NAPA Racing UK has strengthened its hold on top spot in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship following a record-breaking weekend on track at Donington Park.
Ash Sutton broke the record for most wins in a season under the current regulations to extend his lead at the top of the standings, whilst the NAPA Racing UK squad also strengthened its hold on the BTCC Teams Championship as top scorers from the weekend.
Saturday would be a day that showed the highs and lows of motorsport to full effect, with a dramatic off for Dan Cammish at McLeans – just seconds after he had set the quickest time in the opening practice session – resulting in the #27 Focus sustaining extensive damage that would rule the car out of the remainder of the weekend.
Showing the strength of the Motorbase-built car, Dan was able to escape the incident without injury.
By the end of the day however, there was plenty of reason to cheer in the garage as Sutton stormed to a fifth pole of the season in qualifying, equalling the record for most poles in a season under the current series regulations. It also maintained a 100 per cent pole record for NAPA Racing UK this season, with Dan Rowbottom posting the tenth-best time and Sam Osborne qualifying in 15th.
BTCC RACE 1
Wet weather greeted the team for Sunday’s races, with Ash losing the lead at the start when he suffered wheelspin off the line and slipped to third spot. Regaining second within a matter of corners, Ash then quickly cleared rival Tom Ingram to hit the front, and stormed clear to take his ninth win of the campaign.
Dan would spend the race battling in gaggle of cars in the midfield before emerging with a solid eighth place, with Sam scoring the final point in 15th having survived a wild trip across the grass at the start that saw him collect a trackside advertising banner.
Luckily, the debris would drop off the front of the car before it could impact on his engine temperatures, ensuring a triple score for the team.
BTCC RACE 2
Ash retained his lead at the start of the second race on a now dry circuit before title rival Ingram nipped ahead on the fourth lap. From there, Ash held station to the finish having kept the BMW of Jake Hill at bay in second place to score another podium finish, despite suffering an issue with the brakes on his car.
Dan improved on his race one result as he took seventh place – only missing out on the top six by half a second – whilst Sam replicated his earlier performance as he once again picked up the final championship point.
BTCC RACE 3
With the top twelve reversed on the grid for race three, Ash started back in eleventh place on the grid, but would emerge from a chaotic encounter in an impressive fifth place. Crucially, that was two places ahead of main rival Ingram, allowing him to extend his lead in the standings to 42 points ahead of the penultimate weekend of racing at Silverstone.
“We had a solid race one in the wet, but then in races two and three we had to manage a bit of an issue with the brakes,” Ash said. “It was nothing to do with the team and they were just getting hot, but what happened to Dan was in the back of my mind, so I was aiming to stay out of trouble and bring home the points.
“Extending the lead at the top of the standings is great, particularly as I think Silverstone will be a tough one for us with no hybrid, but there are a few things I think we can look at to make sure we go there all guns blazing.”
Race three would prove to be a difficult one for Dan, who had fought his way into the top five before he clipped a tyre stack at the chicane, resulting in a puncture that forced him to make an unscheduled pitstop that dropped him off the lead lap.
The action-packed race saw Sam secure his best result of the weekend however, as he kept his nose clean and stayed out of trouble to take the flag in ninth place and earn a share of the Jack Sears Trophy victory for the weekend.
1st – Ash Sutton (362 points)
5th – Dan Cammish (220 points)
8th – Dan Rowbottom (161 points)
18th – Sam Osborne (57 points)
MANUFACTURER’S – 2ND
TEAMS – 1ST
NEXT STOP, SILVERSTONE FOR ROUNDS 25, 26 AND 27 ON THE 23 – 24 SEPTEMBER 2023.
PORSCHE CARRERA CUP GB:
With Gus Burton absent due to a clashing commitment in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, multiple race winner Will Martin was drafted in for the weekend to pilot the NAPA Racing UK entry in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB – marking his first appearance in the series since the 2022 season finale at Brands Hatch.
Will – who is racing this season in the United States – wasted little time in getting up to speed in the JTR-run car as he posted the fifth-quickest time in free practice before qualifying just outside the top ten overall as the eighth-best of the Pro Class field.
In tricky damp conditions, Will produced one of the drives of the opening 19 lap race as he charged through the field to take second place, the highlights being a fine move up the inside of Matty Graham at Redgate and a stunning side-by-side run with points leader Adam Smalley down the Craner Curves in worsening weather conditions.
Starting the reverse grid second race from third on the grid, Will capped a fine return to the series with another second-place finish, moving up a spot when Josh Malin ran off the road and retaining the place through to the finish despite the close attentions of race one winner James Kellett.
“When I got the call to join NAPA Racing UK for the weekend it was a no-brainer really, and I thought it would be nice to come back and see some old faces,” he said.
“Qualifying didn’t quite go to plan as I didn’t manage to hook up a lap, but the races couldn’t have gone much better. As a guest driver, I didn’t really have any expectations in terms of results, so to leave with two trophies is great.”
MINI CHALLENGE TROPHY:
The Donington Park weekend marked the final appearance on the BTCC-support package this season for NAPA Racing UK’s two drivers in the MINI CHALLENGE Trophy, with Callum Eason and Cameron Richardson continuing with their rookie campaigns in the two Cooper class cars.
Cameron would be the quicker of the pair in qualifying as he set the 16th quickest time with Callum three spots further back, with Cameron shuffled back down the order in the opening stages of race one before recovering to finish where he started.
Callum by contrast had charged through to the fringes of the top ten before an unfortunate issue with the driveshaft saw him forced into retirement on the penultimate lap.
The second race of the weekend would run in tricky wet conditions, but both drivers were able to successfully bring their cars to the finish, with Cameron surviving a hit at the hairpin mid-way through to work his way up to 13th, and Callum taking the flag in 20th – despite starting the race so far back that he couldn’t even see the start lights.
A strong end to the weekend for Callum in the final race saw him continue his recovery from race one with a solid drive through to 13th place, with Cameron following him home in 14th place.