But worse was to come for the other title challengers. Now with some weight off, Sutton had made a great start from fifth to vault past Turkington through Copse, but then when he went to brake for Becketts, his front-left mysteriously locked, sending him slithering into the innocent Focus of Butcher.
“I have no idea what happened, and I feel really sorry for Rory as he was on the receiving end of it,” said Sutton after. “Whatever caused it meant the tyre developed a huge flat spot and I radioed the team straight away to say ‘we’ll be lucky if we see the flag in this one’.”
His prediction rang true. Sutton dropped his pace to try and manage the vibration but the entire tyre carcass let go on lap 17, taking half of his front bodywork with it. Sutton pitted for repairs to the wheel and steering and did rejoin to claim the fastest lap of the race. But his chances for race three didn’t look good from the very back of the grid.
And through it all came Turkington. Re-passing Sutton after the collision, picking off Cammish with a fine move out of Woodcote, and then inheriting the lead when Ingram hit trouble. Surprisingly, it was only Turkington’s second BTCC win at Silverstone in his 16-year BTCC career, but his first since 2015 and his first for BMW.
“I’ve never won here for WSR, and it’s like our home grand prix, so it has a special feeling,” he said, no doubt buoyed by the fact Sutton’s non-score handed him a six-point lead in the championship. “I could feel the momentum swinging away from me at Thruxton, but this shows how fast things can change. I was mindful of staying off some of the kerbs here as I’ve seen punctures like Tom’s in previous years.”
Adam Morgan took a fine third ahead of Neal, the charging Aiden Moffat and Josh Cook.
So, order restored then. Turkington back at the top and everybody else playing catch-up. Not quite.
Race Three was a stunner, enlivened by Sutton’s tremendous charge. The one positive of his race two troubles was an Infiniti totally stripped of ballast for the finale. And it was on rails for both parts of a turbulent third outing.
The first portion had to be stopped when Butcher and Neal came together into Becketts, sending the Ford spinning at unabated speed across the grass before hitting the barriers hard and barrel rolling to a stop across the track. The red flags were out immediately, and thankfully so was Butcher, who emerged unscathed from the frightening wreck.
Sutton had started way back in 26th for the original, but had already made his way back onto the fringes of the points before the race was halted and the grid reset. With just 12 laps to make it count on the restart, Sutton wasted no time, pulling breath-taking moves every lap, working his way ahead of the fully-ballasted Turkington early on and then just carving his way through the pack to latch on to the top four.
He nailed both Cook and Morgan into and out of Becketts, and then pulled off an incredible move on Oliphant, running around the outside of the BMW through Luffield, Woodcote and Copse to eventually grab second. However, the officials deemed him to be beyond track limits when he finally did get the pass done, and reversed the places after the flag.
🎢 What a rollercoaster day!
By far the best race of my career.
The car came alive when she was ballast free, after a disaster race 2.
The boys at Laser Tools Racing & BMR Engineering gave me a faultless package.
📸 @JakobEbrey pic.twitter.com/KSfOY5KJCV
— Ashley Sutton (@ASuttonRacing) September 27, 2020
Sutton only just ran out of time to catch Jackson, who put in a brilliantly controlled drive to win after vaulting past pole-man Oliphant at the first start, and then put up a stern defence in the second part until Oliphant had to turn his attention to the charging Sutton behind.
“I’m so emotional,” said Jackson as his first BTCC win sunk in. “That an amazing day. This is living the dream!”
And it was a dream for Sutton, too, even when demoted to third post-race. With Turkington struggling in the pack with full weight, he could only manage a lowly 10th, swinging the championship lead back in Sutton’s favour by four points.
“I’ve now realised where our pace went after Donington Park, and it’s the weight,” said Sutton. “Since then we’ve always had weight in the car, and with it all out for this one it just felt phenomenal. It all fell into my hands a bit, but I just took my chances when I got them. One more lap and we could have won it, but I can hardly be disappointed with this!”
Cammish rounded a strong weekend with fourth, ahead of Morgan and Senna Proctor’s Hyundai. But things only got worse for poor Ingram, who was spat into the barriers at Brooklands after contact in the pack, denting his hopes of a title revival.
But the talk of the weekend centred on Sutton – possibly the best attack-minded touring car driver anywhere at the moment. And Turkington will know that. Next up is Croft, a circuit Turkington has enjoyed so much success at in the past that he’s been unofficially nicknamed ‘The King of Croft’. But now his crown might just be under threat, in more ways than one.
2020 BTCC Championship points after Round 18
|1||Ash Sutton||Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50||237|
|2||Colin Turkington||Team BMW UK 330i M Sport||233|
|3||Dan Cammish||Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic||220|
|4||Tom Ingram||Team Toyota UK Corolla||195|
|5||Rory Butcher||Motorbase Ford Focus||192|
|6||Tom Oliphant||Team BMW UK 330i M Sport||183|