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Sutton: BTCC's 2024 rules tweaks like having success ballast back

British Touring Car Championship leader Ash Sutton says that the series’ new sporting regulations have taken plotting a title-winning campaign back to the days of success ballast.

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Sutton tops the standings after the first two race weekends, despite not claiming any victories in his Alliance Racing-run NAPA Ford Focus ST.

Last year he claimed a record-equalling fourth BTCC title and also tied the season-record wins tally of 12, initially set by Alain Menu in 1997.

Not only has the power boost from hybrid and turbo been doubled for 2024, with restrictions for those in the leading positions in the championship, but new tyre rules mandate the top 10 from race one of a weekend using the hardest available compound from their allocation for race two.

Speaking at Brands Hatch after claiming his sixth podium finish in six races, Sutton told Autosport: “The wins are going to be harder to come by, the way that the rules work.

“We could have put a soft on in race one and maybe challenged [Sutton used the medium tyre and finished third], but it would have been tough.

“The points have been really, really good. Six out of six podiums – it’s phenomenal.

“The way we’re going to see the championship work is it’s going to go back to the years of ballast, where the championship contenders don’t qualify so well, then struggle in race one.

“And the way the rule works now where you have to use the harder tyre for race two, it’s very hard to carry yourself forward in that race.

“You’ve got to have your stars perfectly aligned or maybe lucky with a reversed grid on tyre choice or something like that.”

Ash Sutton

Ash Sutton

Photo by: JEP

Pre-Brands championship leader Tom Ingram, the only driver other than Sutton to claim a BTCC crown in the past four seasons, had the heaviest power-boost restriction for qualifying and race one on his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N, and emerged from the weekend down in third place in the points.

“We came into this weekend knowing we were going to be four-tenths off pole, and knowing we were going to be at least a tenth and a half off Ash [due to the relative hybrid allowances], there was no denying it,” he said.

“And incidentally, that’s exactly where we were. That’s how it is. It was circumstantial once again.

“Am I annoyed? No, not at all. The hybrid’s doing what it was intended to do. The championship leader always gets penalised the worst, the same as when we had success ballast.”

Talking about the changes in the sporting regulations, series boss Alan Gow told Autosport: “It’s done its job – exactly what we thought it would do, without hammering the competitors too hard.

“When we had 75kg success ballast, the championship leader would probably qualify 16th around here [at Brands], but now at least the drivers have a decent car.”

Of Sutton’s performance in qualifying fourth, despite being allowed just three seconds per lap of hybrid compared to 15s for those outside the top seven, Gow added: “Ash is pretty special. Can you imagine where he would have been if he didn’t have the hybrid reduction?”

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