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Ranking the top 10 BTCC drivers of 2023

The 2023 British Touring Car Championship may have gone down to the final round but in truth Ash Sutton put together a supreme campaign to seal his fourth series title. But is it enough to give him top spot in this year’s top 10?

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus ST

The British Touring Car Championship season threatened to become a one-horse race at times in 2023, such was the searing speed of Ash Sutton and his Motorbase Performance-run Ford Focus ST.

But reigning champion Tom Ingram kept it just about alive right up until the final weekend, before he was forced to hand his crown back to fourth-time winner Sutton.

Motorbase, which changed its name to Alliance Racing on the eve of that Brands Hatch finale, produced an absolute weapon of a Focus after a winter of intense development. Such was its – and Sutton’s pace – that only once was a Ford not on pole over 10 race weekends. And six of those poles (five from Sutton, one from Dan Cammish) were claimed on the championship leader’s minimum hybrid boost allowance of one second per lap…

PLUS: How a top-down overhaul formed the basis of Sutton's 2023 BTCC dominance

But, in the end, there was plenty to watch and talk about. Ingram was strong in the Hyundai, so were Jake Hill and Colin Turkington in their BMWs. Here’s how we rated the class of 2023.

10. Rory Butcher

After a tough start with multiple issues, Butcher did enjoy a late season surge

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

After a tough start with multiple issues, Butcher did enjoy a late season surge

One of the saddest things of this BTCC season was seeing this decent, humble but very quick Scot struggling to get the results to which he and Toyota squad Speedworks Motorsport had become accustomed over the previous two seasons.

A switch to bespoke Toyota engines seemed to be the final ingredient required to push on for a title challenge. Like the BMW and Honda powerplants in the BTCC, these were developed by Neil Brown Engineering, and the lump in question shares a fair amount of its architecture with the Bee-Em’s. But there are also some significant differences, and it had to be mounted transversely in the Corolla as opposed to longitudinally in the 3-Series. Further, it’s apparently 20kg heavier than the TOCA customer engine it replaced, it arrived not long before the season, hardly anyone could find dry weather for testing, and a fair amount of re-engineering was required on race weekends due to the change in weight distribution.

Mid-season, the TOCA technical team allowed the Toyotas an extra 20 millibars of boost. Butcher also changed engineer to long-time Speedworks employee Jack Coker, and there were some signs of rejuvenation. Butcher, who’d admitted to going off the boil over the opening rounds, took a reversed-grid win at Donington, raced well at Silverstone, and qualified on the front row for the finale at Brands GP… only for a series of punctures to ruin his raceday.

It was that kind of a year for Butcher. His traditional late-season surge came late even by his standards but, with a winter of development behind the package, he would hopefully be stronger out of the blocks in 2024.

9. Dan Rowbottom

While he couldn't match team-mate and champion Sutton, Rowbottom put in a few standout performances

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

While he couldn't match team-mate and champion Sutton, Rowbottom put in a few standout performances


Some of the stick he got before the season started was appalling. The amiable bearded Midlander has worked hard for his Cataclean backing, and his decision to join forces with the NAPA boys at the Motorbase Ford squad made commercial sense. And, as it happily turned out, competitive sense too. That his departure from Team Dynamics played its part in the squad’s absence from the grid – the final straw was the late pullout of Halfords – cannot be blamed on him.

So off he went, and damn well plonked his Focus on pole for the opening round at Donington. OK, team-mate Ash Sutton had a quicker time disallowed for track limits, but that lap was only 0.112 seconds faster and this was the only event where everyone was on equal hybrid boost before the ‘success penalties’ kicked in.

From here on Rowbottom’s form was up and down. He was quick enough for the front row at Croft, where the team dominated, and was fourth in qualifying at Brands GP, where it didn’t, but was sometimes outside the top 10. He put this down to his newness to the team and his engineer, and playing around on set-up in free practice that occasionally caught them out when it counted.

Still, five podium finishes went his way. His only win may have come in a reversed-grid race, at Thruxton, but he had to work for it from fifth on the grid. Rowbottom can properly kick on from here.

8. Bobby Thompson

Thompson is fighting for his BTCC future but continues to shine

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Thompson is fighting for his BTCC future but continues to shine

The friendly Essex man knows he’s up against it on funding, and it’s only thanks to the commitment of Team Hard boss Tony Gilham that he continues in the BTCC. As the reigning Jack Sears Trophy champion, Thompson wasn’t going anywhere else for 2023, and the team produced a couple of newly built Cupra Leons for himself and Dan Lloyd for the campaign.

