in a matter of laps, Sutton spectacularly launched his car all over the famous Knockhill kerbs but Hill’s defence was resolute throughout and they remained in position all the way to the chequered flag. Stephen Jelley completed the podium in third.
The weekend’s third and final race then belonged to three-time champion Sutton as he obliterated the field to clinch his eighth win of the season in appalling wet weather conditions.
Starting sixth, Sutton scythed his up to second with relative ease and then made a pass for the lead on home hero Ronan Pearson at mid-distance. From there, the championship lead splashed off into the distance to triumph by more than nine seconds.
Cook completed a remarkable turnaround to finish second having finished race one in the tyre wall. The Honda Civic ace emerged as one of the fastest on the grid all weekend as he battled back to salvage some silverware.
Completing the podium in race three was Ingram, who like Cook fought his way back from despair to maintain his championship hopes. Ingram had had to pass team-mate Pearson on the final lap, denying the young Scotsman a maiden BTCC podium.
Heading back down south, Sutton now leads Ingram by 37 points in the Drivers’ Championship with BMW and NAPA Racing UK topping the Manufacturer-Constructor and Teams’ categories respectively after seven events.
Josh Cook and One Motorsport with Starline Racing continue to close in on retaining their Independent Drivers’ and Independent Teams’ crowns, whilst Mikey Doble is the current pace-setter in the Jack Sears Trophy.
To view the full classification of results from all BTCC sessions at Knockhill, CLICK HERE.
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season continues in less than two weeks’ time when the series travels returns to Donington Park – albeit this time on the famous Grand Prix circuit for the first time in almost two decades – on August 26/27.