Ashley Sutton overcame pressure from title rival Colin Turkington to win his maiden British Touring Car Championship crown at Brands Hatch.
Subaru driver Sutton, who arrived at the Kent circuit with a 10-point advantage over double champion Turkington, survived a late scare after the Team BMW driver fought back from 15th to win the middle of three races, taking the championship fight down to the final of 30 races.
However, contact between Tom Ingram and Mat Jackson in the final race sent the former off-circuit at Graham Hill Bend in treacherously wet conditions, and in rejoining the Motorbase Ford made contact with the rear-right of Turkington’s BMW 125i M Sport, damaging the suspension and forcing him into an early retirement.
Sutton’s rise through the UK motorsport ranks, securing the Renault UK Clio Cup title in 2015 before taking the rookie honours with MG in his first season in the BTCC a year later, has been meteoric.
The Subaru Levorg, prepared by seasoned winners Team BMR, has been arguably the machine to beat for much of the season, with Sutton taking six victories and a further nine podium finishes en route to his maiden title.
“Nothing can top this, nothing at all,” admitted Sutton.
“I feel sick inside because of the buzz! I can’t thank everyone enough, Adrian Flux Subaru Racing have done me so proud this year.
“Whatever Colin (Turkington) was doing, I was just trying to match during the opening laps, so he didn’t get out of sight.
“There was a coming-together involving Colin (Turkington) and somebody else and I got a radio call with the team saying he was out, and they told me to go and enjoy myself.”
There were also championship successes for Tom Ingram and BMW in the Independents and Manufacturers stakes respectively, giving Turkington’s team some consolation from an otherwise disappointing final outcome.
Rob Austin signed off his final race meeting with the Toyota Avensis with victory in the final race, with Handy Motorsport set to switch to an Alfa Romeo Guilietta from 2018 onwards in a multi-year deal.
Aiden Moffat also tasted success for the second time this season, backing up his victory at Donington Park in April with another in the opening race after Jack Goff slid off at Paddock Hill Bend and hit the opposite barrier.
The championship, which takes in 30 races at 9 of the UK’s most prestigious racing venues, will return in April 2018, again at Brands Hatch, with a capacity 32 entries expected to stake a claim to Sutton’s newfound glory.