Sutton storms to pole position at Brands Hatch
Adrian Flux Subaru Racing star Ashley Sutton made the best of damp and drizzly conditions at Brands Hatch to claim the opening pole position of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship.
A frenetic 30 minutes of running was punctuated by three stoppages as drivers struggled to cope with the 1.2-miles of greasy Tarmac around the famous Indy Circuit. It was Sutton who kept his powder dry, however, as the 2017 Champion produced a number of laps that the chasing pack couldn't match.
Interestingly, it is Sutton's former team-mate Jason Plato who will line-up alongside him on the front row tomorrow as the Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing man continues to enjoy his switch to the Vauxhall Astra.
Colin Turkington surged his striking new BMW 3 Series into the top three in the final moments as the Northern Irishman quietly went about his business throughout the session. Andrew Jordan and Tom Oliphant had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively just behind their BMW stable-mate, although for the latter it was still a hugely impressive display on his first outing for the Bavarian marque.
Halfords Yuasa Racing will occupy sixth and seventh on the grid for the opening BTCC race of the season as Matt Neal got the better of his younger team-mate, Dan Cammish.
Tom Ingram said prior to qualifying that he would be happy with a top ten berth in the new Toyota Corolla, and the Team Toyota GB with Ginsters star duly delivered with the eighth fastest lap time.
Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance's Sam Tordoff and BTC Racing's Josh Cook rounded out the top ten although the former may have been hoping for more having topped the times during pre-season testing at Brands Hatch.
Tordoff was very much in the hunt during qualifying, before he became one of three drivers to spin out in separate incidents. Tordoff, Ollie Jackson and Mark Blundell all went off into the gravel and immediately fell foul of the new-for-2019 rule, which states that a driver causing a red flag in qualifying loses their fastest lap time to that point and takes no further part in the session.
Stephen Jelley was another to face heartache as the Team Parker Racing driver had initially secured eighth on the timesheets, but he was later excluded after his BMW 125i M Sport failed ride height tests post-session.
Qualifying also saw the competitive debut for the new Dunlop BluResponse wet tyre, which all competitors used due to the conditions. The brand new compound provided the full 30-car field with more grip and durability throughout the session.
Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will take place at Brands Hatch tomorrow (7 April), with all the action being broadcast live on ITV4 and the ITV Hub from 10:15.
Ashley Sutton said: "We weren't expecting that. I'm 100 percent sure that if it wasn't dry we wouldn't be in the same position. It fell into our hands and fingers crossed it's wet tomorrow. Twice we actually purpled sector one when a red flag came and spoilt things. There's a few things to work on and I'm going to have my old team-mate pushing me along aren't I?"
Jason Plato said: "It's alright isn't it. We've steadily made progress. We've got areas where we know we can improve – it's the first time we've done running with wets on the car. It's great to be with a team which I trust and that can put a competitive car on the grid for me."
Colin Turkington said: "They were really tricky conditions for the first qualifying session and our first experience of the new 330i M Sport in the wet. For our car the new Dunlop wet compound comes in a bit quicker and you can lean on it earlier. It's a massive achievement and I can't emphasise how much effort's gone into this from the team. We've a fast car in the dry and wet. We're happy tonight but we know we've got work to do.