The 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship enjoyed its most enthralling weekend (12/13 August) of the season so far, as the country’s best tin-top drivers produced an unforgettable trio of races amidst wet and wild conditions at Knockhill.
Ash Sutton displayed his range of skills throughout, which he rounded off with victory in the finale, but that was after Jake Hill had produced his own dynamic double to reignite his championship challenge.
Sutton extended his advantage in the Drivers’ standings to 37 points from Tom Ingram, with the latter recovering well from race one disappointment to score a podium in the reversed-grid encounter.
Hill’s two wins helped him to climb to third overall, ahead of WSR BMW stablemate Colin Turkington.
BMW hung on to the lead in the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ order, whilst an impressive podium from Josh Cook helped him and the One Motorsport with Starline Racing squad maintain command in the Independents’ honours.
CarStore Power Maxed Racing is enjoying an intra-team battle in the Jack Sears Trophy with rookies Mikey Doble and Andrew Watson separated by just a single point.
Hill inherits win after classic at Knockhill
Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Hill inherited victory in the opener after a number of title contenders endured heartache in a modern-day classic around the 1.27-mile circuit.
Sutton (NAPA Racing UK) was seemingly heading for victory when Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) crashed out as the pair ran side-by-side for the lead, before the race turned one way and then the other.
With rain lashing down on the Fife venue, Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) became the first of the front-runners to switch to Goodyear wet tyres, which immediately played into his hands as the conditions worsened.
Sutton was eventually forced to pit for wet tyres – despite having shown astonishing car control on slicks as the rain poured down – and the race then belonged to Ingram for the closing laps.
Ingram crossed the line to take victory on-the-road and with it the standings lead, but the drama wasn’t over as both his and the car of BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 team-mate Tom Chilton failed post-race ride height checks and were subsequently disqualified from the result.
So, joy immediately turned to despair for Ingram, as Hill took the win ahead of CarStore Power Maxed Racing’s Andrew Watson – the first podium of his BTCC career – and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK’s Ricky Collard.
Hill holds off Sutton in fantastic duel
The phenomenal action continued in the second BTCC encounter as Hill held off title rival Sutton in a breath-taking duel to the chequered flag.
Hill led from start to finish while Sutton made light work of his charge from sixth on the grid. The #116 Ford Focus made it past Ronan Pearson (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) at the start, before Collard ran wide on the opening tour allowing Sutton to nip past a further two cars.
A brief safety car spell didn’t stop Sutton from making further ground as he soon blasted by Team BMW’s Stephen Jelley and into second.
Sutton gradually reeled in Hill, but the latter produced a defensive masterclass for the remainder of the bout.
Both drivers and cars were brilliant to watch as they danced through the chicane lap-after-lap, with Sutton having a number of minor attacks for victory. Eventually the chequered flag ended the battle as Hill brilliantly took his second win of the day.
Jelley completed the rostrum, following on from his fourth-place finish in the opening bout.
World class Sutton secures eighth win of season
Sutton rounded off a fantastic day by obliterating the field amidst heavy rain in the reversed-grid finale.
Starting sixth, Sutton scythed his way through to second before making a simple pass by impressive long-time leader Pearson, and the former eventually won by nearly ten seconds.
Cook finished second as he completed a fantastic turnaround during the day.
As noted, the Honda Civic driver crashed out of the opener, but then stormed through the pack to take eighth in the second bout, before this impressive second place underlined the pace he had shown throughout the weekend.
The podium was completed by Ingram as Pearson played the team game to let his BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 team-mate through on the final lap to score yet more valuable championship points.
It was bittersweet for Pearson, although fourth place still represented a fantastic result and one that was richly deserved after an incredible weekend for the young Scotsman in front of a passionate home crowd.
Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will take place at Donington Park on 26/27 August, as the series’ makes its return to the Grand Prix circuit for the first time since 2002.
Jake Hill said: “Huge, huge thank you to Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport. They’ve done an enormous job over this weekend and the car is going well. It might not be the fastest thing out there but it’s going more than well enough. Huge thank you to them – credit where it is due.
“Races one and two have been amazing today. The first race was extremely challenging with the mixed conditions, but it’s great to come away with the win. In Race Two I really had to defend hard to get the win, but it was a good battle and I got it. Race three didn’t go the way I’d hoped, but the pace in both wet and dry was strong from the BMW so I got to Donington looking for even more.”
Ash Sutton said: “I’m ecstatic I won’t lie. After race one I thought we were going to have a tough task on our hands in terms of the Championship, but with the disqualification of Tom [Ingram] and the performance in race two. Then to finish it off with a win, I couldn’t ask for much more than that.
“This is the biggest gap I have ever experienced in British Touring Cars so I’m not going to complain about it at all, but we have seen even this weekend how quick things can change. I’m not going to get too excited just yet. We are closer than we have ever been before, but we still need to be clever.”
2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Race 1 – Knockhill
1. Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport 27 laps
2. Andrew Watson, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +6.792s
3. Ricky Collard, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +7.565s
4. Stephen Jelley, Team BMW +8.049s
5. Ronan Pearson, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +9.091s
6. Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK +9.381s
7. Árón Taylor-Smith, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +9.922s
8. George Gamble, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +10.528s
9. Mikey Doble, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +11.733s
10. Daniel Lloyd, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +1 Lap
2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Race 2 – Knockhill
1. Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport 26 laps
2. Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK +0.374s
3. Stephen Jelley, Team BMW +11.946s
4. Árón Taylor-Smith, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +18.881s
5. Daniel Lloyd, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +19.616s
6. Ricky Collard, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +21.441s
7. Ronan Pearson, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +21.711s
8. Josh Cook, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +22.171s
9. Andrew Watson, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +22.912s
10. Tom Ingram, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +23.771s
2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Race 3 – Knockhill
1. Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK 27 Laps
2. Josh Cook, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +9.636s
3. Tom Ingram, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +16.568s
4. Ronan Pearson, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +17.699s
5. Ricky Collard, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +19.841s
6. Dexter Patterson, Re.Beverages and Bartercard with Team HARD +20.457s
7. Aiden Moffat, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +21.178s
8. Daniel Lloyd, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +21.969s
9. George Gamble, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +22.906s
10. Dan Cammish, NAPA Racing UK +23.055s
Tom Chilton had 5 points deducted from the Drivers' Championship for having changed an engine above the number permitted. In addition, 10 points were deducted from the Manufacturers'/Constructors' and/or Teams' and/or Independents Teams' Championship for BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8.
George Gamble had 5 points deducted from the Drivers' Championship for having changed an engine above the number permitted. In addition, 10 points were deducted from the Manufacturers'/Constructors' and/or Teams' and/or Independents Teams' Championship for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK.
Tom Ingram was disqualified from the results of Round 19 of the Championship, after his car failed post-race scrutineering checks with regard to ride height.
Tom Chilton was disqualified from the results of Round 19 of the Championship, after his car failed post-race scrutineering checks with regard to ride height.
Árón Taylor-Smith was penalised by the addition of one second to his race time for Round 19 of the Championship, for obtaining an unfair advantage under yellow light signals.
Ash Sutton was penalised by the addition of one second to his race time for Round 19 of the Championship, for obtaining an unfair advantage under yellow light signals.
Stephen Jelley was penalised by the addition of one second to his race time for Round 19 of the Championship, for obtaining an unfair advantage under yellow light signals.
Jake Hill was penalised by means of a three place grid penalty for Round 22 of the Championship, after an incident involving Stephen Jelley during Round 21.