I’ll start with Josh Cook, because I’m sure many of you BTCC fans out there are more than aware of him already after his sterling drive in race three at Donington Park in 2015, where his battle with Aron Smith stirred up plenty of talk in the BTCC sphere. Fast forward about 11 months and Cook now finds himself nearing the end of what has surely been a roller coaster winter, and he’s come off vastly better shape than when it began.
Cook scored his maiden podium in race three at Rockingham on his way to a strong 15th place finish in the table in what was his maiden BTCC campaign, and one which would also see him secure the Jack Sears trophy by a mammoth 196 points. The 2014 Clio Cup runner up was regularly named amongst the BTCC’s best young talent throughout the course of last year, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be shocked when I learnt that Cook wouldn’t be driving for Power Maxed Racing again in 2016.
Unfortunately, like so many talented drivers these days Cook found himself without the budget and financial backing to complete another season with the Chevrolet squad, who I’m sure, would have had another successful season in the BTCC, especially with the new influx of stock parts.
Nevertheless, it was only on Tuesday morning that I tweeted about how I thought it strange (I think “fishy” was the word I used) that Triple Eight had failed to announce their drivers for 2016 and just a few hours later, I was met with the announcement that Cook and Sutton had joined the most successful team of the last two decades. From potentially having no drive, to having a factory supported drive at Triple Eight, is I can image, one of the most remarkable turnarounds for any driver in the BTCC and with the series being turned on its head (relatively speaking) for 2016, Cook and Sutton have a real chance to make a huge impact on the championship this season, especially in such a well resourced team.
2015 Clio Cup champion Ashley Sutton will partner Cook the second MG for 2016, and it can come as no surprise that the former TeamBMR Clio driver has made the step up for this season as the Clio Cup yet again cements it place as the BTCC’s de facto training ground.
After starting in Karts at the age of six, Sutton went on to be selected as a BRDC Rising Star after securing the MSA Formula Ford Scholarship Championship in 2014 and an overall third place in the standings Remarkable for a driver forced to sit out of motor racing for two and a half years due to surgery.
If Cook and Sutton’s past history is anything to go by then Triple Eight surely enter 2016 as possibly one of the biggest dark horses in recent years. It was clear for everyone to see that relative to their previous levels of success, 2015 was a struggle for the ten time manufacturers champions but with the playing field being levelled for the coming season, Cook and Sutton have a real chance to upset the Honda/BMR/BMW party which we saw on so many occasions last year.
I think it’s fantastic that MG have decided to extend their contract with Triple Eight through to the end of 2018, even top level motorsport faces so much year to year uncertainty these days and having a multi year commitment from MG mean that Cook and Sutton can really bed themselves in at Triple Eight and start to make progress in their BTCC careers. By securing a factory backed drive so early in their careers, Cook and Sutton have sent a clear message to the rest of the BTCC grid about just how seriously they should be taken and I’m sure we’re looking at, at least one, or maybe even two future BTCC champions.