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Sutton tops final BTCC pre-season test

Reigning champion Ash Sutton was quickest in the final official pre-season British Touring Car Championship test at Donington Park.

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK Ford Focus ST

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The four-time title winner took his NAPA-liveried Alliance Racing Ford Focus ST around the East Midlands circuit 0.098 seconds clear of team-mate Dan Cammish in an afternoon session that was effectively ended by a thunderstorm an hour before the chequered flag.

The morning session was dry, but featured generally slower laptimes. Drizzle prevented much meaningful running early in the afternoon before the track dried out for a period of fast laps before the deluge.

Fresh from his win in the Gordon Spice Trophy at Goodwood in a Ford Mustang, Sutton was happy with his progress.

“I’ll be honest with you – we’re just going through a testing programme,” Sutton told Autosport.

“The times are a little bit irrelevant, we’re just going through changes to the car like everyone else.

“Is it the perfect car to go into qualifying with next week? No, but I’m still pleased that we’ve shown strong pace.

“I’m not sure what the others have been up to, but overall I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

While 2022 champion Tom Ingram topped the morning session in his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N Fastback, 0.271s clear of team-mate Tom Chilton, it was the veteran Chilton who emerged ahead in the afternoon to trail the leading two Fords with the third fastest time of the day.

Ingram’s morning time was good enough for fourth overall on the day, and he was sixth in the afternoon session.

The third Alliance Ford of Dan Rowbottom popped into fourth place in the afternoon, fifth on the day, with the leading West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport of Jake Hill next up.

The best lap of the day from the squadron of Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota Corolla GR Sports was set by Rob Huff in the morning – the 2012 World Touring Car champion’s effort was good enough for third in session, seventh on the day.

Huff was followed by four-time BTCC champion Colin Turkington’s WSR BMW, which improved to eighth overall in the afternoon, and the sister Toyota of Andrew Watson, who relied on his morning time.

The top 10 overall on the day was completed by Croft pacesetter Ronan Pearson in his Excelr8 Hyundai.

The BTCC also announced its official entry list during the day.

The apparent rebirth of Team Hard has now moved under the name of Unlimited Motorsport with new ownership, although Hard boss Tony Gilham was in evidence at Donington for the one-car Cupra Leon effort. Daryl DeLeon emerged for an out-lap just as the heavens opened in the afternoon.

WSR has entered its fourth BMW but has not nominated a driver, with team boss Dick Bennetts confirming that the squad is still working on a deal to get Bobby Thompson onto the grid for the opening round back at Donington on 27-28 April.

Power Maxed Racing chief Adam Weaver confirmed that his team will slim down to two Vauxhall Astras for this season, with Aron Taylor-Smith and Mikey Doble, due to the lack of drivers with a budget to take part.

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