Ashley Sutton and Josh Cook made very promising starts to their MG careers in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Brands Hatch this afternoon.
Sutton, making his BTCC debut, drove like a seasoned pro in the first race of the day to earn fourth and was followed superbly by Cook who battled his was to finish fifth.
There were more incidents for both drivers to contend with in the second two races, but a healthy collection of points from the opening rounds gives reason for optimism for the rest of the season.
Sutton couldn't have wished for a better start to the day after a promising qualifying on the Saturday. Starting from fifth on the grid in race one, he immediately moved up to fourth. Teammate Cook was not quite so successful off the line and dropped down to seventh.
Cook showed great composure and skill to get back up to sixth on lap eight, but while Sutton was fending off the BMW of Jack Goff, Cook took full advantage when the former MG driver ran wide and claimed fifth position.
The MG Triple Eight Racing pair drove superbly until the end to safely cross the line and lay a good foundation for the rest of the day.
The final positions from race one dictated the grid for race two, but Sutton couldn't take advantage of his fourth place on the grid as he bogged down off the line and dropped to seventh. Cook meanwhile maintained fifth but temporarily moved up to a podium position following a collision between Rob Collard and Tom Ingram while fighting for the lead.
The Ford Focus' of Andrew Jordan and Matt Jackson came surging past both MGs at the midway point but the main action came on lap 23 when Cook ran into the barrier with suspicion of oil on track. He frustratingly returned to the pits and was unable to continue. Sutton did well to avoid the incident but did run wide allowing Goff through. Unwilling to give up, the rookie showed great character and fought back to regain the place on the final lap and crossed the line in sixth.
Race three didn't go to plan for either driver, despite a favourable reverse grid that promoted Sutton up to fourth. However, a poor start from the debutant saw him fall back through the pack and down to 17th. He salvaged several places with an excellent drive and finished up in 10th place.
Cook had to start near the back of the grid following his DNF in race two. A mature and cultured drive saw him secure a 14th placed finish from 29th on the grid.
View the photo gallery from the weekend below. (Photos courtesy of Andrew Soul)