Ashley Sutton has hailed winning his maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title as a dream come true after triumphing over Colin Turkington on a dramatic final day of the season at Brands Hatch.
Becoming the youngest driver to win the coveted crown since John Fitzpatrick in 1966, as well as in the modern era, Sutton is also the first driver since Fabrizio Giovanardi to become champion in just his second season in the series.
The Team BMR racer entered the series finale with a ten point advantage over Turkington and after out-qualifying the BMW driver, he took a huge leap towards glory by extending his advantage with a third in race one.
The pendulum swung in race two however as Turkington stormed through the field to score victory and close the gap to six points as Sutton finished P12.
Starting within a position of each other on the grid for a wet final race of the year, Turkington and Sutton were inseparable on the opening lap as they battled through the top ten. Things however came to a head on lap two though as contact with another car saw Turkington suffer right rear damage, forcing him out of the race and out of the title race, giving Sutton the crown.
"This is a dream come true for me," Sutton said. “I’m worn out with the emotions of it, it's not sunk in yet. The past two meetings have been really up and down but the team have been fantastic all season.
"The opening race of the day was great as we gained good points but the tables turned in race two and all that hard work was undone. I knew it was time to get real and had to get the job done and my eyes were set on Colin.
“We went into Graham Hill Bend in the same place and on the exit, I could see there was some contact to my right but I was focused on trying to make sure I got ahead and didn’t see who it was.
"Half a lap later, I got the call that I could relax and I had to double check with the team as I didn’t believe them at first. When they said Colin was out of the car, I knew it was true.”
Rising through the ranks of the TOCA package with titles being claimed in both British F4 and the Renault UK Clio Cup, Sutton's BTCC journey has been a brief but eventful one. Bursting onto the scene last year, he claimed the Jack Sears Trophy with MG, spring-boarding him into Team BMR.
Failing to score points at the season-opener, the 23-year-old's season kicked into life at Donington Park with a double podium. Oulton Park saw his first victory come and from there onwards his charge continued to gather momentum.
In total, six victories and a further nine podiums proved to be the cornerstone of Sutton's title charge and he was able to secure the crown by 21 points as the chequered flag fell on the season.
He explained: “I knew it would be tough and to be honest, we wondered if was going to be possible. It was only really from Oulton Park that we got our arses in gear and from then on, we’ve been on the podium or around the top five right the way through to Silverstone.
“The team really picked me up from that low at the start of the season and we got our heads together, and that is what has got us here.”