"It’s often the ones you least expect. Isn’t it? Pass Tim Harvey as he walks through a paddock, you'll see he'll probably be smiling from ear to ear, chatting amiably to Nomax-clad sponsor-heavy racing drivers, or leathery-palmed mechanics, "
Ash Sutton – a star of the future?
Ashley Sutton – On a Fast Track to Success
Ron Dennis said that when he was the boss of McLaren Racing and watching Ayrton Senna in his early career, he saw a driver with pace, dedication, but also a driver with huge intellect. When I interviewed Ashley Sutton at Thruxton (a circuit where Senna won five times) I saw a driver with exactly those three qualities.
At 23 years old, Ashley Sutton is taking the British Touring Car Championship by storm. Driving the Adrian Flux sponsored BMR Racing Subaru Levorg; “Ash” is seen by many as the rising star of BTCC and has been tipped for the top by former BTCC racing drivers such as Alain Menu, Tim Harvey and Tiff Needell.
Sutton started Karting in 2000 and his dad mentioned to me that Ash was nicknamed “Nemo” due to his skill in wet weather races. In 2010 he moved to 750MC Formula Vee and won ‘Rookie of the Year’ finishing 4th. Then later in 2010, Ash’s career sadly took a massive tumble when he was involved in a huge car accident in his own Citroen C2. Sutton jokes about it now, ‘It held up well, the French car did well, ideal first car until it lasted’, however the crash landed him in hospital and meant a long recovery period.
‘I was out for three years from 2010 to 2014, and was not known….technically Ash Sutton had gone,’ he says. ‘I had to come back with a bang in 2014, in single seaters (British Formula Ford), then I went straight to the Renault Clio Cup for 2015, I won that championship and looked to move on. Joining the BTCC, in what was my third year back I was chuffed with and had a successful year last year picking up the Jack Sears. I wanted to be in the Subaru for my fourth year as it’s a promising car and to fly the flag for all the title sponsors. It’s a proud thing for me, and it’s given me the right tools to now go out and get the race wins and to be honest I am going to hunt down the 2017 British Touring Car Championship.’
The 2017 Touring car season started badly for Sutton at Brands Hatch with a 16th place in Round 1, a retirement in Round 2 and 21st in Round 3. At Donnington that form took a complete U-turn. In Round 4 qualifying, Ash stuck the Subaru Levorg on pole, but due to an over-boost issue with the engine, he was forced to start at the back of the field in 32nd. However, he fought his way up through the field to finish 13th. In Round 5, Ash went from 13th to finish on the podium with a 3rd place, which he was “chuffed with and over the moon”; and then to top it off he stood on the same 3rd place podium spot in Round 6. Through some outstanding driving Sutton had turned the “emotional rollercoaster” of a weekend completely around for himself and the team.
Ash admits that, ‘it’s racing, work , racing, work; as soon as I hang my helmet up on the Sunday night, its straight home, get some sleep and back to work 9am Monday morning. Its 9 to 5 during the week and sometimes I have to work seven days a week. Some say us racing drivers have a bit of an easy life, but oh no definitely not! I have been known to be a bit of a workaholic. I don’t like to be sat around, for me it’s a waste of time; I like to be doing something whether its work related or even just achieving different goals.’
The rear wheel drive Adrian Flux sponsored Subaru Levorg suits certain types of tracks and Ash said he was really looking forward to the next round at Oulton Park and the following meetings at Croft and Snetterton, with its high speed corners; so we could see Sutton back on the podium at all three race meetings. He also has a feeling Knockhill will be a good weekend for the Subaru. Sutton predicts that Rockingham will be a tough qualifying, but he has high hopes for the race. Silverstone may also be a tough round, with the high-speed straight-line nature of the circuit not currently suiting the Levorg’s set up.
Ash has a very down to earth attitude to his racing and is not the type of driver to just turn up and race, he understands the dynamic of a team: ‘I like to think I have a good mechanical mind, understand how the car works, and how the guys work…we put them through some struggles as drivers and we throw some curve balls in there for them,’ he says. ‘I stay late at track and go down and see them (the mechanics) at the workshop as that is my way of saying thank you and that I appreciate their work; and helping out when I can, if there are some stickers need putting onto the car or if the car needs a clean, I’ll do it…..they are here for me… we all have to work as one”
Sutton’s plans for the future are firmly within the British Touring Car Championship, but he has an idea of where he would like his career to go: ‘For me wrapping up the championship in BTCC and taking that trophy is my first priority and that is on the list. Until I do that I won’t look to do anything else. I would like to do some guest races in the future in a V8 supercar in Australia. They are basically a bigger version of what a Touring Car is with another 300 horsepower under your right foot. Bit of an animal and you need to tame them down. I have never been on a single seater route and firmly want to stay on a saloon car route with my career.”
Sutton knows the importance of a British Touring Car Championship win and shows a mature attitude to the other sides of being a modern racing driver: “The BTCC is known all around the world and to get your name on that trophy as one of the champions, it only helps your pedigree, yes we are here racing, but I also I need to be a good ambassador for the team, the sponsors and the brands that help us be a successful race team.”
His performance in Rounds 7, 8 and 9 at Thruxton shows Ash is not only a fantastic driver, but also a team player. A sixth (with fastest lap), eighth and another sixth, on a tough track for the Subaru, not only delivered some consistent points in Sutton’s own quest for the 2017 British Touring Car Championship (he is in 8th place with 62 points); but he also delivered some important points for the Adrian Flux sponsored BMR Racing Team (6th place with 65 points).
Ashley Sutton is certainly the driver to watch this season!
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