The BTCC finale – Gary’s motorsport moment of 2017

To round out the 2017 racing season all of the writers here at Overtake Motorsport have been asked to pick their ‘Motorsport Moment of 2017’.

After such a brilliant season there are of course many moments to choose from so many series around the world. I have chosen my moment of the year based on how I felt watching it – heart pounding and glued to the edge of my seat! My moment is the BTCC finale at Brands Hatch GP and specifically Race 2 that day.

Nine rounds, 27 thrilling races and a massive season-long grid of 32 cars had got us to this point. Of all those cars, or more specifically of all those drivers, the final day of the season was all about two of them. Ashley Sutton led the championship in his Subaru Levorg despite leaving Brands Hatch after round one back in April with precisely zero points on the board. Sutton, in only his second season in the championship, racked up six race wins through the other eight rounds showing speed and aggression throughout. Colin Turkington, already a BTCC champion back in both 2009 and 2014, was 10 points adrift of Sutton in his West Surrey Racing BMW 125i M Sport machine and was the only driver realistically able to take the title away from Sutton.

Saturday was, of course, qualifying day and for the title protagonists fortunes somewhat varied. For Sutton it was business as usual as he took a fine third on the grid despite running the full 75kg championship weight ballast. In front of him was young Scot Aidan Moffatt beaten only by Jack Goff. This was Goff’s third pole in what was turning into a rejuvenated end of season for the Eurotech Honda driver. Turkington could manage only 17th on the grid as he ventured out late onto track after the WSR team had to fix an unfortunately timed misfire.

Race One of the day ran rather along the same lines as qualifying, Sutton keeping third despite showing some late race aggression to try to steal second from Tom Ingram with Turkington only managing to gain two places to come home in fifteenth. The race was won by Moffatt taking his second win of the year in calm fashion despite Ingram and Sutton breathing down his neck for most of the race. Sutton now led Turkington by 24 points.

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Then came Race Two. If Colin Turkington was to take the battle down to the final race of the day (and of the year) he needed to outscore Sutton, and preferably by a big margin. However, as the Northern Irishman lined up his BMW on the grid in fifteenth place, Ashley Sutton sat twelve places in front of him. Despite this Turkington had two things in his favour – firstly his car was now totally devoid of all championship ballast and, second, he knew that all he could do was get his head down and attack.

What followed was 25 minutes of tension, aggression and (mostly) wonderful racecraft from a driver at the very top of his game. There was also a dollop of controversy to top it all off! As the lights went out Turkington used the rear-wheel drive advantage of the BMW to immediately move up two places off the line. Sheer aggression took him past Dave Newsham later in the lap to end the first tour in twelfth. By lap seven Turkington, now eighth, was right behind Sutton – who’s heavy Subaru was not handling as well as earlier in the day – and knew one more overtake would take the championship down to the final race.

The move came the next time around into Druids Hairpin, the BMW needing to partly take to the grass to make the move stick. Turkington was now in seventh but had no intention of stopping there. Later that lap Chilton was dismissed for 6th. The overtakes kept on coming. Matt Neal and Ingram were dispatched on lap 10, outgoing champion Gordon Shedden on lap 11 and Mat Jackson on lap 12. The only thing now between Turkington and a sensational race victory was Aidan Moffatt who was yet again giving a textbook showing on how to drive a touring car defensively against some of the very best in the business. Then came the controversial moment of the race. Approaching Paddock Hill Bend on lap 13 of 15 Turkington seemed to misjudge Moffatt’s braking and made heavy contact with the rear of the Mercedes. Moffatt just managed to stay on track but dropped to fifth in the incident. Turkington was now in the lead and pulled away to win the best race of the season by two seconds from the pair of Halfords Hondas of Shedden and Neal. Many expected there to be a penalty for Turkington and one swiftly came, though a fine and points on his licence would not affect the race result, much to the disgust of Moffatt’s team.

Post-race in parc ferme an emotional Turkington struggled to get through his TV interview, the enormity of the drive he had just produced hitting home. He was also apologetic about his move on Moffatt as it is not the way he likes to go about his racing. The gap to Sutton at the top of the table was now just six points.

The final race of the year turned out to be an anti-climax as regards the championship fight. The reverse grid draw made by none other than Murray Walker put Turkington in tenth for the start of the final race of the year with Sutton just two places behind. An incident on lap two between Ingram and Jackson sent Jackson off the now wet track and onto the grass. As he attempted to slip back in to the pack he clipped the right rear of Turkington breaking the BMW’s upright. Turkington’s race and championship was immediately over. Sutton was free to fight his way to his 15th podium of the year to take a well-deserved championship win.

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After all this mention of Colin Turkington I would like to finish by stating that I think Ashley Sutton is a thoroughly well-deserved champion. His approach to racing both on and off track is a joy to watch and what he has achieved in the BTCC in such a short time is almost amazing. He certainly seems set to be one of the best drivers the BTCC has ever seen.


Feature Image Credit : West Surrey Racing Press Release

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