Sutton & Subaru close on BTCC prize

Motorsport
BMW Subaru BTCC Knockhill

The Subaru of Jason Plato took race one, the Toyota of Tom Ingram race three, but it was Plato’s team-mate Ashley Sutton’s day as the British Touring Car Championship moved to Knockhill in Scotland.

Sutton followed up his runner-up spot in race one with a win in race two and fifth in race three. While he is still two points behind BMW driver Colin Turkington, who took the championship lead from Honda’s Gordon Shedden, most now put the Subaru man in firm favourite status for end-of-season honours.

Race one – Plato reaches top step

A Subaru front row and BMW second row transferred to exactly the same order at the end of the first 24-lap race, as Jason Plato boosted the so far most lacklustre season of his career by taking the win.

The Subaru Levorg made a good start from pole position, team-mate Ashley Sutton slotting in behind and following him for virtually the entire race. Sutton’s desire to close the 11-point gap to Honda’s Gordon Shedden at the top of the championship was tempered by the possible consequences of a manoeuvre on Plato going wrong.

Starting the last lap, however, the pair swapped places in a bid to gain Sutton an extra championship point for leading a lap, only to miscalculate where the timing line was. Sutton due returned the lead to Plato who took an overjoyed win.

Colin Turkington and Rob Collard had lonely races to third and fourth in their BMW 125is, the 16 points gained netting Turkington the championship lead as the big loser was Shedden. Starting ninth, his heavily ballasted Halfords Yuasa Civic Type-R slipped back down the field to an eventual 11th, in the process falling to fourth in the points nine shy of Turkington, while team-mate Matt Neal drove a highly impressive race from 21st to ninth.

BTCC Knockhill, Subaru

Plato took his first win of 2017 in race one, but Subaru team-mate Sutton and BMW’s Turkington were the big points gainers. Photo: Rosemary Charman

Also impressing were the third Subaru of James Cole in a strong fifth, rookie Senna Proctor who put the PowerMaxed Racing Vauxhall Astra into seventh, and Dave Newsham with 10th in his BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet Cruze.

Race one did not go well for title challengers Gordon Shedden in the Honda or Andrew Jordan’s BMW. Photo: Rosemary Charman

Race Two – Sutton stages Subaru swap

Race two began in exactly the same manner as race one, with Plato’s and Sutton’s Subarus leading away the BMWs of Turkington and Collard. Further back chaos broke out as mid pack contact saw Neal’s Honda punted sideways, pitching the Vauxhall of the luckless Proctor into a spin and a head-on impact with Stephen Jelley’s Ford Focus. With several others also involved, the red flag flew.

Half an hour later, and with five cars missing including Andrew Jordan’s BMW, the race restarted, and again Plato took the lead from Sutton, with the two BMWs behind.

This time, however, Sutton was in no mood to finish second, and at around half distance slipped inside his team-mate’s car, powering into the lead across the start-finish straight. Initially falling back, Plato staged a late-race fightback but despite pulling alongside at the flag, was unable to steal back the win.

Subarus BTCC Knockhill

Plato tried very hard to regain the lead from his Subaru team-mate Sutton. Photo: Rosemary Charman

Behind the two BMWs and fifth-placed James Cole, all of whom had lonely races, the battle for sixth was hard fought. Eventually Gordon Shedden emerged ahead and closed the gap to Cole, but the Honda was never able to get close enough to make a passing move.

Dave Newsham led the chasing pack in another impressive performance for his Chevrolet. This scrap also involved Tom Ingram’s Toyota, the fourth Subaru of Josh Price, and the struggling second Honda of Matt Neal, who eventually ended his race in the gravel trap.

All of which left Turkington with a two-point championship lead over the rapidly gaining Sutton, Collard five points further back and former leader Shedden now with a 14-point deficit.

BTCC Knockhill Chevrolet Toyota

Chevrolet runner Dave Newsham enjoyed by far his best performance of the season, emerging best from a frantic battle with Tom Ingram’s Toyota and the Honda of Matt Neal. Photo: Rosemary Charman

Race three – Ingram takes Toyota back to top

The reverse draw grid for race three swapped the first 10 places in what initially appeared to be a move worthy of a Hollywood script, putting Rory Butcher on pole position – the son of the Knockhill circuit owner racing in his first BTCC meeting subbing for the inured Luke Davenport in the Motorbase Ford Focus.

However Josh Price was then disqualified from his seventh spot finish in race two for a yellow flag offence, which put the Audi of Ash Whorton-Eales – another having an impressive day – to pole, with Butcher in second. The Audi led away, while Butcher was slow away allowing Tom Ingram’s Speedworks Toyota Avensis to slip ahead of the Focus.

Whorton-Eales’ glory was short lived as he had a heavy impact with a bale protecting the chicane, the suspension damage putting his car out. Ingram assumed the lead and simply drove away, building a gap almost stretching along the entire start-finish straight.

BTCC Audi Toyota Knockhill

The Audi of Whorton-Eales led race 3 away but it was Tom Ingram’s Toyota that scored a dominant win. Photo: Rosemary Charman

All this hard work was then wiped out, however, by two safety car periods, but Ingram kept his nerve with two rapid restarts to take his second win of the season.

Newsham’s Chevrolet initially led the pursuit as Butcher slipped back, but he was soon overcome by Shedden’s Honda. The BMWs followed the Honda man through, Collard leading the way and pressuring the Honda for second until a mistake after the safety car period saw him run wide at the chicane and plummet down the field to an eventual 11th place finish.

All of which left Colin Turkington to take the final podium place, followed by a three-car Subaru train, Sutton to the fore. In the process, Turkington stretched his championship lead to four points – but now sitting in second is Sutton and his ever more impressive Subaru, as the series moves on to Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 27th August.

Knockhill, BMW, Subaru, BTCC

The Knockhill meeting turned the BTCC advantage towards BMW and Subaru. Photo: Rosemary Charman

Andrew Charman

Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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