Sutton led every lap of today’s race and set the fastest lap for two bonus points. Hand, who started sixth on the grid, finished in second place after keeping clear of a number of incidents ahead of him – these leading to two safety car periods during the race – and also then skilfully picking off a number of opponents.
An excellent third for his and the Team Cooksport squad’s first podium result was Jon Maybin. But it all went wrong for Maximum Motorsport’s Ant Whorton-Eales and WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett – their cars made contact fighting for the lead on the opening lap and retired soon after, thereby ending any hopes they had of remaining in the title race…
The result means that Hand will go into tomorrow’s final round of 2015 with an 11-point lead over Sutton which comes down to just nine when the dropped scores rule is applied. Hand, who will again start from sixth on the grid, will become Champion if he finishes inside the top three or is fourth and sets the fastest lap for two bonus points. Sutton must finish inside the top two to stand any chance and if he wins with the fastest lap and Hand is outside the top three then he will be Champion instead.
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BMR Restart-backed Sutton said: “That was the perfect race for me although I did survive a bit of a moment on the first lap when I was three abreast with Rivett and Whorton-Eales for the lead. Luckily I came out ahead and the next time I looked in my mirrors neither was there. Tomorrow I just need to go out and win again. I can’t influence what might happen behind me…”
Hand added: “That was a very hairy opening lap – I came through in ninth having got up to fourth at the first bend but then had to back right out of the incident in front of me. Second is good. I’m still in a very good place, championship-wise, starting tomorrow’s race.”
Maybin said: “I was fortunate to avoid a couple of incidents involving cars around me on that first lap but thereafter my pace was good. It’s a great result for the Cooksport team and no less than they deserve.”
Finishing fourth and fifth on the road were his team-mates Rory Collingbourne and George Jackson but five-second penalties – for exceeding track limits – relegated them to sixth and eighth in the result. Instead the following Josh Price (Pyro) and Alex Sedgwick (Cooksport) were elevated to fourth and fifth positions and Tom Butler (20Ten Racing) to seventh.
On his UK Clio Cup Ben Palmer (20Ten) took ninth place while Tom Grundy (JamSport) was tenth having challenged for fourth earlier on. WDE's Rory Green, Pyro's Msrk Howard and WDE's Charlie Ladell, a lap down after a pit stop, completed the finishers...
Other retirements included Paul Streather (Finesse Motorsport – who had qualified a superb fourth on his debut – and Luke Kidsley (JamSport) who tangled on the opening lap. WDE’s Dan Holland, 20Ten's Sam Watkins and Maximum’s Tom Witts were also unable to finish.