We went to Rockingham with a view to score as many points as possible to assist us in our title hunt, although it wasn’t going to be an easy task with Ash and Jason carrying success ballast, which is always challenging around the Rockingham circuit. Also thrown into the mix was yet another boost restriction on all four Subaru Levorgs leaving the whole team very unoptimistic. However, we were prepared to extract maximum performance from the cars and were ready for the fight, with the team giving it’s drivers four superb race ready Subaru Levorgs and the with the drivers as prepared as ever we were hungry and determined to bank as many points as we could and the boys didn’t fail to deliver.
Saturday showed us that in the British Touring Car Championship you never quite know what’s going to happen as James Cole claimed his first ever pole position in qualifying after putting in a storming lap just at the right time. We knew it was coming after he showed his true form in the last few races but it was a surprise to us all following the times set in the earlier free practice sessions, coupled with the fact that a rear-wheel drive car has never been on pole at Rockingham, we were all absolutely delighted. Ash, who was carrying 66kgs of success ballast, didn’t find the job easy at all and really struggled to get his weighted car to set a quick lap time but he dug deep, albeit having a big moment in the process when he out braked himself and still set a very impressive fourth quickest lap time. Jason, carrying 9kgs, struggled with the increase in track temperature which hampered the balance of the car and the great set up that he had in the earlier free practice sessions and qualified in tenth place, with a weight free Josh setting the twelfth quickest time resulting in him starting the race just behind his team mate on the grid.
Sunday arrived, the sun was shining, the crowds flocked to the circuit filling up the grandstand in front of us and we were all ready for a great days racing.
The Lights went out for the first of the days three races, James got off to a flyer, as did Ash who started in fourth position, James held the lead with the Honda of Jack Goff right on his tail and Ash passed the BMW of Colin Turkington up the inside for third position. James had a lead gap of half a second by the end of lap one as Ash fought to hold onto his third position as he came under pressure from the MG of Josh Cook. Josh (Price) had gained two places and up to tenth and was Jack Sears leader, and Jason was blocked at the start which forced him to back out which dropped him down the order to seventeenth. The weight free speedy MG of Cook passed Ash for third as he snuck up the inside at turn one but it was only a mere two corners later that Ash fought back and was ahead of him once more. James was under attack from the Honda of Jack Goff but managed to hold him off for the next few laps eventually pulling a lead of eight tenths of a second, helped by the fact that Goff was now having to defend the Subaru Levorg of Ash who was now hot on his heels looking for a way by. Josh meanwhile had moved up to ninth as Jason had started carving his way back through the pack up to twelfth by the end of lap nine. By lap thirteen James was well and truly in his rhythm extending his lead to 1.9 seconds and driving a perfect race. Ash gave it maximum attack on his quest to pass Goff to make it a one-two finish for the team, whilst struggling to pass along the straights where the Honda seemed to be a lot stronger, he was having to work the car hard on the infield only to have it taken away from him once back on the start finish straight again, in addition to fending off further advances from Cook who was still on his tail. Ash’s only advantage would be that the front-wheel drive of Goff was losing his tyre grip and Ash eventually pounced and made the move stick on the final lap after Goff ran wide at the hairpin. A delighted James took the checkered flag and claimed his maiden BTCC win with a staggering two and a half second gap after driving a faultless race, Ash took second, with Josh in ninth and his best finish to date. Jason finished in tenth placing all four Subarus in the top ten. Another great set of results for the team and a superb haul of points that moved Ash in the lead of the Drivers Championship by a margin of just three points ahead of BMW’s Colin Turkington who finished the race in sixth place. It was also a great start to the day for Subaru UK who also picked up a trophy for the manufacturer win.
It was an all Subaru front row lock out for race two, that would also see the remaining pair of Levorg’s inside the top ten and all running on the unfavoured hard option tyre. Thankfully so were many others around them, so we were keeping our fingers crossed that if we managed our tyres correctly we would last the race well. The added hindrance was that James was starting from pole with 75kgs of success ballast on board for the first time with Ash alongside him with 66kgs, as Josh and Jason lined up alongside each other on the fifth row carrying 15kgs and 9kgs respectively.
As the lights went out for the second time of the day, James made a great start and held the lead with Ash struggling to get off the line allowing the Honda of Goff to pass on the inside. However, he was soon up to speed and on the outside at the hairpin and he took the lead passing both Goff and James in the process. Jason and Josh both got great starts with Jason up to ninth as Josh dropped a couple of places in traffic before a coming together with the AMD Audi of Ollie Jackson. Josh managed to limp his damaged Subaru back to the pits for repairs and was forced to retire due to the extent of the damage sustained. Ash meanwhile had managed to storm away from the rest of the field as James struggled with the extra weight and defended from third placed man Cook. James then suffered rear end damage from Cook at the hair pin following a bold move from the MG pilot and James ran wide and soon found himself toppling a further three places as the safety car came out to recover the stricken Honda of Gordon Shedden after he and Rob Austin had a coming together. Not an ideal situation for Ash who had now built up a magnificent three second lead out in front. It did however give James a little time to re-group in seventh place with the BMW of Turkington right on his tail and Jason just a further place back in ninth. At the restart Ash took control and as his competitors fought hard behind him for the second place spot, he managed to build on his lead once more. The Honda of Matt Neal then tried to find a way past Cook at the Dean Hairpin and that resulted in another coming together taking them both out of the race. As a result Ash extended his lead even further as James and Jason both moved further up the order to fifth and seventh respectively. On lap ten Turkington finally got past James for fifth position and on the following lap Jason and James switched their sixth and seventh positions. James then received further contact, only this time from the BMW of Rob Collard, forcing him off the circuit resulting in more damage which sent James tumbling even further down the order. Jason then found a way past the Mercedes of Adam Morgan and the Honda of Goff to finish fourth as Ash crossed the line for his sixth win of the season. James eventually ended the race in thirteenth after he brought his battle-scarred Subaru Levorg home to score just three points.
