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Ashley Sutton (Bishops Stortford) and Ash Hand (Nuneaton), Champion and runner-up in this year’s Renault UK Clio Cup, have sampled British Touring Car Championship machinery for the first time this week courtesy of leading race tyre manufacturer Dunlop as part of its on-going campaign to support up-and-coming driver talent.
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Both drivers had stints in the crack Motorbase Performance team’s Ford Focus BTCC racer at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit. Present to give tips was Motorbase driver Mat Jackson who won an unrivalled four times in the second half of this year’s BTCC. Like many of the current top names in the BTCC, Jackson is himself a former front-runner in the UK Clio Cup…

Sutton’s and Hand’s BTCC tests were their prizes for finishing first and second in this year’s UK Clio Cup and arranged by Dunlop which provides race tyres exclusively to both the Renault championship and the BTCC. The tests, among the most coveted prizes in British motor sport, enabled Dunlop’s technicians to assess the UK Clio Cup’s top two names in a BTCC environment.

Although a flooded track surface meant running was cut short, Dunlop’s UK Motorsport Manager Mickey Butler commented: “These were extremely challenging conditions for both drivers to try a BTCC race car for the first time but both adapted very well to both the car and the wet weather tyre technology – something we regularly see with drivers from the UK Clio Cup. Certainly our own technicians were very impressed with Ashley’s and Ash’s approach.

“At Dunlop we obviously invest a lot in testing and developing our tyre technologies through motor sport and in supporting emerging talent. It is always exciting and satisfying therefore when we see drivers who have been with us from the start, such as those in the UK Clio Cup, building professional working relationships with our technicians and progressing their careers.”

Sutton said: “After a season in the UK Clio Cup, I felt right at home stepping into a BTCC car. There are differences of course – it is a bigger car, there is more power and the braking zones are shorter, although the cornering speeds are very similar to the UK Clio Cup. It definitely felt like a natural environment and the Motorbase team and Dunlop were both great to work with. A special ‘thank you’ to Dunlop who have given me a taste of the dream – I can’t thank them enough.”

Hand added: “The track surface was very treacherous – not ideal for a first go in a BTCC car. But Dunlop and Motorbase are both very professional and really make you feel the part. Experience of the UK Clio Cup definitely makes driving a BTCC car feel comfortable and you can see why it is a natural step up. I would love another go. People should remember that Dunlop have put this prize up and it’s great to see a British motor sport company with a global reputation backing winners in a UK championship.”