Heavy Metal Affliction 2013 Ford Formula Ecoboost 200
Just shy of the halfway point in the 2014 Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, Ashley Sutton is sitting in eighth place out of sixteen drivers, and is seated in third in the Scholarship class among eight drivers. Sutton is in his first year driving the Formula Fords in the debut year of the new, more powerful, and better handling open-wheel racer.
At 20 years old, Sutton has already built a strong racing career, starting in karts at just six years of age, then driving Formula Vee racers before climbing the ladder to the prestigious and highly-competitive Formula Fords. Since Sutton is an avid Forza Motorsport player from the days of Forza Motorsport 2 through the present and, to celebrate the release of the 2013 Ford Formula Ford EcoBoost 200 in Forza Motorsport 5 as part of the Nürburgring Booster Pack, Heavy Metal Affliction is happy to share Sutton’s story.
In the world of Forza, Sutton has participated in the organized races put on by TORA (The Online Racing Association). Sutton was a championship contender within TORA and goes by his Gamertag CQR Champion. Back when the Forza Motorsport 4 demo came out, Sutton remembers setting the fastest lap and often plugs away at the leaderboards to this day. As someone who races for a living, playing Forza Motorsport “doesn't hurt you wallet when you’re trying to find your limits,” Sutton said.
The 2013 Ford Formula Ford EcoBoost 200 with Ashley Sutton’s livery on it courtesy of one of his CQR club buddies.
Sutton’s racing interest comes from his parents, who both raced drag cars. When his parents bought him his first kart, it was supposed to just be a bit of family fun but, when Sutton got behind the wheel at a local track, “That’s when a life in motorsport really did start off for me," Sutton said. The following year he started competing in club racing. At age eight he entered his first MSA (Motor Sports Association) championship and finished fifth. By age thirteen he had received a multitude of awards and, in 2007, he was the first driver to receive the trifecta of the Lewis Hamilton Grit Award, the Stars of Tomorrow title, and to win the Super 1 Championship. Sutton’s course was set, he would be a racer and go as far as he could chasing his dream to race as a professional.
Many wins and many races later, at 16, Sutton made the move to single-seater car racing and dove into the Formula Vee series. Formula Vee is an affordable way to learn the UK’s major circuits. The Vee stands for Volkswagen and these open-wheel cars are purpose-built, tube frame chassis, with racing tires. The cars utilize a host of VW Beetle parts including the engine, transaxle, suspension, brakes, and wheels. In his maiden year driving in Formula Vee, Sutton was deemed Rookie of the Year and placed fourth in the championship, despite three races where mechanical failures took him out of contention.
Outside of racing Sutton attended Birchwood High School where he studied auto mechanics and engineering. In addition to racing, Sutton works full-time and is a fully-qualified mechanic. He has also been a driving instructor, teaching all types of aspiring drivers from his 13 years of racing expertise. Soon he will be acquiring his driving instructor license to further supplement the racing kitty.
In 2011 all racing was put on hold when Sutton was involved in a serious road-going car accident. He spent two years out of the cockpit while he underwent surgery and recovered. Soon after he was ready to re-enter racing, and was chosen as the second driver to race with Meridian Motorsports in the 2014 Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.
While testing the Formula Ford, Sutton showed strong pace and got used to the fastest car he had driven yet. A Formula Ford can hit speeds in excess of 150 mph. According to Sutton, there was much to learn. “The Formula Ford cars handle great; when you get a great setup under you, you can keep pushing. Driving on the edge is the best feeling having the car move around under you, but still under control.” Sutton said. “The thing you need to get your head round is the aero, understanding that the faster you go the more grip you have.”
Watch Sutton during a test lap at Oulton Park
The 2014 season started out with a bang, quite literally, as a freak accident caused the throttle to stick wide open as Sutton was qualifying at Brands Hatch. The impact injured his arms and legs and the Meridian crew was kept very busy getting the car back together in time to participate in the first race of the season. The car was out of sorts for the race session and Sutton’s injuries prevented him from being able to drive with both hands. He still came away with third in his class.
The following race was held at Donnington, but Sutton sat out this round and ended up changing teams. When people found out Sutton was available, a couple other teams showed interest, but Sutton’s mentor, notable BTCC racer Vic Lee, pushed Sutton toward Jamun Racing.
Next came the races at Thruxton, and Sutton found his groove. “Only having done four sessions with Jamun [in testing] at Brands Hatch I felt at home with the car and team,” Sutton said. And it showed, Sutton achieved two third-place podiums and a fourth. All three races resulted in Scholarship class wins.
The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth races of the 30-race Formula Ford season took place at Oulton Park last weekend. In practice, Sutton was looking adept, and in the last practice session he was at the top of the lap times. Through qualifying and the three races of the weekend the heavens opened up and heavy rains changed track conditions to a soggy mess. The first race Sutton struggled with older tires and placed eighth. During race two he charged his way from eighth on the grid at the start, to finish third before the race was called due to heavy rains. A disappointing mechanical issue with Sutton’s shifter stole the thunder from his third race as he challenged for second and he was forced to pit resulting in a tenth place.
Sutton’s goal for the season is to win the Scholarship class and to be on the podium of the main championship. Missing the three races at Donnington will hinder his efforts, but there is much more racing to take place this year.
The next race is at Croft in North Yorkshire, and I have a feeling we can look forward to one of Sutton’s best performances yet. Keep an eye on Sutton via Twitter @ASuttonRacing where I saw he recently met Lewis Hamilton; yes, THAT Lewis Hamilton. You can also check him out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashleysuttonracing or just hit his website to catch his latest racing highlights.
This member of the Forza community is living his racing dream, and with a little help from Lady Luck, Sutton’s natural driving skills could carry him to the next level of open wheel racing… or, who knows, maybe all the way to Formula One. You never know, one day you just may be able to look back and say, “Hey, I read about that guy in Heavy Metal Affliction back when he was racing in Formula Ford.”
Now, here are the specs for the Formula Ford Ecoboost 200.
And here are some photos of Sutton in action on the track.
How about that Formula Ford EcoBoost 200 in Forza Motorsport 5? I’m amped to hear your feedback on the car in the HMA thread. Give Sutton a shout out in the thread too, hopefully he will find time to chime in and post something when he is not working, racing or practicing in the coming week.
If any of you want to take on a challenge I will be hitting the Rivals Time Attack S class at Silverstone through next week. Come on and follow me on Twitch to see me push the Formula Ford to my less than professional limits. You might not learn anything, but you should get a laugh of two in. You can post your times and jabs at my driving prowess in the HMA thread too.