Hard also recruited multiple BTCC title-winning engineer Kevin Berry (for the opening events anyway, before TCR World Tour commitments took precedence) and mopped up Team Dynamics’ leadership including Barry Plowman, who looked after Thompson’s car, and Matt Neal. It was like a low-budget Premier League side such as Brentford getting in Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to manage them.

When early-season engine woes weren’t going against him, Thompson was a revelation. He finished within a second of victor Ash Sutton at Brands Indy, and he put the Cupra fourth on the grid at Oulton Park. And then he was replaced. The team, as usual, had been subsidising his drive and needed more money than Thompson was able to bring. He gained a reprieve for the final two rounds, occupying the car vacated by Nic Hamilton back in the summer, Hard needing to keep it on the grid to fufil its obligations to retain the TBL entrants’ licence.

Interview: The potential BTCC race winner trying to make it to the front

At the Brands GP finale, Thompson was dancing that car around, absolutely giving it everything he had. He finished a genuine third – his first non-reversed-grid BTCC podium – behind only Sutton and Tom Ingram. Neal rates him in the series’ top six and it would be a crying shame if he couldn’t stay on the grid.

7. Ricky Collard

Collard's short-lived racing retirement proved to be the right call as he showed his quality

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Collard's short-lived racing retirement proved to be the right call as he showed his quality

When he wasn’t away karting, the effervescent Hampshireman grew up watching his dad Rob Collard scrapping away during one of the most brutal eras of BTCC biff-and-barge. This is the kind of racing he loves. But Collard Jr is also an increasingly impressive driver.

His first full season in the BTCC, with Speedworks Motorsport in 2022, was a trial. A thumb injury from his karting days left him unable to press his Toyota’s hybrid boost button without taking his hand off the steering wheel, until the team was given dispensation to rig up an extension. By the end of the campaign, a dejected Collard declared that he was hanging up his helmet at the age of 26 to go and do more enjoyable things.

Thankfully, he changed his mind. When Speedworks struggled early in the season, it was Collard who stepped forward to lead the line over experienced and highly rated team-mate Rory Butcher. Yes, he overstepped track limits in his on-the-road defeat of Ash Sutton at Brands Hatch, but his sheer determination to see off the BTCC heavy hitter won the hearts of the series’ fans. It was the third time in less than 12 months that he’d lost a podium to a penalty, and it was ironic that his first with Speedworks came at Knockhill – a race he finished in sixth place!

Collard combined well with veteran engineer Paul Ridgway, although it was on a weekend when Ridgway was away on TCR World Tour duty – Donington GP – where he attained his equal best qualifying position of third. Collard himself and team boss Christian Dick wielded the laptop themselves, and went for an audacious strategy of using carry-over used rear tyres from the previous round at Knockhill. He enjoys wrestling a loose rear end, and it worked a treat…

Consistency really improved, with Collard finishing 16 of the final 20 races in the top nine. The feeling is that if he could just be allowed to focus on his own job, he could take a big step towards the boys at the front.

6. Josh Cook

Cook picked up the Independents' title again - not that he was hugely bothered by it!

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Cook picked up the Independents' title again - not that he was hugely bothered by it!

The red-headed West Countryman had worked wonders with the customer Honda Civic Type R over recent seasons, even appearing on the fringes of outright title races rather than just racking up the Independents crown (something of little interest to him).

For 2023, the team formerly known as BTC Racing had been renamed One Motorsport. With the withdrawal of top Honda squad Team Dynamics, it now had the West Midlands operation’s latest Civics, complete with their bespoke Honda engines, and a collaboration with the Dynamics technical staff was confirmed.

Then the Dynamics techies appeared with Team Hard for the opening round, the Brackley team missed the mid-season official test – Cook said that there was no testing, not even a shakedown, since the start of the season. Team principal Danny Buxton departed to become Speedworks’ new head of racing in September.

Through all this Cook struggled to maintain any kind of consistency with a car that was ostensibly the same (except the engine) as his old weapon. The big problem was getting it to work on new tyres in qualifying. At Thruxton, a track he’s effectively owned in recent years, he set a free practice time that no one beat all weekend, yet he couldn’t get near it in qualifying. At Brands GP, he was rapid on old medium rubber in free practice; barely any quicker on new softs when it counted. Clearly that missing testing programme was much-needed.

