Sutton and Hand have always talked of respect between one another and openly admit they regularly work together on track to benefit their Pyro team.
Most recently they finished 1-2 in both races at Thruxton – Hand ahead of Sutton each time. There was a dramatic finish to the second race there when their cars made contact under braking at high speed but ultimately it was Hand, third in the table, who took maximum points.
Heading to Oulton Park’s two races this weekend (6-7 June), SV Racing’s Whorton-Eales leads the standings by 13 points from Sutton with Hand just another 11 behind. A race win earns 32 points with a further two awarded to the driver setting the fastest lap.
Sutton said: “We get on very well, but I think the rivalry thing will get bigger sooner rather than later with the way the points are starting to take shape.
“Ash took a big maximum at Thruxton and although I took points out of Ant it wasn’t as much as I’d have liked. I want more, but so will Ash after his two wins and so will Ant as he’s not won for a while.
“Then there are more drivers getting in on the act all the time that can shuffle us up on track. It’s going to get intense.”
Sutton believes Oulton Park and Croft which follows (27-28 June) will place a greater emphasis on driver skill even than Thruxton.
He added: “At Thruxton of course there is massive skill involved but it’s more about how big your you-know-whats are! I think the circuits coming up now are more technical… tighter, twistier. This means more overtaking opportunities so we might be back to more of what we saw at Brands Hatch and particularly Donington (where just six tenths of a second covered the top four home).
“At Thruxton Ash and I worked together to give each other a slipstream in qualifying but I don’t think there’ll be any of that at Oulton. You can go there and put it on pole all on your own – you can be the fastest without a tow.
“I think anyone starting on the first four rows of the grid could win because of the overtaking opportunities around there. But as I’ve said before I believe my best is yet to come – Ant and Ash are in their third seasons of the Clio Cup so have perhaps reached their personal limits with the cars whereas I think I’m only going to get stronger…”