Reigning BTCC champion Ash Sutton took part in a driver evaluation day for the Walkinshaw Andretti United Supercars team at Winton Motor Raceway last week.
The 24-year-old was offered the drive by the WAU team, heading down under to sample one of the 650-horsepower Holden ZB Commodore machines regularly raced by James Courtney and Scott Pye.
It also meant Sutton was reunited with now WAU engineer Carl Faux, the former technical director at Team BMR , which ran Sutton to the UK title in 2017, and the designer of the BTCC Subaru Levorg machines.
“It was a chance for me to try the car and see what Supercars is all about,” said Sutton, who conducted the mileage on Wednesday last week.
“The car was a total monster – a real eye-opener. Even when I was leaving the pits, it felt bloody fast, half throttle and all I seemed to do is keep on pulling another gear…”
Sutton took part in a full day’s running as he got to grips with the car on the rural Victorian circuit, which acts as the test track for most of the Melbourne-based teams.
“Supercars have locked rear differential, and that means they are very different from what I have driven before,” explained Sutton.
“It requires a slightly different approach in my footwork techniques as the shift in balance is more towards understeer, but dialling myself into this didn’t take too long and once I had found the sweet spot I love the way the car rotated.
“I think it took me about 10 laps to get the hang of it and then I was really able to get into the rhythm of it. They are such impressive cars and I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face throughout my time behind the wheel.
“The Winton track was a great place to drive the car too – it had a bit of everything with slow and technical bits to really fast and flowing corners too, so I got to see all the abilities of the car.
"It was a little bit like Croft but, if anything, a tad narrower.”
Sutton said that he was given the full range of experiences during his time in the car.
“It was a really interesting experience with lots of new things thrown at me,” said Sutton.
“We used both the hard and soft tyre over the course of the day, and the difference in them is so much more extreme than anything I have experienced before.
"You really had to alter your approach with the two different types of rubber as there was a lap time delta of two seconds between the two compounds, but it was good to experience another of Dunlops products, because I am used to them in the BTCC.
“All in all, I learned a great deal from the experience and I am really grateful to the Walkinshaw Andretti United team for letting me loose in one of its wonderful cars.
"The entire crew was very welcoming and the whole set-up takes professionalism to another level.”
Sutton said that he would keep in touch with the team and was planning a return visit later in the season.
“I really enjoyed being around the team and I am planning to go over and watch one of the rounds,” he said. “I will go at the end of the season – maybe the final round at Newcastle at the end of November.
“I would love to get an insight into how the race weekends operate and how the team works when it is at a race meeting. It is a championship I will certainly be keeping a very close eye on in the future.”
The driver evaluation rules allow a driver who has competed in less than five main series races in the last season to test for a team without burning a day, meaning the Sutton test won't count towards WAU's three-day allocation.
It does mean that Sutton is now ineligible for the Supercars endurance races this year.