In the series finale at Brands, Cook had a tasty battle for the lead with Stephen Jelley before they were both pickpocketed by that incredible Jake Hill move. At Knockhill, he had a stormer for the lead with Sutton as rain began to fall before he lost it at Duffus Dip.

It’s perhaps tough on Cook to position him behind Cammish – who he beat in the points – in these rankings, but that’s because it’s so difficult to get a read on how good he was in 2023. At least he won the Independents title!

5. Dan Cammish

Luck wasn't on Cammish's side in 2023, but his win from pole on the Croft opener really caught the eye

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Luck wasn't on Cammish's side in 2023, but his win from pole on the Croft opener really caught the eye

The season began superbly for Cammish with a well-judged drive to victory in the opening race at Donington as chaos broke out around him, and continued with a reversed-grid triumph in the day’s finale. A Motorbase Ford topped the points table, and it wasn’t the one driven by Ash Sutton… Then the Berkshire-based Yorkshireman put in a sensational performance in wet qualifying at Brands Hatch Indy, on minimum hybrid boost, to claim pole by nearly 0.3s on a 54s lap.

After that he clearly spent most of his time encountering black cats and walking under ladders, because Cammish had the most extreme bad fortune of any of the leading BTCC contenders. Qualifying offs at Snetterton and Knockhill were arguably his fault, but any other driver wouldn’t have encountered massive bumps in the grass that respectively caused a shunt and ripped parts of the car away, would have pitted to check everything was OK, and carried on for a decent grid position.

Only Cammish could have total brake failure on the way into McLeans at the Donington GP round during FP1, causing an enormous shunt that turned his Ford Focus into a Ka and ruled him out for the weekend. Only he, now in the spare Ford while his Donington wreck was repaired, could have tyre delaminations late in two successive races at Silverstone. No wonder Cammish took it easy in qualifying for the finale at Brands GP; he was just wary of anything else going wrong.

This was a tough season for a deep-thinking driver who you get the impression needs to feel confidence. It’s always tough partnering Sutton, and there was an element of the car leaning more towards the 2023 champion’s hang-on-to-everything swashbuckling style, although Cammish said they’d moved closer to each other’s set-ups as the season wore on. By which time he was in his mire of misfortune.

When it worked for Cammish he was superb, and his remaining win, at Croft from pole, came from pure superiority. Against Sutton, that’s impressive.

4. Colin Turkington

Turkington's last-to-first across the three races at Oulton Park was a remarkable performance

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Turkington's last-to-first across the three races at Oulton Park was a remarkable performance

Statistics can be misleading, but they can also be interesting. Take Turkington’s average 2023 supertimes (where a driver’s fastest lap of the weekend is expressed as a percentage of the overall fastest). On mean averages he’s where you’d have predicted: fourth on 100.499 behind Sutton (100.028), Ingram (100.357) and Hill (100.378). But on median averages, which reduce the effect of outlying figures (such as Turkington’s exclusion from qualifying at Oulton Park), he’s third on 100.392 – behind Sutton (a remarkable 100.000) and Ingram (100.362), and ahead of Hill (100.426).

This paints a picture whereby, when the BMW is working properly, Turkington leaves little on the table and, even at the age of 41, he maximises everything. The problem for the Northern Irish four-time champion and WSR is that, even if the 3-Series was on form, it was never the standard-setting car on a race weekend in 2023.

There were complaints of a lack of straight-line speed through most of the season, and whispers of rising charge temperatures on the BMW engine costing power when running in the pack. But Turkington’s faithful engineer John Waterman discounted this – the deficit, he claimed, was a result of TOCA turning down the boost when the 3-Series proved dominant out of the box in 2019; more engine development is needed, on the proviso that it stays within the TOCA performance parameters to prevent the boost being cut again!

Turkington won four times in 2023: he used the soft Goodyears to triumph in the opener at Brands Indy, and also scored in the reversed-grid encounters at Croft and Silverstone. But it was his Oulton Park performance that showed that the desire is still there. Banished from the qualifying results due to the BMW yielding insufficient fuel for a sample, he charged from 27th and last at the start of the day to fourth in race two, and victory in the finale, on one of the circuits where it’s most difficult to pass. He remains a class act of the series.

