I have an small number of configurable products
If I sort by price, the base price + product options is what it is sorted by. I strictly want the base price WITHOUT options to be used as the sort price
Is this normal behaviour, if so can I modify this at all?
As I understand products are storted from their starting price or "from price" so if product options where optional or there was always a free (or no additional cost) option for each choice then the functionality you would require would be exhibited.
Otherwise, I've not come across an extension that will do this change for you so would require some custom development.