Ashley Sutton shone brightly on his debut Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship weekend at Brands Hatch, the MG man lying seventh in the title race after three solid finishes.
The rookie’s results of fourth, sixth and 10th in the Kent opener made for a spectacular start to life in the BTCC for the 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup champion, leaving him a highly credible seventh overall and just 14 points behind series leader, Matt Neal.
A top-five qualifying performance by the Triple Eight man was magnified by two strong results in the opening brace of Sunday races, only for a stall in the finale to prove the one blot on an an otherwise impressive maiden copybook page.
“We covered all grounds, even down to stalling the thing”, was Sutton’s summary of his maiden BTCC weekend to The Checkered Flag afterwards. “It was one of those things but, apart from stalling it, a fantastic weekend.
“Obviously race one was fantastic. Race two; we made a set-up change that didn’t quite suit me, but I’m still learning. Then in race three, I stalled it, dropped back to 20th and managed to fight back up to 10th.
“It shows that the car’s got potential – it’s just ironing out the problems.”
Although consistently placed within the top 10 for the majority of the weekend, Sutton warned that the Indy circuit was one that was less akin to the true performance of the MG6 GT.
“It’s brilliant to be involved in the top five, let alone top 10”, Sutton added. “I think we’re going to be better at other tracks.
“Our car didn’t suit it compared to the rear-wheel drive cars due to pure traction, but obviously when we go to a bit of a different type of circuit it might suit us a bit more.”
The next stop for the series is at Donington Park over the weekend of 16/17 April, a circuit at which Sutton’s first miles in the MG were clocked.
Sutton warmed of the prospect of repeating his Media Day heroics when he topped much of that particular test, saying: “I can’t wait to go back there. It’s going to be good to go back to where we started.
“We’ve got a bit more of a base to build on. We went there with no structure on the car, just a base, but now we’ve worked out what tweaks work on the car and what suits me.”
In comparison to racing in Clios, Sutton already appeared to have embraced the racing etiquette of the BTCC after his three Jack Sears Trophy wins were masked by genuine front-running pace.
“You’re dealing with cars that are a lot faster, better on the brakes and twice the size of a Clio. The track – especially here – seems very narrow, so there is that bit of contact. But, that’s racing in touring cars!”