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Podium for Motorbase at Donington Park
Podium for Motorbase at Donington Park

Reigning Kwik Fit British Touring Car Champion Ash Sutton wrapped-up the opening event of the 2022 season with a second place finish at Donington Park National Circuit on Sunday, to ensure a fantastic podium for the NAPA Racing UK entry on its first weekend in the championship.

Qualifying third fastest for his first race with the hybrid powered front-wheel drive Motorbase Performance-run Ford Focus ST, Sutton claimed fourth in round one, sixth in round two and then impressed further in the final race with the runner-up spot – just a couple of seconds shy of the win.

Conversely, team-mate Dan Cammish’s fortunes on his first weekend with NAPA Racing UK couldn’t have been more different after a luckless car fire in qualifying on Saturday, 23rd April, caused by a split fuel line, almost ended his Donington challenge before it truly started.

Mounting a Herculean effort to repair the No.9 Ford for raceday, the Wrotham team’s mechanics worked through the night until three o’clock on Sunday morning before then returning to the track at 07.00 to continue the reassembly. Ensuring Cammish was on the grid for round one, from 28th and last he charged to 16th place. His weekend best of 13th came in round three after a race two puncture.

Sam Osborne and Ollie Jackson also experienced misfortune on raceday, the Apec Racing with Beavis Morgan pairing each encountering throttle-related problems. For Jackson, this led to retirements from both rounds one and two, although in round three he posted a 19th place finish. Osborne, who starred in qualifying with the 13th fastest time, delivered his weekend best of 17th in race three.

Round One
From third on the grid Sutton maintained position but on lap two he was edged back to fourth at Coppice as the lead group battled wheel-to-wheel. Following an early Safety Car period between laps three and seven, Sutton pressured the BMW of Colin Turkington but was edged to fifth by the sister BMW of Jake Hill where he stayed. Post-race, Hill was excluded and so Sutton took fourth.

NAPA Racing UK team-mate Cammish had it all to do from 28th and last on the grid in his rebuilt Ford Focus. After gaining three positions prior to the Safety Car intervention, he made swift progress into the top 20 and eventually concluded the 19 lap contest in 17th place – a mere 0.002 seconds shy of 16th at the line. This then became 16th after the aforementioned exclusion for Hill.

Osborne, starting an excellent 13th in the No.77 Apec Racing with Beavis Morgan car, put together a strong opening and was a competitive 14th at the re-start. Set to begin 2022 with a great points challenge, on lap 12 a problem with the throttle dropped him down the order – an eventual finish of 23rd on the amended result. Pace-wise, Osborne was notably just 0.3 seconds away from Sutton.

In the sister red, black and white car, Jackson progressed from 17th into 16th position early on and was well placed, like his team-mate, to progress and mount a bid for points. On lap eight, though, the No.48 Ford slowed and he was frustratingly forced to retire at the side of the track.

Round Two
As per the race one result, Sutton started round two in fourth place and a good initial launch was tempered when he had to take swift avoiding action to steer around a stalled Turkington. Down to fifth, Sutton then slipped to sixth on lap four behind Josh Cook but did momentarily hit back at Hollywood on lap five before Cook re-took the place. Thereafter, Sutton stayed sixth to the finish.

From row eight, Cammish made good early progress to gain three places and on lap two he was into the top 12. Taking 11th position on lap four, Cammish battled hard just outside the top 10 but on lap 13 he was forced to pit with a puncture. Rejoining a lap down, he was classified in 21st place.

Osborne and Jackson also encountered misfortune in race two, the latter posting his luckless second retirement of the day due to more issues with the throttle. Starting in 25th place, Jackson put together a sensational opening lap to climb into 17th but on lap eight he was forced to pit.

Lining-up two places ahead of Jackson at the start, Osborne ran nose-to-tail behind his team-mate in 18th spot into lap two. Although passed by Ricky Collard on lap three, Osborne made progress over the next couple of laps into 17th but during the closing moments of the race his car slowed with a throttle cable problem. Coasting to the finish on lap 16, he managed to post a 20th place finish.

Round Three
Sutton saved the best for last in race three, climbing from fourth to third off the start and then piling pressure onto Daniel Lloyd before passing the Hyundai on lap three at the Old Hairpin. Around one second shy of the race lead at that point, Sutton lapped little more than a tenth of a second outside the fastest lap and went on to claim his first podium in NAPA Racing UK colours.

Cammish once again had a big challenge on his hands to try and break into the points, starting in 21st place after his round two puncture, but he made swift progress to gain three places on the first lap. By lap five he was into 14th position, locked in a tight midfield battle, and then moved into 13th in the second half of the race – taking the flag on lap 16 just 0.2 seconds behind Jason Plato.

From 20th on the grid, Osborne put together a terrific opening lap to climb into 16th position. Although shuffled back to 19th place by lap nine, he fought back to finish the Donington finale in 17th position and only 0.1 seconds shy of 16th at the flag.

Jackson started five places further behind his team-mate and he too delivered a strong start, breaking into the top 20 with some great driving. Gaining two more places on lap three, he dropped back to 20th again around mid-distance as he struggled with some tyre damage but moved into 19th on lap 11 and stayed there to the end.

Speaking after the weekend, Oly Collins – Motorbase Performance Team Manager, said: “What a weekend! I think we covered most of the emotions available in the last two days. Firstly, a huge thanks to the whole team to turn around what was a monumental task on Dan’s car from the fire on Saturday and the marshals who were on the scene.

“That’s the last thing we could have done with at the first round but, as always, the main thing is that Dan reacted quickly and got out unharmed and then the Motorbase crew worked through the night to turn it all around.

“Great results for Ash on race day to put him P3 in the championship, he drove in the manner we’ve seen in recent years which has helped him win championships and he got a solid start to this year’s campaign this weekend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t unlock the race pace from the car for Dan. The one lap pace from the Focus is fantastic, we just need to work on keeping the tyres alive for longer.

“Ollie and Sam were just unbelievably unlucky with problems beyond the team’s control. It seems like a simple software update has affected our throttle system which has cost Ollie and Sam some good points finishes. NAPA Racing UK have their first podium in the bank and now we head to Brands aiming for much more.”

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