3. Jake Hill

Hill's overtake of the season on Jelley and Cook to set up victory at the season finale was arguably the best of the year

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Hill's overtake of the season on Jelley and Cook to set up victory at the season finale was arguably the best of the year

In 2022, the diminutive Kentishman proved one of the hard-charging entertainers of the BTCC during his first season armed with a West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport, and even beat long-time WSR/BMW talisman Colin Turkington in the points.

As the 2023 season started, from the outside looking in the feeling was one of consolidation rather than making any big leaps forward. Sure, he was notching up results but there appeared to be an air of resignation about how quick those Ford Focuses were.

Then, before Oulton Park’s fifth round in June, Hill and his long-time engineer Craig Porley (they were together in their AmD Honda and Motorbase Ford days too) hatched a new set-up plan. Hill explained that the car had been feeling a bit numb, and he wanted to go out on a limb. It worked – he was the star of race day, a tenacious defence on poleman Ash Sutton in the opening race preceding his first two BTCC wins of the season.

In the end Hill notched up six wins, but none of the other victories came from being out-and-out faster than the rest. Instead, they were the result of the correct tyre choice through the British summer’s sudden rain squalls or his absolutely sensational double pass on team-mate Stephen Jelley and Josh Cook in the finale at Brands Hatch. On the flipside, he suffered for most of the season from a recurring misfire due to the failure of boost sensors, most notably costing him an easy win at Silverstone. Without these issues, it’s entirely feasible that he could have beaten Ingram to the runner-up spot.

Counterintuitively, the top rear-wheel-drive contenders in the BTCC – Hill and Turkington – rarely look as spectacular as front-driven top dogs Sutton and Ingram. But, if there was one BMW you could count upon to be locking up yet still making it to the apex, then that was Hill’s. He absolutely ragged that car and no one could accuse him of not getting the maximum out of it.

2. Tom Ingram

Ingram kept the title fight alive against Sutton all the way to the Brands Hatch finale

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Ingram kept the title fight alive against Sutton all the way to the Brands Hatch finale

In any other off-season, it’s entirely feasible that the work carried out at Excelr8 Motorsport to refine its Hyundai i30 N Fastback would have been enough for Tom Ingram to make his merry, quintessential tea-drinking English-charmer way to a second successive BTCC title. But it wasn’t, because the complete revamp being carried out at Motorbase provided such a quantum leap for the Ford Focus.

The Coventry-domiciled Wycombe native spent most of the season chasing a couple of tenths to Sutton, but such is Ingram’s tenacity behind the wheel and his racecraft that he kept the title alive into the final weekend, only conceding it after chasing the new champion home in the opening race. You only have to look at his record of podiums to understand why: 17 out of 30 in a car that was rarely the one to beat was second only to Sutton’s 20, and way clear of Hill, next up on 12.

Ingram sometimes felt that the Hyundai wasn’t quite there on set-up, but he and engineer Spencer Aldridge beavered away and there were periods when he was a genuine threat on pace to Sutton. At Oulton Park, he sailed through Q1 yet missed a shot at pole because of a mystifying inability to switch on the tyres in Q2. At Donington GP, he messed up the final corner on his hot lap in qualifying, yet on race day he stormed ahead of Sutton on the fourth lap to beat him to victory on genuine pace.

There was only one other win: Ingram went ‘off-piste’ on tyre choice at Snetterton, giving him an advantage in the final reversed-grid race upon which he capitalised, despite feeling so ill he could hardly stand on the podium. But he had lost points earlier in the day due to a puzzling sluggishness at the starts, attributed by the team to a ‘component issue’.

He also took the chequered flag first in a crazy dry-wet race at Knockhill, only for he and third-placed team-mate Tom Chilton to be excluded for failing the ride-height test. This wasn’t the first time this had happened to Excelr8 after changing onto wet-weather tyres during a race – Ronan Pearson lost a third place at Donington’s opener for the same reason on his BTCC debut.

Ingram was perhaps as impressive in title defeat as he was in winning it in 2022. He, Aldridge and Excelr8 will know that their attack in 2024 will depend as much on what happens on Ford-catching development between now and March as what occurs on track from April to October.

1. Ash Sutton

Few can argue with Sutton coming out on top

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Few can argue with Sutton coming out on top

The arrival of Sutton and the nucleus of his old Team BMR squad at the Motorbase Performance Ford operation relatively late in the 2021-22 off-season gave stability to the then-three-time champion and his crew, but not a Focus ST with which he could do what he wanted. The attention at this point was on implementing the new-for-2022 hybrid and all that entailed with the additional weight. The fourth-generation Focus, introduced in 2020, was already something of an unpredictable diva anyway, yet Sutton wrestled it to the championship runner-up spot.

