Ashley Sutton went fastest in the morning British Touring Car Championship free practice session at Croft, the first of three Subarus which were able to break into the Top 10 on the timesheets.
Despite the strong pace shown by Sutton and his veteran team-mate Jason Plato, who was third fastest, the BMR driver refused to make any assumptions as to his chances for qualifying and the race.
“We all know FP1 and FP2 mean nothing. It’s just about finding the balance,” he explained to TOCA Radio after the session ended.
The opening session of the weekend took place on an increasingly damp circuit, and Josh Price – who was the third of the Levorgs in 8th – felt the changeable conditions helped him and his Subaru team-mates. “The wet separates things a little bit more,” he said. “It’s more about the driver.”
Splitting the two lead Subarus in second place was Matt Simpson, who turned in an excellent session in the third factory Honda. He was pushing hard, clipping the tyre barriers around the circuit on more than one occasion, which left the front-left corner of his Civic Type-R a little worse for wear.
Rob Austin‘s privateer Handy Motorsport Avensis went fourth quickest, just ahead of two primary championship contenders in Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington. It was a promising run for both, given the ballast levels their success in recent rounds has earned them for Croft.
Further down the order, Tom Ingram set the tenth fastest time, but with seconds left to go in the session brought out the red flag. He ran wide at the chicane, running into an unsighted dip which caused him to come to a sudden stop. This caused significant damage to the front-end of his Toyota Avensis, which in turn caused a fire. With little over an hour between the end of FP1 and the start of FP2, his Speedworks Motorsport team have little time to get the car repaired for the midday practice session.
The session also saw the competitive debut of Dennis Strandberg, who coped valiantly with his last-minute debut in the championship. His opening laps were an eventful introduction to the series, with an early trip through the grass at Complex leading to a lengthy stop to clear his front splitter.
“He didn’t know where he was going when he went out of the pit-lane,” exclaimed Maximum Motorsport team principal Stewart Lines. “I’m glad it’s not me!”
The Swede rallied to the 24th fastest time by session’s end, a little over two seconds off Sutton’s pace, and was already brimming with confidence ahead of Sunday.
“A Top 15 would be perfect,” he said afterwards. “Getting into the points would be awesome. This is something new for me going into the first race, and we’ll learn quickly I hope!”
|1||Ashley Sutton||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||17||1:31.657|
|2||Matt Simpson||Simpson Racing||12||+0.429|
|3||Jason Plato||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||17||+0.444|
|4||Rob Austin||Handy Motorsport||14||+0.620|
|5||Gordon Shedden||Halfords Yuasa Racing||14||+0.688|
|6||Colin Turkington||Team BMW||15||+0.718|
|7||Jack Goff||Eurotech Racing||15||+0.911|
|8||Árón Taylor-Smith||MG Racing RCIB Insurance||17||+0.948|
|9||Josh Price||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||17||+1.167|
|10||Tom Ingram||Speedworks Motorsport||15||+1.185|