Ashley Sutton got on the podium in race three as he made a solid start to the defence of his Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship title at Donington Park
Ashley Sutton got on the podium in race three as he made a solid start to the defence of his Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship title at Donington Park.
The Bishop's Stortford racer, who became the youngest triple BTCC champion last year, also began the competition's hybrid era with two top-six drives.
Sutton, who now competes for NAPA Racing UK, was one of the star performers during an ultra-competitive qualifying session in his Ford Focus ST.
The former Birchwood High School student dipped under the existing lap record around the 1.98-mile circuit and missed out on pole position by a mere 0.023sec as he set a best time of 1min 8.441sec to clinch a third-place start for the first of Sunday's three races.
Sutton, 28, crossed the line in fifth in race one, but was promoted up the order to fourth following a post-race penalty for Jake Hill.
He added to his points tally in race two with another measured drive as he guided his front-wheel-drive machine to sixth following a wheel-to-wheel battle early on with former team-mate Josh Cook.
Starting the reverse-grid bout from fourth, Sutton, who was the Tees Law-sponsored sports personality winner at last year's Indies community awards, ended his day on a high as he claimed second place.
Jumping into third off the line, he wasted no time in taking second as he passed Dan Lloyd on lap two and from there it was a comfortable drive to the chequered flag.
"It's good to end the weekend on the podium, but obviously we are never going to be completely happy until we're standing on that top step," said Sutton, who sits third in the standings, 11 points behind early leader Tom Ingram.
"It's been a learning curve, but the positive is that we come away from Donington having made some real improvements, especially in that last race.
"Our one-lap pace was phenomenal, but it was the race pace where we were having to play catch up in a few areas. We made a lot of changes throughout the day and in race three that was the best the car had been, so it's encouraging to know we're heading in the right direction.
"In terms of the hybrid, I really enjoyed using it. We've got another element to think about and it adds more strategy into the races, which is mega, and I think it is only going to add to the on-track action as we continue to get our heads around it."
Sutton will be back behind the wheel when the championship heads to Brands Hatch for races four, five and six on the weekend of May 14-15.
"We've got a solid haul of points on the board and valuable data which we can now dig into to see what we can do to unlock a bit more for when we get to Brands Hatch," added Sutton.