Ashley Sutton is the 2017 British Touring Car Champion, snatching the title after Colin Turkington was forced to retire from the final race of the championship.
Turkington put in a heroic drive to win the second race at Brands Hatch, but was hit by Mat Jackson in the final race and retired with damaged suspension.
Sutton claimed the title, a year after securing the Jack Sears’ Trophy in his maiden BTCC season.
Aiden Moffat claimed his second win of the season in the opening race, after Jack Goff ran into the barriers on the opening lap and dropped to the back of the field. Sutton was promoted to second behind the Mercedes but Tom Ingram quickly moved past him. The trio battled back and forth, but no position was swapped and Moffat took the chequered flag three tenths of a second ahead of Ingram.
Turkington only just finished inside the points. Having started 17th, the BMW lost positions at the start of the race but soon picked up pace and was battling with Matt Simpson for 13th. The pair made contact on the final lap of the race and Turkington lost traction, allowing Simpson and Ollie Jackson past.
He would need a storming drive in race two to keep his title hopes alive, and that was exactly what he did.
Whilst Sutton fell backwards on the opening lap, Turkington sliced his way up through the field, passing his title rival and setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to third behind Aiden Moffat and Matt Jackson.
Jackson didn’t out up too much of a fight but Moffat proved more difficult to pass. He made contact with the Mercedes as he pushed his way through into the lead, forcing Moffat wide. He was handed penalty points and a fine for the move, but Turkington still took the top stp of the podium, ahead of the Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, who had also enjoyed strong drives up from seventh and 10th on the grid.
Sutton continued to lose positions as the race progressed, eventually crossing the line 12th, inside the points but in a poor starting position for the final race of the weekend.
Turkington had closed the gap to six points, but he would still need a strong finish to take his third BTCC title.
Starting 10th, Turkington quickly moved forward and was running third when he was tagged by Matt Jackson. Jackson had been forced onto the slippery grass by Ingram, and hit the back of Turkington’s car as he re-joined the track. Turkington suffered a puncture and limped back to the pits, but damage to the suspension meant he wouldn’t get back out. It was game over for the West Surrey Racing driver.
Meanwhile, Senna Proctor had beached himself in the gravel, bringing out the safety car. By this point, Rob Austin was leading the race ahead of pole sitter Mike Epps, Jack Goff, and Sutton.
Austin started to edge away as Goff battled with Epps. The Honda eventually found a way through and led Sutton past Epps. The Team HARD driver was left to battle with Ingram whilst Sutton battled with Goff.
Sutton eventually settled for third, whilst Ingram took fourth from Epps. Though not a podium, fifth was Epps’ best finish of the season, ending a difficult second year in the BTCC on a high note.
BMW may not have given its driver the title, but the squad took both the constructors’ and the teams’ championships.
Speedworks and Tom Ingram secured both the Independents titles, as well as third in the overall drivers’ championship, whilst Senna Proctor was awarded the Jack Sears’ Trophy.
Feature image credit: Caroline Rhea