Ashley Sutton moved to the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings at Rockingham this past weekend (26/27 August) after taking his sixth win of the season.
Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2017 campaign proved to be a pivotal stop on the calendar as significant twists and turns took place in the battle to capture the coveted BTCC crown.
Whilst Sutton further cemented his status as a title contender, there were also wins for James Cole - his first-ever in the series - and West Surrey Racing’s Andrew Jordan.
Qualifying around the Corby-based venue saw Team BMR continue their impressive run of form as Cole took his first-ever pole position, pipping Jack Goff by 0.048. Tom Ingram took third with Sutton the first of the championship protagonists in fourth, one spot ahead of Turkington.
Prior to the opening race of the day the first piece of BTCC news for 2018 was announced with Handy Motorsport confirming that the iconic Alfa Romeo name would return to the series. The Independent squad will field a front-wheel-drive Giulietta with Rob Austin behind-the-wheel.
Launching from pole position in the opening race, Cole survived an early charge from Goff to go on to take his maiden BTCC win, leading every lap around the 1.94 mile circuit. Showcasing the talent he has always possessed but was sometimes unable to show, Cole became the 11th different winner of the season.
Behind, Goff lost second place to Sutton on the penultimate lap but managed to fend off the charging Josh Cook at the line. Tom Ingram, Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard all failed to score as they encountered their own problems.
Ladened with 75kgs of success ballast for race two, Cole was unable to hold the lead on the opening tour as his Subaru team-mate Sutton swept around the outside at the Deene Hairpin. From there, the 23-year-old built up a healthy lead to notch win number six.
Whilst Sutton stretched his legs out front, the battle for the remaining podium positions proved to be dramatic with Cook, Matt Neal and Mat Jackson all in the wars. Cook and Neal would collide at the hairpin which ultimately led to Jackson and Turkington rounding out the rostrum.
One of the standout performers in the race however was Ingram, who battled his way from 31st on the grid to ninth. Shedden endured further trouble though, retiring after making contact with Austin.
Drawn on pole position after finishing seventh in race one, 2013 champion Jordan got back to winning ways with a superlative drive in the reverse grid encounter. Fending off intense pressure from behind during the first half of the race, the BMW Pirtek Racing driver began to build a gap at the front and ultimately took the chequered flag ahead of Adam Morgan and Jason Plato.
Sutton was able to cap his day off with a fifth place behind Goff whilst Turkington completed the top six. Goff survived an incident which ended Collard’s day early in the latter stages.
Heading into rounds 25, 26 and 27 in under three weeks time, Sutton holds a 12-point advantage over Turkington at the top of the standings. Reigning champion Shedden remains third but is now 55 points off the summit with Collard a further point behind him.
Senna Proctor once again triumphed in the Jack Sears Trophy to take another step closer to being crowned champion. The Power Maxed Racing driver equaled his best result in the series with seventh in race three.
Following the weekend’s trio of races, Cook was issued with a race ban after picking up his third and fourth reprimands of the season. MG Triple Eight Racing have appealed the ban and a decision will be made on whether it is upheld on Friday 15th September.
To view the full classification of results from Rockingham, click here.
The BTCC is back in action on the 16/17 September for the penultimate meeting of the season at Silverstone.