Ashley Sutton predicts the second half of the Renault UK Clio Cup season will become ‘a real head turner’ as an already intense title battle – of which he is one of the main protagonists – heads towards its climax…
  • Sutton2.jpg
  • sutton-11 (2).jpg
  • Sutton-04.jpg (1)

Sutton has been a revelation in his debut Clio Cup season, taking the championship fight to the more experienced Ant Whorton-Eales and Ash Hand as well as triple Champion Paul Rivett.

It could have been more had he not come off second best in controversial clashes while fighting for the lead with SV Racing’s Whorton-Eales at both Brands Hatch and Oulton Park and again with Team Pyro team-mate Hand at Thruxton.

With eight races to go he is third outright, 26 points adrift of leader Whorton-Eales and 21 behind second-placed Hand.

He said: “I think that it’s possible to catch them – with Ash, we’re both going out for ourselves and that does show now on track. As individuals we are definitely playing our cards close to our chest now. It’s going to be a real head-turner…

“I can’t say one or the other – Ant or Ash – is my biggest concern. Both are ahead and I’ll always aim for whoever’s leading. That’s the driver I need to gain points on.

“They perhaps should be worrying about me – I’m the underdog. It’s taken them three or more years to get to this stage, of a chance of the title, whereas I’m there within six months. I’ve got more to gain; they’ve got to more lose.”

So, two wins from ten races and Sutton feels there could have been more as he reflected on how his season has unfolded so far. Consider that since picking up a maiden win at Donington Park in mid-April he then had to wait until late June for victory number two while, in the meantime, his team-mate Hand has gone on to rack up five wins from eight races…

Sutton added: “When someone is on a winning streak you pick yourself up and look at what they are doing – and what you are doing. I don’t get down about it. It’s part of the challenge. Sure some problems I’ve caused myself but others have been out of my control and I feel at least two more wins have got away from me…

“When we go right back to pre-season, all I was concentrating on was getting time in the car, building my speed… I didn’t really know what to expect until we got to the first round at Brands Hatch. When I put it on pole position there then it was immediately obvious we were in the right area. It’s there that I made up my mind we were going for the title…

“To lead the race all the way only for Ant to get me right at the final corner was frustrating, but I still came away in a positive frame of mind. We’d started off strongly. Then came the first win in race one at Donington which was fantastic, particularly as it was so close at the finish line between four of us. But it was soured the next day by the time penalty I got for track limits which relegated me from second to seventh in the results – looking back I over-drove and didn’t let the talent do the talking.

“Donington, though, is where I did my best overtaking move so far this year – when I did both Ash and Ant in one move on the outside under braking for the chicane.

“Thruxton… two seconds are always good results but I’d been beaten again. I never quite felt in the right frame of mind there – maybe it was a knock-on effect of the disappointment at Donington. I had to be very clever in the races to stick with Ash.

“Oulton Park is where I made my biggest mistake of the season so far. Race two I tried to stick it out around the outside of Ant at Lodge and ended off the track. I rejoined but it backfired big style – I got into that scrap behind and ended up piling into a tyre stack Paul Rivett had hit and knocked onto the track. It wrecked the car and my race was over.

“In hindsight I perhaps should have waited and attacked Ant later. I know if I’d got in front then that race was mine. I really got the feeling back with the car I’d had at Brands Hatch.”

Whatever it was Sutton had suddenly detected in his car in that all-too-brief race at Oulton had clearly left him reinvigorated going to Croft.

He continued: “I carried that confidence over to Croft and walked it in race one. Rivett defending from Ash behind helped but I’d still put that down as my best race – I’d bounced back from Oulton and shown what I could do.

“In race two there was another of those moments where you go for it but it has a negative effect later. I went for the lead on Ash on the first lap, it didn’t come off and Rivett got past me. By the time I’d got past him Ash was just that bit too far up the road… Again, maybe I should have waited until a bit later. I’m confident that in a straight fight with Ash then I had the beating of him in that race.”

Knockhill, it seems, can’t come soon enough for Sutton as he sets about closing the gap to Whorton-Eales and Hand.

He said: “Since Croft I’ve really upped my game both physically and mentally with a lot of work behind the scenes with BMR. I’ll go to Knockhill in the best frame of mind and best physical shape possible and confident I’m going to be the fastest driver on track, just as I was at Brands Hatch…”