Three British Touring Car Championship titles in just six seasons. At 28, Ash Sutton is something of a modern-day racing phenomenon, which makes him a worthy recipient of Autocar’s Motorsport Hero award this year.
Especially as, among the many remarkable things about him, he’s not even a full-time racing driver.
“I have a simulator business that I run Monday to Friday,” Sutton explains of the company that he started just as the world was locking down in the face of the pandemic and demand for virtual racing systems was about to explode.
“It’s manic at the minute. Business is going from strength to strength year by year. Eventually it will be at a point where I can take a step away and let the reins out a little. That’s the aim, and then I can focus on racing a bit more. I’m working seven days a week, 9am through to 8pm.”
Imagine what he may achieve when racing is his only concern… Having made his BTCC debut in 2016, Sutton claimed his first title just a year later in a BMR-run Subaru Levorg, then added back-to-back crowns in a Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 in 2020 and 2021.
Now he has switched to a Ford Focus ST run by Motorbase and is bidding to equal the record of four crowns held by legend Andy Rouse and main rival Colin Turkington.
If he can pull off the feat, he will also prove his versatility, having switched from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive for the first time since that first season back in 2016.
“I’m young in terms of my career in the BTCC,” he says. “No driver has won it in a front- and rear-wheeldrive car, so it would be nice to tick that one off. To come away with the most championships to my name at the end of my career is the ultimate goal. We’re a long way down that path already. Six years in and three titles isn’t a bad percentage. As long as we can maintain that, we’re on.”
Like most racers of his generation, Sutton started in karts, aiming for a life in single-seaters, only for budget constraints to change his path. But the BTCC is a destination in itself, and he has no burning desire to race anywhere else.
“It suits me and that goes back to my karting days,” he says. “Having three races a day is like having three heats and a final in karts. You don’t have to be the quickest driver on the grid, but you can race your way to the front. It’s just about that consistency. I feel like it has clicked with me."
In truth, he appears in no rush to drop the day job, either.
“It keeps me grounded,” he says. “It’s quite funny: my partner said to me recently ‘I forgot you’re a racing driver’, because I’m so busy with work. ‘Now you’ve got to go and do your other job,’ she said. The business allows me to go back and live a normal life.”