Brands Hatch BTCC: Sutton takes pole on damp track

Ashley Sutton secured a surprise pole position for the opening round of the 2019 BTCC season, beating former teammate Jason Plato in an incident-packed qualifying at Brands Hatch.

Brands Hatch BTCC: Sutton takes pole on damp track

Ahead of the first round, all 30 cars were running without success ballast. But greasy conditions disguised the true competitive order as everyone resorted to wet tyres.

Although the Indy circuit has traditionally favoured front-wheel-drive cars, and the Subaru Levorg GT has in particular has struggled for pace, Sutton set the early benchmark.

The 2017 champion was the first driver to drop under 54 seconds, taking Team BMR top and ahead of the Honda Civic Type Rs of Matt Neal and Sam Tordoff.

However, free practice pacesetter Tom Oliphant improved to take his WSR BMW 330i M Sport clear over Neal’s teammate Dan Cammish before the session was stopped.

Motorbase’s Ollie Jackson brought out the first of three red flags in the half-hour session as he guided his Ford Focus RS into the gravel at Clearways.

At the restart, Sutton posted a stellar 53.716s lap to initially run 0.188s ahead of the field.

The wet conditions and the Levorg’s low centre of gravity meant he was able to overcome its power deficit at the bogey venue.

The new-for-2019 wet tyres, estimated to be a second a lap faster, began to wear and that left Sutton unmatched.

He pitted for a fresh set of rubber and found another tenth, working down to a 53.602s lap.

Sutton then set the fastest first sector but had to abort his lap when Tordoff locked up under braking and beached his AMD Tuning Civic in the gravel at Druids.

The session restarted with 11 minutes remaining, as former Team BMR driver Jason Plato ran 11th. But on his return to Vauxhall, the marque with which he won the 2001 series crown, he climbed to second place on a 53.769s.

However, a third red flag was waved after ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Blundell replicated Tordoff’s incident at Druids.

As the final six minutes of qualifying played out, only Neal could improve his time.

That meant Sutton secured his fifth BTCC pole position as Plato returned to the front row for the first time since Croft last season.

Reigning champion Colin Turkington improved to beat his WSR teammate Oliphant for a BMW 3-4 ahead of Neal and Cammish.

Tom Ingram returned seventh place for the brand new Toyota Corolla, beating Stephen Jelley, Andrew Jordan and Tordoff.

BTC Racing's Josh Cook was forced to sit out the final minutes of the session, following a truncated FP2 during which his FK8 Civic required a wiring loom change, but he held onto 11th.

Plato and Sutton's respective teammates, Rob Collard and Senna Proctor, were 17th and 18th. Blundell beat Carl Broadley to end the session 29th in his Audi S3.

Session results

Pos. # Driver Car Time Gap
1 116 Ash Sutton Subaru 53.602  
2 11 Jason Plato Vauxhall 53.769 0.167
3 1 Colin Turkington BMW 53.773 0.171
4 15 Tom Oliphant BMW 53.904 0.302
5 25 Matt Neal Honda 53.942 0.340
6 27 Dan Cammish Honda 53.948 0.346
7 80 Tom Ingram Toyota 53.985 0.383
8 12 Stephen Jelley BMW 54.000 0.398
9 77 Andrew Jordan BMW 54.009 0.407
10 600 Sam Tordoff Honda 54.087 0.485
11 66 Josh Cook Honda 54.175 0.573
12 6 Rory Butcher Honda 54.186 0.584
13 22 Chris Smiley Honda 54.188 0.586
14 3 Tom Chilton Ford 54.202 0.600
15 303 Matt Simpson Honda 54.231 0.629
16 24 Jake Hill Audi 54.265 0.663
17 9 Rob Collard Vauxhall 54.267 0.665
18 18 Senna Proctor Subaru 54.452 0.850
19 31 Jack Goff Volkswagen 54.604 1.002
20 19 Bobby Thompson Volkswagen 54.690 1.088
21 28 Nicolas Hamilton Ford 54.693 1.091
22 32 Daniel Rowbottom Mercedes 54.715 1.113
23 33 Adam Morgan Mercedes 54.787 1.185
24 16 Aiden Moffat Mercedes 54.835 1.233
25 777 Michael Crees Volkswagen 55.117 1.515
26 37 Rob Smith MG 55.195 1.593
27 4 Sam Osborne MG 55.543 1.941
28 48 Ollie Jackson Ford 55.821 2.219
29 8 Mark Blundell Audi 55.824 2.222
30 41 Carl Boardley Volkswagen 55.900 2.298
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