How BTCC king Sutton charges his rivals


There’s no query about it: Ash Sutton is without doubt one of the all-time greats of the British Touring Automotive Championship. It’s well-documented already that his 2023 title success aboard his Alliance Racing Ford Focus ST was a record-equalling fourth alongside Andy Rouse and Colin Turkington, and meant that he grew to become the primary in BTCC historical past to win it in rear and front-wheel-drive equipment; the identical goes for his matching of Alain Menu’s 1997 document of 12 race wins in a season.

Sutton’s profession has been lined extensively; so too have the achievements of the NAPA-liveried Motorbase/Alliance squad in our in-depth feature of last November. And everybody has an opinion about him. So now, as he will get set to be one of many star company at this week’s Autosport International present on the Birmingham NEC, it’s time to ask Sutton: what does he consider the primary rivals he’s confronted within the BTCC?

Tom Ingram

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Ingram beat Sutton to the 2022 title, and the 2 have resolved to race one another cleanly after early scrapes

There appears to be numerous respect between 2022 champion Ingram and Sutton: “Yeah there may be. Initially after I first bought into touring vehicles we had a number of little run-ins collectively. I believe everybody does – it’s touring automotive racing. We’d give one another the nudge that was at all times a bit bit an excessive amount of. However I believe from 2019 onwards the ambiance in touring vehicles possibly barely modified – a little bit of racing room was left a bit extra, and extra racing respect was there.

“Undoubtedly with Tom I’ve observed, particularly the previous two seasons once we’ve each been gunning for the title, that we’ve at all times given one another that little bit of respect. We nonetheless get caught in, we nonetheless give one another the nudge right here and there, however there’s by no means this taking-each-other-out stuff. When you give him a bit nudge you’re going to get it again sooner or later. That for us is respect at a touring automotive degree.”

Has that been helped by the BTCC drivers’ group, of which Sutton is a main mover? “When Dan Rowbottom was with Honda we began this group. We’re now in the identical workforce, so we have now Adam Morgan who will get concerned a bit bit to talk on behalf of the rear-wheel-drive facet. Finally the entire thought of that group was to beat points and battle throughout the drivers – we are able to all align and get issues all of us need out of the championship, and we’ve managed to do this. We’ve tweaked a number of guidelines, which favours the racing and implies that we all know we’re going to get left a bit little bit of racing room relatively than doorways being shut on us. However in the end the racing respect between me and Tom has at all times been there since late 2019.”

When Sutton was within the rear-wheel-drive Subaru and Infiniti, did he ever take a look at Ingram’s uncommon driving fashion and surprise how he was doing what he was doing in a front-drive automotive? “There have been a few instances the place you’d watch an onboard and also you’d suppose, ‘Bloody hell, the factor strikes round rather a lot.’ I at all times thought, ‘Is that the quickest manner spherical? Is it what I might need from a front-wheel-drive automotive?’ And in the end final 12 months I wasn’t too distant.

“Perhaps not fairly as lairy, however undoubtedly a automotive that moved round rather a lot. It’s simply the character of driving fashion. That’s Tom’s driving fashion and I’ve discovered that as properly in a front-wheel-drive automotive, however you’d by no means in your life need a rear-wheel-drive automotive doing that.”

Jake Hill

Sutton says Hill is an aggressive racer that he respects

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Sutton says Hill is an aggressive racer that he respects

Hill seems to be a fiery little character on the monitor: “He’s crammed Rob Collard’s sneakers possibly! To be truthful, Jake’s a tough racer, and he’s very keen about it, and you may see that typically when issues flare up. However all of us have our moments when issues get a bit heated. Jake on monitor could be very aggressive, however there’s nothing incorrect with that so long as you understand how to deal with that particular person, and I’ve been advised I can come throughout fairly aggressive. It’s simply the character of the beast I believe.

“While you’re in a rear-wheel-drive automotive and that it’s going to return on sturdy on the finish of a race, that tends to be once you see Jake fairly punchy, when he is aware of that he’s bought a bonus within the automotive and he’s attempting to profit from it.”

