Ashley Sutton has expressed his pride at writing his name in the Renault UK Clio Cup history books by securing the 2015 championship honours in his first season in the series with Team Pyro.
Sutton, who is backed by leading BTCC outfit Team BMR, was a revelation throughout the campaign, with five podiums in his first six races setting the tone for a season which featured fourteen top three finishes.
It was in the second half of the year that Sutton really moved up the gears though and four wins in the last six races, including a stunning double on the season finale weekend at Brands Hatch, secured him the title.
“I don’t think this is going to sink in for a while. The season has been fantastic, even if it has been a little up and down,” Sutton told TCF after the Brands Hatch podium celebrations.
“I can’t thank Team Pyro and Team BMR enough, they’ve both been fantastic throughout the season and without them, and my main sponsors Global Force and Select Fire, I wouldn’t be here enjoying this moment.”
The title victory means Sutton is the first driver to win the Clio Cup in his rookie season since Jonathan Fildes back in 2003, and he says achieving that accolade was always in the back of his mind this year.
“That’s what I wanted the most to be honest with you. I wanted to get my name on that select list, to be a rookie who’s won the title,” said the 21 year old.
“That gave me even more urge and courage to push in these final few meetings especially, it’s been pushing me on and it’s fantastic to achieve this accolade.”
The success also marks Team Pyro’s seventh drivers title in the last eight years, with Sutton following in the footsteps of current BTCC stars Dave Newsham, Jack Goff and Mike Bushell amongst others.
Pyro had a two-pronged assault on the title with Hand and Sutton, with the latter being full of praise for the way the team handled the duo and for the support they gave him through the season.
“The team are fantastic. They put in so many hours on these cars, they working their arses off to provide us with the best machinery,” Sutton enthused.
“I cannot fault them, the team are always behind you and support every driver in the team. We’ve had every title possible this season and it’s been an honour to be a part of that.”
Sutton got his season off to a near-perfect start as he just missed out on victory at Brands Hatch Indy after a thrilling scrap with Whorton-Eales, a battle he feels set the tone for an epic three-way title fight across the season.
“I came here at the season opener ready to prove a point. It was amazing to put it on pole position and to straight away be racing at the front against the likes of Ant [Whorton-Eales] and Ash [Hand], who’ve been in this championship for years,” he reflected.
“We had a bit of a ding dong in that race and we were angry for a little bit, but we settled down and we’ve all been good friends this season really.
“It’s been great racing against them, we’ve all put each other under immense pressure and I couldn’t thank them enough for making the year as tough and enjoyable as it has been.”
A key aspect to Sutton’s title success was a stunning qualifying record that saw him record sixteen front row starts in eighteen races, but despite that run he says it’s an area he’s still working on improving.
“Believe it or not, qualifying is something I still need to work on as I need to get more pole positions in the future and we still haven’t nailed getting the whole lap together, that’s my weakness,” he explained.
“We’ve been on the front row ninety percent of the time though which is fantastic, which is down to working hard at it on the race weekends, getting the car set-up right and maximising the tyres, as well as off-track getting my head in the right place and keeping in shape, it all adds up.”
Despite many of his title-winning predecessors moving on from the series after winning the title, Sutton says he is likely to return to the championship next season and become only the second champion in a decade to defend their title …. though he wouldn’t turn down a BTCC opportunity.
“Fingers crossed, it would be nice to defend the championship. Team BMR have a lot of say where I go and it depends what they want me to do, but returning to the Clio’s is the plan,” he concluded.
“I’d like to be in the BTCC, I feel like I could adapt to it and move forward, but at the end of the day it’s all funding and working money out, and I doubt it will happen.
“Our pace has been strong in the last few meetings and we’re going to improve over the winter and come back even stronger next year wherever we are.”