Former Birchwood High School student Ashley Sutton wins Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship for a third time in 2021 season finale at Brands Hatch
Ashley Sutton has told his Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship rivals that he can get even better after he claimed the title for a third time on Sunday.
The Bishop's Stortford racer lifted the trophy thanks to two top-six finishes followed by a victory at Brands Hatch as he successfully defended his crown in the season finale.
Sutton, 27, topped the standings from the second event onwards and a superb campaign, which included five wins and four further podium places, ended with him 51 points clear of runner-up Colin Turkington.
He has become the youngest three-time champion in the history of the BTCC while his treble means he is one title win away from the all-time record, currently shared by Turkington and Andy Rouse with four apiece.
And the former Birchwood High School student, who first won the title in 2017, is already plotting lifting the silverware in 2022 as he looks to become the championship's greatest racer.
"To have been crowned BTCC champion once was a great achievement, but to now stand here with three titles is simply incredible," said Sutton, who also successfully retained his independent drivers' crown and helped Laser Tools Racing clinch both the teams' and independent teams' titles.
"It hasn't fully sunk in yet, but to go back-to-back is just phenomenal. I'm absolutely over the moon.
"I'm now the youngest three-time champion in the history of the series - let's make it four next year. When all is said and done, I want to be one of the greats of the BTCC and I'm fully focused on winning more championships.
"Over the past few years I've continued to raise my game, but I don't truly think I've hit my peak yet. I've still got things I can improve on so that is exciting as we move forward.
"We'll celebrate this and soak up the moment, but it won't be long until the focus starts switching to next year where the goal is to come back and lift this title once again."
Arriving at the Kent venue with the championship in his sights, Sutton produced one of his best qualifying laps of the season on Saturday as he hustled his ballast-ladened rear-wheel-drive machine to sixth on the grid for race one.
The opening encounter the following day saw the Infiniti Q50 driver produce a measured drive to put himself within touching distance of the coveted prize. Launching off the third row, he held station in sixth to further extend his lead in the standings.
His crowning glory came in race two as he picked up a second sixth-place finish of the day. After surviving a fraught opening lap, Sutton settled into a groove and shadowed chief title rival Turkington for the remainder of the contest to wrap up the title with a race to spare.
With the pressure off, Sutton completed his title-winning campaign in style by taking victory in the final contest.
Starting fourth virtue of the reverse-grid draw, he wasted no time in charging to the front and, despite being briefly challenged for the lead, he pulled clear to bring the curtain down in emphatic fashion.
"Race one and two were just about shadowing what Colin [Turkington] was doing," said Sutton.
"To wrap it up with a race to spare was great and winning race three was the best way to finish off the season. I could take the handcuffs off and go and do what I wanted which was amazing.
"Coming into the year I knew I had to change my approach a little, but early on I was fully focused on getting those big results and, more importantly, points on the board.
"After not finishing at Oulton Park we flicked that switch and since then we've been smart, taken our opportunities and extended the lead whenever possible.
"This really has been such a team effort. I've got a fantastic group of people around me who have given me an incredible car all year - without them this wouldn't have been possible.
"To retain both the drivers' and independent drivers' titles, as well as help Laser Tools win the teams' and independent teams', is mega!"