What about Oulton Park final summer season, when Hill was determined to carry on from Sutton early on? “These two races, Jake knew he needed to preserve me behind on the very begin, as a result of that’s when a rear-wheel-drive automotive’s at its weakest, and I knew full properly if I did get in entrance of him it was going to change into laborious on the finish for me. Once we noticed Jake soar in a rear-wheel-drive automotive [for 2022], nobody truly knew what he was going to be like, however now we’ve bought an understanding of that we are able to maximise our personal efficiency from it.”

Colin Turkington

Sutton describes fellow four-time champion Turkington as a silent assassin

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Sutton describes fellow four-time champion Turkington as a silent murderer

He’s now the elder statesman of the main runners, and nonetheless a power: “Colin is at all times pondering of factors, however don’t get me incorrect – he’s nearly just like the silent murderer! We’ve seen it when he’s needed to come from the again of the grid to the entrance, like at Oulton Park [in 2023] – he does get caught in. As a lot as everybody calls him Mr Constant, Mr Pointsy, when he’s on the again and he’s bought to make his method to the entrance the elbows are out. However 90% of his driving fashion is finished on a calculation foundation for the championship – that’s how I at all times take a look at Colin.”

It is easy to color a driver’s racing character from what they’re like out of the automotive. Turkington is a relaxed, charming chap – so it takes you aback when he’s a bit cheeky on the monitor: “100%! I’ve had the little nudge that opens the door. As drivers we’ve all bought two completely different personalities. We stroll across the paddock and a few of us act as good man and approachable, some wish to preserve themselves to themselves, however once we get in a race automotive we do all change, and anybody that tells me they don’t is incorrect.

“Colin is a fully implausible, down-to-earth man out of the automotive, however when he’s bought the automotive underneath him and offers you a bit nudge to open the door, that’s when he’s digging deep.”

Josh {Cook}

Sutton began his BTCC career alongside Cook in 2016

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Sutton started his BTCC profession alongside {Cook} in 2016

He was Sutton’s first BTCC team-mate, again within the Triple Eight MG days in 2016, and so they’ve been pals ever since: “Josh is implausible. Weirdly, earlier than I even bought into touring vehicles, I genuinely thought Josh didn’t like me. And we’ve each laughed and joked about this as a result of he thought the identical factor about me. This was once we have been within the help paddock. He was nonetheless concerned in Clios as a workforce proprietor after I was racing them [Sutton won the 2015 title] – I might need had a few run-ins together with his drivers.

“However the second I joined British touring vehicles in 2016, we bought on like a home on fireplace and we nonetheless do. We possibly don’t see one another as a lot or communicate as a lot we used to – our lives take over [both have recently become fathers] and we’re doing our personal programmes inside touring vehicles – however he’s only a implausible man and we’ve had some superior battles on monitor. You look again on the final race of the 12 months in 2019, once we have been simply completely on it, facet by facet, for a number of laps. That for me is once you’ve bought somebody that’s pal off monitor which you could have laborious race with on monitor.

“Regardless of being pals, you’re nonetheless going to have these blows. Have a look at Knockhill final 12 months when Josh ended up within the barrier – I went spherical the skin of him and he bounced off the facet of my automotive and it ended his race. Was that my intention? No. That for me was only a racing incident, and even when we have been finest pals we wouldn’t have been in a position to do something about it. Regardless of your relationship with that particular person, you possibly can’t at all times overcome each situation.”

Dan Cammish

Sutton recommended Cammish to Alliance boss Osborne

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Sutton really helpful Cammish to Alliance boss Osborne

Sutton’s present team-mate – and someday rear-gunner – can be blisteringly quick in his personal proper: “Dan’s implausible. Again in 2021, Pete Osborne [Alliance boss] approached me to hitch what’s now the NAPA outfit, and on the time I assumed I had a executed deal elsewhere. Pete requested me who would I put within the automotive, and I mentioned, ‘Properly, there’s one man who’s not on this grid that deserves a shot due to his uncooked tempo’, and that was Dan Cammish. He’d misplaced his seat from Honda, he’d had a 12 months out, he was itching to get again in and I attempted to place his title ahead to get within the seat, which realistically it paid off for him.

