Ford joins winners at dramatic Croft BTCC

Wins for Subaru and BMW as Sutton closes on points lead.

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Subaru and BMW dominated the fifth meeting of the 2017 BTCC – the British Touring Car Championship – at Croft, until race three. Both were then unable to stop the first Ford win of the season.

An action-packed meeting around the Yorkshire circuit confirmed the Subaru of Ashley Sutton as a title contender. The frantic but mostly clean racing also helped put the events of Saturday, when three drivers were hospitalised, into the background.

Race one – Sutton holds on

The first race lined up with several drivers in unfamiliar places, due to Saturday’s accident-shortened qualifying session that also saw the end of the weekend for MG‘s Aron Taylor-Smith, Motorbase Ford’s Luke Davenport and Eurotech Honda‘s Jeff Smith.

From pole position, the Subaru Levorg of Ashley Sutton – running the option harder compound tyre mandatory for at least one of the three races – took a lead it would not lose over the entire 15 laps.

Fellow front-row starter Colin Turkington tried hard to prevent Subaru’s second win of 2017, his BMW 125i particularly pushing the Subaru late in the race. A sideways moment at the final hairpin kept him in second spot.

Behind Matt Jackson, who had a lonely race to third and a welcome podium on a difficult weekend for the Motorbase Ford Focus team, the battle of the table toppers was resolved in favour of BMW’s Rob Collard. He overtook series leader Gordon Shedden’s Halfords Honda Civic Type R for fourth with a couple of laps to go.

Turkington’s BMW was unable to prevent Sutton taking Subaru’s second win of 2017.

Worse for the Honda team was the retirement of Matt Neal after only two laps, the Civic sustaining a puncture and rear suspension damage. Subaru suffered disappointment too – all four cars ran in the top 10 early on, but while Sutton went on to win, Jason Plato locked up and dropped from sixth to 25th before recovering to 10th, and Josh Price spun at the hairpin, collecting team-mate James Cole.

Race Two – BMW record for WSR

Colin Turkington took the race two win and set a whole lot of records in the process.

The Northern Irishman’s victory, scored after he out-accelerated pole-sitter Ashley Sutton from the line, was his 12th at the circuit, the 75th BTCC win for West Surrey Racing and the team’s 50th with BMW. The first had been taken 10 years ago, at Croft, by Turkington.

Sutton chased hard in the Subaru but was then forced to defend from the fast-starting second BMW of Rob Collard. But while he drew alongside several times, he was forced to settle for third.

Matt Jackson’s Ford was quickly demoted down the field to an eventual eighth, his original fourth spot claimed by Shedden’s Honda. Andrew Jordan made it three BMWs in the top five, but only after withstanding great pressure from the resurgent Plato, his Subaru progressing from 10th on the grid.

BMW versus Subaru was a feature of the weekend. Photo: PSP Images

Race three – Jackson’s triumph

The draw for the reverse grid third race affected the first nine cars, promoting the improving Audi S3 of Ollie Jackson to pole position, with Rob Austin’s Toyota alongside. It also placed points leader Shedden on the third row, just ahead of closing challenger Collard, the BMW now just 12 points behind the Honda.

The race proved the best of the day. Ollie Jackson got away in the lead and maintained it through a safety-car period, after a crash at the first corner chicane left a stack of tyres in the middle of the track.

On the Audi’s tail, however, was the Ford Focus of namesake Matt Jackson, having made the most of his third third-place start of the day. His pressure soon paid off as the Audi snapped into a sideways slide at Sunny corner, rejoining well down the field and eventually finishing 10th.

Jackson (M) led with an advantage over the Toyota Avensis of Austin, which soon was holding off two Subarus. Initially Plato led the charge, until a fired-up Sutton squeezed inside his team-mate at the chicane. He immediately set about Austin, passing him at half distance with a brave out-dragging move into the first corner.

Sutton then set about catching the leading Ford, and around the last lap latched onto its tail. The Subaru launched around the outside around the final corner, but Jackson held his line, eased Sutton onto the grass and held on for Ford’s first win of 2017.

Plato, meanwhile spent the final half of the race trying to pass Austin, failing each time until out of the final corner the Subaru powered alongside the Toyota and snatched third on the line, by one thousandth of a second.

Behind these a frantic battle raged between Honda and BMW, eventually settled in favour of Matt Neal’s Honda. He stormed through the field from 18th to take fifth at the flag followed by the BMWs of Turkington and Jordan, and points leaders Shedden and Collard. He had reason to feel aggrieved, having led the pack for much of the race only to be muscled out of the way.

As the BTCC heads into its seven-week summer break, the top of the points table remains unchanged but with all the positions closed up. Shedden still leads on 188 points, Collard just 11 points behind and Turkington a further point shy of his team-mate.

The man with the momentum, however, is Subaru’s Ashley Sutton – a weekend that netted him 50 points from a win and two second places has propelled him to fourth in the championship. He is just 20 points shy of the lead as the series looks forward to its next three rounds, at Snetterton, Norfolk on 30th July.

As the BTCC reaches half distance the momentum is definitely with Ashley Sutton and Subaru.. Photo: PSP Images

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a 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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