Ashley Sutton came from eighth on the grid to secure Infiniti’s first win in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, ahead of Chris Smiley who secured Excer8 Motorsport’s first podium in the series in only their second season.
Smiley was drawn for reverse grid pole but was beaten off the line by Motorbase Performance’s Ollie Jackson. Stephen Jelley also got a great start from fourth on the grid and was challenging for the lead, but was then ever so gently squeezed onto the grass as Smiley and Jackson moved across to cover the fast-starting rear-wheel drive BMW.
As the field went down through; Hollywood, Craner Curves and the Old Hairpin, Jelley eventually lost two positions to Josh Cook and Adam Morgan, dropping to fifth as Jack Butel went off the road at the Old Hairpin bringing out the safety car.
The restart saw Dan Cammish attack Jelley around the outside at Redgate but the Team Parker Racing driver held his own, and squeezed Cammish out wide allowing Sutton to come through. Sutton then got Jelley up the inside going into the final chicane, moving him up to fifth.
Cook was really beginning to start pressurising Smiley but couldn’t find a way past his former teammate.
Smiley then dived up the inside of Jackson on lap seven going into the Old Hairpin to take the race lead which also allowed; Cook, Sutton and Morgan to go through, dropping the Motorbase Performance driver down to fifth.
Two laps later, Sutton got a good run out of Coppice and moved past Cook into second. He instantly gets on the rear bumper of Smiley and pulls the same move on him as he did to Cook just a lap prior to take the race lead.
With just three laps left, Tom Ingram dived up the inside of Cammish going into the final chicane after getting a good run out of Coppice to grab sixth.
But it was Sutton who came through to grab his first win of the season on his Laser Tools Racing debut.
After the race, Sutton said: “It means so much to me to get that result, which I thought the whole team deserved. Race one, we was involved in a racing incident – I’m not going to point fingers because I don’t think there’s anyone to point a figure at, but to bounce-back the way we did – it was exactly what we needed.
“The car gives me a hell of a lot of confidence and it allows me to pull those overtakes. We made a couple of little tweaks for that one – bits that I thought were missing after Qualifying, but the car was on absolute rails in that last race.”
Smiley said: “It’s a dream come true really. To turn up here with a brand-new car and a brand-new team and come away with a second place is awesome! It was one of those drives that you’ll remember, it was inch perfect other than the start. I still need to figure out the best way to get the Hyundai of the line. A big thanks to the whole team and all my sponsors, because without them, this wouldn’t be possible.
“Ash (Ashley Sutton) has been on fire all day, so I knew there wasn’t much point in fighting him too hard, but then I had a really good battle with Josh (Cook) as well. It’s been a really good day for both me and Excer8 Motorsport.”
Cook said: “It’s good to end the day with a podium for the team – they’ve worked real, real hard over the winter. You can’t help but feel a little but disappointed when you felt you had the pace to do more, but it’s just one of those things. Donington has been really good for me in the past, but to end a tough day with a podium is really good for us.
“Ash was on it, so there was no real point in battling with him, but I was hoping when he got away that I could challenge Chris, but the guys at Excer8 have done a great job with that car. I’m happy with the podium, I would have liked a race win but in this Championship, you just need to pick up the points and fight another day.”
Morgan finished fourth with Jackson in fifth and Ingram in sixth.
Seventh was Cammish with teammate Matt Neal in eighth, ninth was Tom Oliphant with Colin Turkington rounding out the top-10.
Rory Butcher came home 11th with Tom Chilton ending a frustrating day 12th. Teammate Michael Crees was 13th with Carl Boardley ending a solid day in 14th and Bobby Thompson getting the final points-paying position in 15th.
After the first three races of the season, reigning Champion Turkington leads the Championship on 46 points with Cammish a further six behind in second. Third is Sutton who is level on points with Butcher in fourth.
Fifth is Ingram, who leaves Donington 10-points a-drift. Oliphant is further four points behind in sixth with Smiley seventh and Neal eighth.
The series moves to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit next weekend.
Header image from BTCC.
By Jordan Hollands.