Ashley Sutton fends off Colin Turkington to win Knockhill BTCC opener

Laser Tools Racing’s Ashley Sutton secured a home win for the Scottish based outfit at Knockhill, converting pole position into victory whilst having to contend with championship rival Colin Turkington all race long.

Sutton got the jump from pole whilst Turkington moved into second, dropping Jake Hill to third as he couldn’t beat the rear-wheel drive cars off the line.

Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish maintained fourth position but as Turkington defended hard from Hill going into the Hairpin for the first time, he tried to pull off an audacious move around the outside of both of them, but was eventually squeezed out by the reigning BTCC champion and current series leader, Turkington.

This allowed Hill to retake third whilst Tom Ingram also managed to squeeze past into fourth whilst Rory Butcher also rubbed his way up the inside of Cammish as the pair went into the first bend of Duffus Dip. This dropped the manufacture-backed Cammish down to sixth.

The Safety Car was brought out a few laps after when Josh Cook lost the rear end of his BTC Racing Honda Civic Type-R FK8 as he navigated his way through the chicane. The car went smashing into the tyre barrier, leaving the rear end looking very sorry for itself.

Cook Knockhill 2020
Cook hasn’t had the best of start’s to his 2020 campaign. (Photo credit: BTCC/Jakob Ebrey)

Sutton led from the restart as the very light Hill was applying pressure to the maximum ballast Turkington. However, with Ingram also attacking him, the pair soon fell back from the leading two, allowing them to pull a three-second gap.

Despite his mirrors being full of the BMW 330i M-Sport of Turkington for the entire race, Sutton hung on to win – also taking the fastest lap in the process whilst Turkington settled for second. The gap between the pair at the head of the championship is just 13-points.

“It’s good obviously to get the win here for Laser Tools Racing,” said Sutton. “It’s fantastic to convert that pole into a win. Colin was there but we just managed to hold that sensible gap that we required so he couldn’t get a move in.

“Obviously, the initial plan was to just break clear and the opening lap was the perfect time to do that whilst everyone squabbled. But the Safety Car closed that down, so it was just a case of getting a clean restart, and then managing the gap from that point onwards. Obviously, he applied a little bit of pressure into the hairpin a couple of times, but it was under control.

“We’re pretty much swapping weight now, so I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact. It’s only 6kg more. I feel like we’ve always managed weight well. Me, as a driver, and the team in terms of engineering and setting it up, we’ve got a nice little package when it comes to ballast.  So, I’m confident, but it’s going to be a little harder.”

Turkington was happy with second, but now turns his attention to race two where he will be 6kgs lighter.

“It’s nice to get race one up and running and a good result in the bag,” admitted Turkington. “My car had very good pace in that race, but Ash would stretch his legs in the middle sector and then I’d catch him at the end, so I was never really in a perfect position to mount an attack, but it’s also race one of the day so it’s not about throwing caution to the wind. It’s about tucking a result away and building on that through the day.

I’m very happy, the BMW again is very good around Knockhill. I think we did a super job to get to P3 in qualifying yesterday, so we’ve a great platform for the rest of the day.

“I was pushing all the time and I could see the guys behind were scrapping, so that’s why we edged away. I was keen to try and mount more of an attack but it’s difficult towards the end of the race when oversteer is building and the brake pedal is starting to feel a bit long. It’s very easy to be over ambitious. I did my usual thing and hopefully we can keep moving forward.

“It’s a swing; I lose 6kg and Ash to put on 6kg, that’s a 12kg swing. The level of this series, it’s so competitive that these details matter. 12kg can make the difference – I’m hoping it does.”

After a mixed start to the season with an on-going electrical misfire, Hill was happy to get his second podium of the season.

“It’s nice to actually get a hat and trophy and finish on the podium,” beamed Hill. “It’s great. We always knew it would be an uphill battle – literally – against the rear-wheel drive cars. I think I did the best I could, and we managed to bring it home in third which is great.

“Probably in race three, I would say the front-wheel drive cars will come back. It’s going to be really hard to beat Colin and Ash in race two but if I can stay third again that would be brilliant, or at least in the top five. I feel like the car’s good, we lacked a little bit of traction in the second half of the race and Tom started to come at me a little but luckily enough I was good enough through the chicane to keep him at bay.”

Hill Knockhill 2020
Hill had to fight-off Ingram to secure his second podium finish of the season in as many weeks. (Photo credit: BTCC/Jakob Ebrey)

Ingram finished fourth with Butcher fifth and Cammish sixth.

Matt Neal finished a very respectable seventh, pulling a nice move on Aiden Moffat on route to that position. Tom Oliphant was eighth whilst Moffat came home ninth.

Stephen Jelley out-dragged Tom Chilton for 10th in their race-long battle with Adam Morgan 12th, followed by the two Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai’s of Senna Proctor and Chris Smiley, whilst Carl Boardley came home in 15th in the only Team HARD car to complete the race after teammate Jack Goff failed to make the start.

Header image courtesy of BTCC/Jakob Ebrey

By Jordan Hollands.

 

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