Current BTCC champion Ashley Sutton easily won his first attempt at a TCR UK race at Cheshire’s Oulton Park in the Team Pyro run Honda Civic.
In his first race in a front wheel drive touring car in nearly two years, Sutton led from start to finish to cross the line in front of The DPE Motorsport Alfa Giulietta of Derek Palmer Jr by 16 seconds. After an almost perfect start, reigning BTCC champion Sutton ran away from the chasing pack at a rate of around two seconds a lap to win the 15-minute shortened first TCR UK race of the day. Following Palmer home on track was series leader Dan Lloyd in third and the other Team Pyro Honda of Ollie Taylor.
The first attempt to get race started saw Sutton lead into the first turn followed by Taylor who had a great start to get down the inside of Lloyd into Old Hall Corner. However, all that was for nothing as a high-speed coming together between Robert Gilmour’s Alfa and Carl Swift in the Maximum Motorsport CUPRA at Island Bend left both cars on top of the tyre barrier with heavy damage, the Alfa only just recognisable as a car as it was dragged away. Thankfully both drivers were ok but will not take part in Race 2 later today.
On the restart Lloyd had a very poor getaway dropping to fifth by the first corner but managed to brave his way round the outside of WestCoast Racing team-mate Andreas Backman to be fourth by Cascades. The main mover on the second start was Palmer from fifth on the grid who gained three places on the run to Old Hall to grab second. So the order at the end of the first lap was Sutton from Palmer, Taylor, Lloyd and A. Backman.
Second to fourth ran together almost as one for the opening laps until Taylor tried an opportunistic move around the outside of Lodge Corner, the final turn of the lap, on the fifth tour. The move didn’t come off and left him wide and with a slow exit. Lloyd needed no second invitation to take third on the road. From there Taylor was slightly dropped into the clutches of A. Backman leaving Lloyd to attack Palmer despite running a 60kg compensation weight disadvantage compared to the Alfa in front of him. Palmer fought hard and defended well to ensure he stayed ahead come the end of the shortened 15 minute race.
Further behind, Lewis Kent ran mostly on his own in his Hyundai after passing Jess Backman into Old Hall at the start of lap four. Jess Backman and the CUPRA of Stuart Lines ran closely together for seventh and eighth but Lines was unable to find a way past, perhaps with thoughts of the clash between the pair last time out at Castle Combe in the back of his mind. Series debutant Tim Docker was ninth and last of the finishers in the third Maximum Motorsport car. This being the first TCR UK race he had entered and still getting his head, and car set-up, around the series’ Yokahama tyres.
Unfortunately, two post race penalties for jumping the start (10-seconds) and track limits (5-seconds) were applied to both Palmer and Taylor meaning a total of 15-seconds for each driver. This changed the picture of the result dramatically. Sutton of course kept his dominant victory but Lloyd moved up to second. Andreas Backman inherited third with Kent fourth. Jess Backman and Lines were fifth and sixth respectively with Taylor and Palmer dropping all the way to seventh and eighth.
Of his win Sutton said ‘I had a mint start on the restart. I got my head down and just managed it from there.’ He will have another good shot at a win later today in Race 2 when he starts from P2. Sutton and the Pyro team ran qualifying beautifully taking advantage of his pace over the rest of the field to put in just one lap which was good enough for pole position for race one. He made sure his second fastest time was just enough to get into the top ten (ninth in fact) to take advantage of the top-ten-reversed-second-fastest-time rule which creates the grid for Race 2 on each TCR UK weekend.
Lloyd was happy to inherit second but was left ruing another bad start in his Golf. ‘I’m kicking myself,’ he said, ‘I need to sort out my starts. I heard Palmer had two penalties so I didn’t want to do anything stupid to get past him.
Race 2 starts at 4.25pm later today.
Feature Image Credit – Gary Jones