“I by no means actually spoke to him as much as that time – he retains himself to himself. However you take a look at his CV and what he’s achieved in a race automotive, and that speaks for itself. The profession he had in Porsches, in Components Ford, they have been dominant eras for him. And he simply missed out on the BTCC championship in 2019. My respect for Dan is big and I put his title ahead to take that seat, and it turned out that we ended up being team-mates anyway!”

How a lot has he contributed to the workforce’s success? “Look again to 2022, what he gave up for me that 12 months as a result of we had a small probability of successful it, the race win he sacrificed at Thruxton in race two, and performing a bit bit as a wingman and towing me spherical at Silverstone. We now have a proper snicker throughout the workforce, and away from the monitor he’s only a down-to-earth, real man.”

Jason Plato

Plato was Suton's idol as a youngster and the two had a good relationship at BMR

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Plato was Suton’s idol as a teen and the 2 had relationship at BMR

Now we’re going to speak about a number of the BTCC champions who haven’t been on the grid these days, beginning with Sutton’s childhood hero: “The primary time I met him, and we nonetheless ship the image between us each on occasion, was the Autosport Awards after the 2007 season. I used to be there to gather an award for my karting profession.

“Regardless of Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard and some others being there, the one I needed to go and see was Jason. He’s the one who I’d been watching on telly, and I needed to be in his seat doing what he was doing. I used to be a younger 13-year-old taking a look at my idol, and God is aware of what number of years later I’m sat in a race automotive subsequent to him. It was fairly surreal to be truthful, firstly to be becoming a member of BMR [for 2017], however to do it alongside Jason was particular. Jason performed a number of elements in my mind-set in touring vehicles for certain. He’s been one of the vital profitable on the market to this point, he’s made a dwelling from British touring vehicles for a really very very long time.

“At Manufacturers Hatch, simply earlier than the ultimate race in 2017, I used to be going for the title. He pulled me apart, he grabbed the entrance of my helmet, he appeared me within the eye, and he mentioned, ‘Don’t fear child, you’ve bought this.’ It was simply a type of… ‘that is your time’ moments. He’s full of guffaws, filled with tales. You get him down the native pub, good little bit of meals, and he’s a correct story-teller. He’s a implausible man, and to have two hours to take heed to half of what he’s been as much as is sensible.

“I’ve been on the incorrect facet of Jason – in 2019, me and him came to blows at Snetterton, and that was the primary time that somebody I had revered for thus lengthy and thought that we have been on a typical floor… I bought knocked down a peg or two! It made me open my eyes to by no means belief anybody in British touring vehicles. It was a studying curve and undoubtedly a heated one.

“However final 12 months I had some implausible texts from Jason. Once we gained the title at Manufacturers, after the primary race, he was the primary particular person to name me. And he spent 10 minutes on the telephone, chatting away, speaking about a number of the reminiscences, congratulating me, and I even heard him crack open a bit drink for me. It was good – we’ve been via some highs and lows, however to have somebody who I had as an idol saying you’re doing the perfect job anybody can do, that you just’re a bit particular, is very nice.”

Matt Neal

Sutton felt he was accepted into the BTCC's inner circle after bantering with Neal at ASI in 2018

Photograph by: James Roberts

Sutton felt he was accepted into the BTCC’s interior circle after bantering with Neal at ASI in 2018

His title-winning days have been over when Sutton rocked up within the BTCC, however he might nonetheless be a power: “In my first 12 months within the championship I had an enormous coming-together with him at Manufacturers. It was the accident popping out of Druids the place he hit the wall on the left – he spun spherical and spherical and he even picked up a little bit of concussion. That was our first actual blow on the monitor, and I can keep in mind going to see him afterwards and speaking about it and it was very heated, very Matt Neal-esque if I can name it that! I undoubtedly was on the receiving finish of that… However I used to be the brand new child on the block at the moment, and in the end these names have been simply stickers on the window to me. I used to be there to do my very own job.

“I at all times discovered he stored himself to himself. You’d stroll down the pitlane and cease and say good day and stuff, however that was at all times about it. After which in the beginning of 2018, all of us went to the Autosport present, and did a bit on stage, and I began calling him ‘the giraffe’ and ‘the {old} boy’ and issues like that, and we began having a little bit of fun on stage, and that was the primary time I felt a part of the interior circle.