The team had planned a new rear-wheel-drive Audi project for 2023, but this involved bending a couple of the NGTC regulations and there was not enough enthusiasm from the other teams for this to happen when it was put to a vote by series organiser TOCA. Sutton’s engineer Antonio Carrozza – the brains behind his 2020 and 2021 titles with the Infiniti Q50, and data engineer for his maiden crown in 2017 with the Subaru Levorg – was tasked with going through every nut and bolt of the Focus, and a hugely developed machine emerged from the Wrotham premises. Engine builder Mountune worked on driveability, its tweaks carefully staying within the TOCA performance parameters to ensure the boost wouldn’t be cut.

During a pre-season test in the dry – something that most other teams couldn’t find for luck nor money – at Brands Hatch Indy, Sutton smashed the lap record. There was optimism, but no one was getting carried away – it could have just been a quick day due to the conditions. Then came qualifying for round one at Donington. Sutton wasn’t on pole, but his team-mate Dan Rowbottom was, albeit with a top 10 shootout-topping time slower than Sutton’s Q1 effort. Despite a nightmare opening race day, triggered by Sutton’s startline collision with Jake Hill, there was an inevitability about his march to the top of the points table.

Sometimes the Fords would be in a gang at the front, such as at Croft, suggesting there was a car advantage. Occasionally Sutton was so far ahead of his team-mates, for example Snetterton and Thruxton, that it was evident that here was a special talent now utterly in tune with a front-wheel-drive car, after notching up all his previous titles with rear-driven machinery.

Most of Sutton’s previous success had come in cars that weren’t the standard-setting machine; before 2023, his most recent pole had come for Thruxton round one… in 2021! Now he was in a Focus in which he was almost invincible on pace.

His racecraft remained brilliant – 23rd to first at Silverstone in just 22 racing laps, or 32 miles! – although not without its blemishes. While Hill copped a grid penalty for that first-race clash, you’d be justified in pointing out Sutton’s riskiness in moving across on a faster-starting BMW; further, there were the first-lap eliminations at Oulton Park and Croft. But that ambition, that reaching for the stars, is why the crowds love him, and his record-equalling fourth BTCC crown – clinched at the Brands finale – came from a season when he was clearly the best in the field.

Morgan was one of a handful of drivers to narrowly miss out on making this top 10

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Morgan was one of a handful of drivers to narrowly miss out on making this top 10

Honourable mentions

Adam Morgan moved to WSR after the family Ciceley Motorsport squad called time on its decade-long BTCC adventure. He was capable of mixing it with the sister BMWs of Turkington and Hill on his day, and just misses out on our top 10. Completing that squad was Stephen Jelley, who showed a lot of fire in battling for the lead in the final race of the season at Brands.

It was tempting to put one of the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra drivers in the top 10, but which one? The machines are venerable but still quick. Rookie Andrew Watson grabbed a couple of podiums and the Jack Sears Trophy title; fellow new boy Mikey Doble took a little longer to get up to speed but landed a shock pole at Silverstone. Both have a bright future in the BTCC, but were beaten in the points by the evergreen Aron Taylor-Smith, the cheerful Dubliner unlucky not to win at Silverstone.

Dan Lloyd was probably even unluckier with his denied victory at Donington. He had clung on in his Team Hard Cupra until halfway round the final lap before the driveshaft failed. Together with Bobby Thompson, he formed an effective lead duo for the squad.

One driver who did win was Tom Chilton, the extrovert Surrey veteran making the right tyre choice in a dry-wet race at Donington to triumph in his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai. That team also included promising rookie Ronan Pearson, who was only denied a maiden podium at Knockhill when he let team leader Ingram past on the final lap. He’s staying on for 2024 and is developing nicely.

Aiden Moffat (One Honda) and Sam Osborne (Motorbase Ford) completed the list of those to get a podium, but one who didn’t was George Gamble. As a rookie he was a winner in a Ciceley BMW; in his first season of front-wheel-drive competition he was often quick in the races in his Speedworks Toyota, but his hard-charging style left him too far down in qualifying, and in the danger zone in races.

What will the 2024 BTCC season bring?

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

What will the 2024 BTCC season bring?

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