The light faded on the 2021 British Touring Car Championship and brake discs glowed orange as the tin-tops dived into Paddock Hill Bend. Up front, Ash Sutton serenely drove into the distance to score his fifth and final race victory of a clinically relentless campaign. The points leader since the second weekend of the season had already calmly wrapped up his third BTCC title and second in succession in race two and now, as he put it, “the handcuffs were off” to fully express himself without the worries of ensuring a further haul of points.
It was almost dark as he took the chequered flag in race three at Brands Hatch – much darker than it looked on the telly – as Sutton closed out his phenomenal season in a perfect manner.
A third BTCC crown lifts him into special company. Sutton’s name now sits in the record books beside illustrious figures from the distant past such as Bill McGovern, Frank Gardner, Bernard Unett and Win Percy, along with more recent triple champions from the modern single-class era Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. But at just 27 years old, Sutton is comfortably the youngest to achieve three, has pulled off the feat in aremarkable six seasons and has everything going for him to smash the BTCC’s win records in the years to come.
First, he has his sights set on equalling the title record held jointly by Andy Rouse and main rival Colin Turkington. Next year, the classy Northern Irishman will be looking over his shoulder as Sutton bids for his fourth championship – but Turkington would prefer craning his neck than staring at his young adversary’s taillights once again.
The 2021 champion is unashamedly ambitious about what he’s targeting. “We’re just one step closer to where we want to be,” said Sutton in the wake of his Brands victory. “I want to go down as one of the greats inthe BTCC, and if that means we’ve got to go after more championships, then we’re going to do it. If I beat Colin to five [titles] I’ll be really happy. He’s a tough one to beat but we’ll match him first and then go from there.
“Obviously we’ll put a plan together over the next couple of years and see what we can do. The ultimate goal is getting the most championships.”