“I believe Ingram’s spoken of this interior circle, the place once you’ve gone and bought your self a championship, and also you’ve confirmed your price, it’s nearly such as you’ve been let in. There was me, Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Colin, 5 of us, and I felt part of that then relatively than the brand new child on the block. He’s a genuinely good man, {old} character.”

Gordon Shedden

Sutton would love to see Shedden back on the BTCC grid

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Sutton would like to see Shedden again on the BTCC grid

The Scot was very a lot the BTCC prime canine when Sutton arrived, however extra a part of the Plato/Neal technology: “Yeah he’s. I truly bought on very properly with Gordon on monitor. Lots of people struggled with having a little bit of contact with him, however like with Tom Ingram we’ve had this mutual respect. A few instances I’ve been on the receiving finish of a nudge and thought, ‘Oh Gordon, that was a bit laborious.’

“However there have been a few instances the place we’ve each simply labored collectively, and he would make a niche and I’d comply with him via, or vice versa. I actually loved these races with him, and we’ve each bought out of the automotive a number of instances and mentioned, ‘Ah that was a cracking race.’ As soon as I bought into that interior circle, your respect for one another does change massively.

“I spoke to him on the BRDC Awards final month and he was saying he’d like to get again into the BTCC, after which he’s on the telephone asking if I might help him with a sim [Sutton’s business away from the track is simulators]. And he despatched me down a ebook on 50 years of Knockhill for Christmas as a bit thanks reward. An incredible man and a real racer – a tough racer, that’s for certain.”

Andrew Jordan

Sutton says Jordan and he worked together without communicating on it beforehand

Photograph by: JEP

Sutton says Jordan and he labored collectively with out speaking on it beforehand

If solely Jordan had stayed within the BTCC after the COVID hiatus, he might need loved some epic scraps with Sutton. However he’s most well-liked to focus on the household enterprise in historic racing: “Like Gordon, we by no means actually had massive blows with one another on monitor, and there have been undoubtedly a number of events the place we labored collectively however with none communication beforehand. While you fall into that with somebody I at all times really feel that’s when you’ve bought the mutual respect there. In my eyes, there’s working collectively on monitor and making progress, or there’s inflicting carnage.

“Andrew’s quick within the automotive, and a implausible man away from the monitor – a household man and a real laborious employee. You take a look at what their enterprise is now, and he’s doing a implausible job there. The entire Jordan household are nice – I need to match into their good books for them to ask me alongside in 2018 to race considered one of their Cortinas with considered one of Andrew’s sponsors, Pete Chambers, at Goodwood. I really feel like I bought their approval, and that was fairly a cool second. I communicate to Andrew fairly a bit truly, and at all times ask him how he’s getting on together with his workforce and the progress they’re making.”

And… Alain Menu

Touring car legend Menu was a mentor figure to Sutton when he joined the BMR fold in 2017

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Touring automotive legend Menu was a mentor determine to Sutton when he joined the BMR fold in 2017

We’re going to present Sutton the ultimate alternative, to finish 10 drivers. And he picks a champion he by no means raced in opposition to: “There’s one character: Alain Menu. Sadly I in all probability won’t ever race him. He left touring vehicles as I joined. He nearly acted as a little bit of a mentor in my first 12 months of touring vehicles, simply trying over knowledge. He was additionally working with Josh {Cook} and Warren Scott, so he was sort of a part of what we might name the BMR household. I constructed a relationship with him off the again of that and took a few of his recommendation when it comes to the dos and don’ts of touring automotive racing.

“In 2017 Alain requested me to go as much as his home once we have been at Knockhill. We stayed there for the weekend, we had some implausible meals, hung out together with his household and mine. From that time onwards I’ve at all times had an awesome relationship with him the place we drop one another a textual content, just a bit catch-up with one another, checking in how everybody’s doing.

“The proper instance for me is I hadn’t seen him for a few years, and on the Manufacturers Hatch Tremendous Touring Energy occasion [last summer] he came upon I used to be there, and he got here out of his field the place he had a number of company and got here and located me. We had half-hour of taking the mickey out of one another and catching up. He performed an element in it [Sutton’s success], and I class him as a pal.”

Can Sutton score a fifth title in BTCC 2024?

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Can Sutton rating a fifth title in BTCC 2024?

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