Ash Sutton has been crowned champion in the British Touring Car Championship after a pulsating final three races of the season at Brands Hatch.
"I'm lost for words," said Sutton after climbing from his car. "It's been a great team effort and I can't thank the team enough for this. It's a dream come true.
“Nothing can top this, nothing at all. I feel sick inside because of the buzz! I’ve always been one to set targets throughout my career so far. Every championship I’ve been a part of, I’ve achieved my target. I did it last year with the Jack Sears Trophy and now to do what we wanted to do this year, it’s an unreal feeling and it’ll take a long time to sink in."
The Subaru Levorg racer arrived at the track as a narrow championship favourite, but was made to fight into the final race after main title rival Colin Turkington (BMW 125i M Sport) scored a sensational victory from 15th place on the grid in the penultimate race of the year.
Ahead of the third race of the weekend - and final one of the season - Sutton was ahead by just six championship points. Adding further drama, he started the race in 14th - two places behind Turkington.
Briefly, it looked like Turkington would mirror his race-two charge, ending the first lap in fifth, albeit trailed by Sutton - but that dream came undone just a few corners later after a clash with Mat Jackson (Ford Focus). Turkington’s rear suspension was broken - and his championship charge over.
That left Sutton fourth and - technical or driving infringement aside - as champion. Even so, he drove circumspectly, overtaking the Volkswagen CC of Mike Epps at mid-distance and then settling for third.
The new champion followed Jack Goff (Honda Civic Type R) and race winner Rob Austin (Toyota Avensis) home, after the latter secured the victory with a relatively comfortable run at the front. However, Sutton's form wasn't enough to deny BMW the Manufacturers' Championship and Turkington's West Surrey Racing squad the Team's Championship.
In the opening race of the weekend, the knife-edge title battle had looked to be swinging in Sutton’s favour when he finished third behind Aiden Moffat (Mercedes A-Class) and Tom Ingram (Toyota Avensis), whereas Turkington could only take 15th spot.
The basis of Moffatt’s victory was secured when he out-slung polesitter Goff, but was forced to back out of an overtaking move in the run-up to the first corner. Although it looked like he’d missed his chance, Goff slid wide and into the barrier.
Thereafter, Moffatt held the lead, although he did come under increasing pressure from Ingram once he had found a way past the fast-starting Sutton.
However, Turkington didn’t roll over, winning the second race of the day - and his fourth of the season - in sensational style, while Sutton could manage only 12th. Following that result, the points gap was down to just six points in Sutton’s favour.