Subaru Levorg driver Ashley Sutton proved the man to beat when the British Touring Car Championship resumed after a seven-week break. But having won the first two races at Snetterton in Norfolk and taken the championship lead, Sutton then lost it again when he was forced to retire on lap one of the final race.
Gordon Shedden left Norfolk still at the top of the standings, his Honda Civic Type-R having taken a fortunate victory in the final encounter when the leading BMW of Andrew Jordan stopped with electrical issues two laps from the end.
Race one – Sutton through the melee
The Subaru Levorg of Ashley Sutton triumphed in an opening race of changing fortunes. Colin Turkington had appeared to have the race sewn up, his Team BMW 125i Sport beating pole sitter Jack Goff’s Eurotech Honda off the front row and easing out a gap over the opening laps.
With four laps down, however, Turkington made an uncharacteristic mistake, spinning down to 11th, which soon became ninth when the duelling Speedworks Toyota Avensis cars of Tom Ingram and Rob Austin collided, forcing Austin into retirement.
Goff was left in the lead, but Sutton closed him down and clinically took the lead with 1.5 laps to go, pulling out a 2.3-second gap by the end and closing to within two points of the championship lead.
Behind the top two Matt Neal held on for third place, despite his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic being attacked by the Pirtek BMW of Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato’s Subaru for the entire race. Neal’s team-mate, championship leader Gordon Shedden, fought his way up from a lowly 21st start spot to 11th, only to get caught up with the Mercedes of Aidan Moffatt on the last lap and slip back to 13th.
Race two – Sutton does Subaru double
Race two was effectively decided in the second corner. From fourth and fifth on the grid the rear-wheel drive cars of Jordan and Plato both made excellent starts, but into Wilson hairpin everyone got too close to each other. Plato suffered worse, falling back to 15th and eventually slipping to a 24th place finish.
Sutton emerged in the lead, chased by Goff, the BMWs of Jordan, Collard and Turkington, Matt Jackson’s Motorbase Ford Focus and Neal’s Honda, also delayed in the second corner incident. He was quickly passed by his fired-up team-mate, Shedden’s Civic now shorn of its success ballast for leading the championship.
Not even a safety-car period to remove the stricken Ford Focus of Stewart Lines could stop Sutton, who was never headed on his way to a second victory and the championship lead. Goff initially held onto second as the BMWs fought amongst themselves. Once Turkington got to the front of the train he was able to catch and pass the Honda, but too late to threaten the lead.
Goff slipped back to an eventual fifth place finish, Jackson and Collard both going past. Jordan’s BMW also fell back as its soft tyres wore out, taking sixth ahead of Shedden and the second Subaru of James Cole. A rock star when not competing, Cole drove the race of his life and was rewarded with pole position for the final race of the day when the reverse-grid draw was made.
Race three – BMW lead, Honda wins
Subaru’s hopes of a raceday lock-out rested with Cole, in the unaccustomed position of top grid spot, though more importance surrounded Sutton, starting eighth and now seeking to protect a six-point championship lead. All three of his closest rivals, Turkington, Shedden and Collard, lined up ahead of the Subaru.
Cole’s top status lasted until the second corner, when he was engulfed by the fast-starting Jordan and Shedden, Rob Collard’s BMW also going past. Subaru’s disappointment was then compounded seconds later when a mid-pack melee at Oggies bend left two cars out on the spot and Sutton touring back to retire in the pits.
Before long Cole was further demoted by the third BMW of Turkington, and the first four remained fixed for most of the race. Shedden appeared comfortable despite the close attentions of the BMWs, while unable to close the short gap to Jordan, until suddenly with two laps left the lead 125i slowed to a halt with electrical issues. Jordan got the car restarted, but it quickly failed again, all hopes of a victory gone.
Collard and Turkington were on Shedden’s bumper, but then fought amongst themselves for the two points between second and third. The Honda was able to hold on and take a win that Shedden could not have imagined possible when he started 21st in the first race of the day.
Cole eventually took his fifth, his best result of his BTCC career, having along the way survived a panel-bashing battle with the second Halfords Honda of Matt Neal, the Civic then suffering a breakage and spearing into a tyre wall at the debris-strewn Oggie’s.
All of which left Shedden back in the championship lead as the series moves to the Scotsman’s home circuit of Knockhill in Scotland on 12th August. He holds a slender, two-point gap over Turkington, with his BMW team-mate Collard two further back. All will be looking over their shoulders, however, at the Subaru of Sutton, just 11 points off the lead after a very strong weekend in Norfolk.