The hunter versus the hunted
The 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship is set to culminate next weekend at Brands Hatch (7/8 October), with reigning champion Tom Ingram chasing down a 45-point gap to standings’ leader, Ash Sutton, for the most coveted motorsport prize in the country.
A huge trackside audience and millions more watching on television are set to witness three final battles at the legendary 2.43-mile Grand Prix circuit, before the respective Champions will be crowned and the 2023 season will come to a close.
Three-time champion Sutton has produced a sensational performance throughout the campaign, with the NAPA Racing UK star securing five pole positions and ten outright wins to solidify his lead of the Drivers’ championship.
His latest victory at Silverstone (23/24 September) was one of the finest performances of his BTCC career so far, as the Ford Focus driver fought from 23rd on the grid to score an extraordinary first place, after losing out on tyre strategy during mixed conditions in race one. Sutton followed this with third in race three, narrowly extending his advantage at the top by three points.
However, a consistent and impressive run of results from Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) has kept him in contention throughout, including two outright wins, 13 further podiums and 25 top ten finishes.
The Hyundai racer refused to let Sutton out of his sights during the latest contests at Silverstone, also fighting through the pack from 22nd to reach the rostrum in the second bout, as well as finishing second in race three.
With 67 points still on offer before the curtains close, nothing is set in stone, and the duo is set to go head-to-head for Rounds 28, 29 and 30 at Brands Hatch in just over a weeks’ time.
While BMW stablemates Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) and Colin Turkington (Team BMW) both slipped out of championship contention at the Northamptonshire circuit, they still have a key role to play when it comes to the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ trophy, with BMW looking to secure a record-breaking eighth title in succession.
Hill started Sunday at Silverstone on a high, after a late call on the grid to switch to Goodyear wet tyres saw him storm to a win during the opening race. However, a run of technical issues and incidents saw the 29-year-old cross the line in 20th and 8th respectively during the remaining contests.
Colin Turkington saw his fortunes in reverse; while an incident in the opener ended his race early, the four-time champion went on to score BMW’s 150th victory in the BTCC during the reverse-grid finale.
Remaining in third and fourth in the Drivers’ standings, the priority going into Brands Hatch will be securing BMW's lead in Manufacturers’/Constructors’ fight, with Motorbase Performance/Ford only 19 points in arrears.
Josh Cook and One Motorsport with Starline Racing will be looking to celebrate Independents’ honours at the weekend, after creating an unassailable lead in the Independent Drivers’ standings at Silverstone; Cook chalked up his 13th Independents’ Trophy win of 2023 during the opening race.
This victory ensured that the 32-year-old can’t be caught on-track at the top of the standings, whilst it also strengthened One Motorsport’s grasp at the summit of the Independent Teams’ battle with three races left to run.
In the Jack Sears Trophy fight, CarStore Power Maxed Racing’s Andrew Watson heads into the finale with an 18-point lead over team-mate Mikey Doble – 410 points to 392 – while NAPA Racing UK’s Sam Osborne runs in third, 32-points from the top spot.
With a number of stories to keep abreast of during the season finale weekend, it promises to be an action-packed finish to the ten-event season.
The locals to the much-loved Kent circuit will be looking to end the 2023 campaign on a high, with Ash Sutton, Dan Rowbottom, Dan Cammish and Sam Osborne aiming to bring the best out of their Ford Focus STs at the team’s home circuit and secure the Teams’ title – in which they lead by 119 points.
In particular, Sutton (who hails from Essex) will be looking to claim the Drivers’ championship in front of a passionate home crowd, while Kent local Hill will want to bounce back from his misfortune during Rounds 26 and 27 at Silverstone and get back to the sharp end of the tin-top action.
Local driver Tom Chilton (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) will also be looking to make his mark and end his year on a high. After celebrating his first BTCC victory in four years during Round Two at Donington Park, the Hyundai i30N driver has led a strong season, mixed with some tricky luck.
Brands Hatch is also regarded as home turf for both WSR and Team HARD, including the latter's driver Bobby Thompson.
This weekend’s Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship finale (7/8 October) will once again see Brands Hatch play host as the race for the most coveted prize in British motorsport comes to a climax, and another action-packed campaign is drawn to a close.
The final qualifying session of the campaign – which will no doubt prove pivotal in the contenders’ championship challenges – gets underway on Saturday from 1530, with ITV Sport’s YouTube channel streaming the full session LIVE, before ITV4’s race-day broadcast brings the highs, lows and everything in between to fans at home on Sunday from 1045.
Alongside the triple header of BTCC contests, culminating in the BTCC’s 2023 Champion ascending, the weekend will see further winners crowned in The Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE, ROKiT F4 British Championship, Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain and Porsche Sprint Challenge Great Britain.