The positions for Race Three would be decided by the reverse grid draw made by Series Director Alan Gow who pulled number 7 from the bowl placing the BMW of Andrew Jordan on pole position. For the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing drivers, it meant that Jason would start from fourth, with Ash seventh and James thirteenth. Josh in the A Plan Academy liveried Subaru would start from the back of the grid following his race two retirement as the team worked tirelessly to get the car fixed and ready for the final race of the day.
It was lights out for the third and final time and Jason had a good start holding his fourth position, Ash and James were both caught up in traffic on the opening lap and were both forced to go wide and across the grass but thankfully both cars managed to get back on the track without damage, albeit losing positions in the process. There was then further drama for James when he was caught up in an incident with a number of his competitors, this time resulting in some substantial damage forcing him to limp back to the pits for repairs and into retirement. Meanwhile there was a squabble going on up ahead between Jordan, Morgan and Goff who all wanted the top spot and Jason, who was waiting to pounce whilst fending off the advances from the BMW of Collard. Ash was all the while picking his way back up the order and had soon established himself in a fine tenth place. By Lap six Jason was nose to tail with Goff fighting for the third podium position as Ash continued to make further gains and set two consecutive fastest laps in a row, earning him a bonus point in the process and gaining further ground up to eighth place and now behind his main Championship title contender Turkington. Now having outscored Turkington during both the earlier races Ash was in a great position, but he wasn’t quite done yet. On Lap twelve Collard took fourth from Jason as Ash made the vital move on Turkington and into seventh position and more importantly outscoring the BMW driver once again. Collard then tried a further move on Goff when the pair came together forcing Collard into retirement and Goff to have a brief off track excursion. Ever the opportunist Jason took full advantage and moved past Goff into third which he would hold until the checkered flag fell making it the teams fourth podium of the day. Ingram was forced to brake heavily to avoid the Collard/Goff incident allowing Ash to also make another gain to finish fifth. A safety car period followed the incident and Jason made several attempts to pass Morgan but it wasn’t meant to be as Jordan won the race. Unfortunately, there was more disappointment for Josh after retiring early on in the race following contact which resulted in a damaged wishbone.
So, to summarise our weekend we gained two race wins, a second place and a third place backed up with three manufacturer wins for Subaru UK and the Team trophy for the weekend.
Ash now leaves Rockingham leading the Drivers Championship with a 12 point margin, Subaru are second in the Manufacturers standings a mere 41 one points behind BMW, with Adrian Flux Subaru Racing are second in the Teams standings 96 points behind Team BMW. Josh remains fourth in the Jack Sears Trophy standings for rookie drivers.
With just six races left in the championship we now focus our full attention to Silverstone in three weeks time and we look forward to seeing you all there.
Ash Sutton – “Overall thoughts from the weekend, I’m very very pleased. Race one went to plan, especially for James, that was a particularly great result for him and to get a one-two finish was good. Race two was a case of just get out of there and it was great to get another solid result, to pick up really strong points and the fastest lap was what we needed. Race three, however, was a bit more of a challenge with dropping back to eleventh it wasn’t quite as easy to come back from there but we stayed out of trouble and to top it off we overtook Turkington which was the main aim. Thoughts for Silverstone are that it’s going to get difficult but I’ve got a few things that I want to try in qualifying but carrying seventy-five kilos round there is going to hurt so we will see.”
James Cole – “This weekend has definitely been our best so far in the whole time in the championship, to get pole was a genuine shock, I knew we would have the pace and I knew that with all the preparation that myself, my Engineer Steve and everyone around car number twenty had been doing would give us some good results this weekend but pole was on another level so that had already made it a great weekend before we’d even got to Sunday. Sunday, we had a job to do which was to try and get away at the start to see what we could do and race one went to plan and was the perfect race, to take my first win was amazing and a massive thank you to everyone at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing as without the car I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it. Moving forward to races two and three, it didn’t quite go to plan but to be honest it didn’t take anything away from what happened in race one. Race two we had all the weight and the hard tyres and actually our pace was quite good but we just got bullied about a bit and also had some issues with power steering which took us further back than we should’ve been and race three when you’re back in the pack it always messy and sadly I didn’t even make the first lap. So, it shows, as proven in race one, when you’re out in front you can get away which is what we did. To have a pole, race one, race two and a podium for Subaru was an amazing weekend.”
Jason Plato – “As a team member, a mega result for the team again. Fantastic for James to get his maiden pole and with all the pressure that brings and to convert that to a good solid race win was fantastic and I’m dead chuffed for him and then for Ash to have a win and a second is great. I salvaged something from the weekend in race three and I’ve had really strong pace all day but the balls are not really rolling, we got boxed out in race one and it’s no fun racing in the pack when you’ve got no engine power and I honestly think we could’ve won two races today. So, on a personal level pleased we salvaged something but frustrated because I come to win and I didn’t and I could’ve done. I’m frustrated for all of us because the engine difference is just ridiculous and I don’t understand, I want someone to explain to me why they keep taking power off us because it’s meant to be about engine power not lap times.”
Josh Price – “It was another tough weekend for me at Rockingham, I was pleased with my ninth place finish in race one but it all went downhill from there. Huge thanks to the team for getting my car back out for race three. Roll on Silverstone.”