Triple Eight drivers Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook expect to have more race pace up their sleeves on Sunday, after putting their MGs fifth and sixth on the grid for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season opener at Brands Hatch.
The MG duo ran consistently in the top 10 throughout the 30-minute qualifying session on Saturday, reigning Renault UK Clio Cup champion Sutton again impressing as he grabbed a top-five spot on the grid for his maiden BTCC race.
Sutton will be joined on row three by his Triple Eight team-mate, Cook, both singing their praise of the updated MG6 GT afterwards.
“We didn’t really know where we were going to be pace-wise, so that effectively was the first time that we got to see what everybody has got”, Cook told The Checkered Flag after a strong 30-minute session for the MG duo.
While ultimate one-lap pace appeared to be no problem for the MG6 GT pairing on Saturday, both Cook and Sutton were left more encouraged by the potential race pace in their locker for Sunday afternoon.
Cook emphasised this optimism by saying: “I’m pleased to see that our car has some strong qually pace, but if I’m honest, I think that our race pace is looking pretty strong as well.
“The testing that we have done has been mostly with endurance. When we’ve been in the sweet spot, we’ve managed to produce some pretty consistent lap times. We won’t really know until we get into racing, but I’m quietly looking forward to it.”
Rookie team-mate Sutton added to his Media Day heroics with a top-five start from his maiden BTCC qualifying session meanwhile, echoing Cook’s statement that Triple Eight’s race pace could surprise their opposition.
“We’ve concentrated more on a bit of a race set-up, rather than qualifying”, Sutton added to TCF. “So, for me, that was only my second proper qually run.
“I think we’ve got a good race car. We’re going to open a few doors and shut them behind us which will help us up the grid. I’m personally more of a racer, so I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
The Renault UK Clio Cup champion’s exuberant showing was affected by spots of rain during the 30-minute qualifying session, Sutton saying: “We did our lap on lap four I think and, from then on, the rain obviously stopped us.
“A few people just pipped us at the end and we were just left stuck in traffic. For me, I couldn’t quite get back there and was around four to five tenths off what I wanted to be. When it eased down, you could feel the car coming back to you.”
Despite a lack of testing in comparison to many of their closest rivals, Cook added that Triple Eight’s new-look outfit has benefited from technical alterations over the winter.
“As the Triple Eight guys do, everything is engineered in a certain way”, said Cook. “We’re running RML wishbones which people were questioning because of a few little reliability issues during pre-season, but I think we’ve definitely made the right decision.”
A podium finisher last season with Power Maxed Racing, Cook has eyes on more silverware in the opening round of 2016 and says that the MG duo must find the right time to pounce on Sunday.
Up for the battle, the former Clio Cup runner-up said: “We’ll certainly be getting our elbows, arms, feet and everything out tomorrow! We haven’t had a lot of starts in this car. The BMW is always fast, but it takes them a few laps to get their temperature so that will be our time to capitalise.”