Turkington's Missed Chance As Sutton Digs Deep
Autosport|September 21,2017

An unexpected twist of fortunes ensured points leader Sutton held his advantage.

Jack Cozens

For the best part of an hour last Sunday afternoon, Ash Sutton appeared to have handed his chief rival Colin Turkington a route back to the summit of the British Touring Car Championship standings at exactly the wrong moment.

The pair had finished nose-to-tail in third and fourth in race two but, crucially, with Sutton ahead after an opportunistic move at Luffield on the final lap while Turkington was bottled up behind Tom Ingram. Unfairly so, said the stewards, who reversed the positions and sent Sutton to the back of the race-three grid for his third strike of the year – a decision that stood after an appeal from Team BMR.

Fourth and (an inherited) third-place finishes in races one and two had allowed Turkington to nibble into Sutton’s lead. And with his WSR BMW starting the third race from sixth – 24 places ahead of Sutton’s Subaru – the odds suggested that Turkington might well take a bigger bite out of Sutton’s advantage, or even turn it into one of his own.

So fancied was such an outcome that few considered the opposite scenario;but on a muddled BTCC weekend, that’s exactly what happened, as Turkington encountered trouble while Sutton cut his way through the field.

Having sat in the leading pack on the run down the Wellington Straight, Turkington received a tap at Brooklands and, after surviving a sideways moment, plummeted to 21st in the order. Mired in the midfield, things got no better and one lap later his race was all but written off.

Josh Cook – who had sat out the opening race after his MG squad finally withdrew its appeal against Cook’s race ban – made contact with Sutton’s BMR team-mate Jason Plato, forcing those behind to stamp on the anchors. Not in full sight of the accident as he rounded Luffield, Turkington was left with insufficient time to react to those slowing in front and ploughed into the back of Stephen Jelley’s Team Parker Racing Ford Focus.

The damage wasn’t terminal for Turkington, but a subsequent delay in the pits the next time round as his WSR team set to work on examining his engine bay cost him a lap while the field followed the safety car and rendered him a lame duck. He was eventually classified 22nd, and last of those still running.

Attention then turned to how far Sutton could advance. Having been five places behind his chief rival at the time of the clash, Sutton had the time to back offand negotiate his way through the strewn debris and was 20th on the restart. Progress was slow to start with – Sutton’s dismissal to the back of the grid also means he is only one strike away from a race ban – but the 23-yearold still had ample laps to work his way up the order. Few of his overtakes made the cut as the cameras centred on the lead battle, but Sutton’s 11th-place finish was a remarkable save. And although three of his five points for the position were essentially forfeited as a penalty for his third strike, the two he clawed back could be crucial in another tight championship scrap.

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