Jason Plato has taken his 5th pole position of the season for MG KX Momentum Racing; this time at Silverstone for round 24 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Plato starts the day 32 points behind points leader Gordon Shedden however, as predicted, the Honda’s power restrictions hurt them badly with the two Honda Yuasa Racing Civics finishing with Matt Neal, who trails Shedden by 3 points and was the lead of 4 Honda (2 of Honda Racing, 2 from Pirtek Racing), in 10th while Shedden had a nightmare session and finished a disastrous 19th.
Plato had led Free Practice 1 which took part in the sunshine but on a wet track, following heavy rain overnight before he came second in Free Practice 2. However during qualifying it only ever looked like Plato was going to take pole and he didn’t disappoint. He said the following after qualifying including his thoughts on Shedden’s sessions, “Gordon only 19th- that’s a shame, isn’t it? You shouldn’t it on your rivals... but I do. Hopefully the conditions will stay dry for tomorrow because clearly we are in great shape and a good points haul will really make this championship come alive for us. Things have a way of evening themselves out and maybe here it’s our turn for a bit of luck.”
In contrast championship leader Shedden was understandably dejected following qualifying, where he even spun exiting Brooklands whilst admitting due to the lack of speed he was “overdriving” the car and said, “We knew this was going to be our bogey circuit but we didn’t expect it to be this bad-the pace simply isn’t there. As the championship leader I’ve also got to start the first race tomorrow carrying maximum ballast in my car. The only positive from that session is that it is over.”
Joining Plato on the front row of the grid will be Mat Jackson who has had his best qualifying since getting behind the wheel of his NGTC Redstone Racing Ford Focus, which he has driven during the second half of the season. Jackson survived a little knock in Free Practice 2 after spinning exiting Brooklands, making contact with the barriers and damaging his Focus which briefly brought the session to a halt, as even though he got going he shed a bit of body work in the process.
Never the less Jackson can be forgiven now by his Motorbase Performance team following qualifying and said, “it’s going really well this weekend despite the off earlier in Practice. The gap to Jason is quite large when you look at how close it is behind but the Focus is the only car to get in the 58second bracket and we are learning all the time. I’m feeling good for tomorrow.”
In 3rd will be Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet prepared Toyota Avensis. Much was expected of Wrathall, who celebrated his 26th birthday earlier in the week, but due to a late finish on the car and some bad luck, he has managed just the single podium so far this year. The former Ginetta championship winner admitted after qualifying, “I’m delighted with third. It’s such a tight lap with each place decided by the tiniest fraction so it’s important we qualified well.”
In 4th will be the first of 3 eBay Motors of Rob Collard. Collard will need to make the most of this weekend as Andrew Jordan could tie up the Independent drivers championship. However like the works Honda’s, Jordan in his Pirtek Racing Civic struggled and starts down in 11th meaning Collard, who is always a demon starter in the rear-wheel drive BMW, could well make up some valuable ground this weekend.
In 5th will be double race winner from this season Dave Newsham in his S2000 Vauxhall Vectra. For Newsham though he should have been lining up alongside Plato on the front row of the grid, but lost his fastest time due to exceeding the track limits on his quick lap meaning he will lead off row 3 instead.
Returnee Dan Welch caused quite a stir in Free Practice 2 by recording the fastest time in his Welch Motorsport Proton Persona and although he couldn’t quite repeat his feat he can be very happy with 6th on the grid.
After a great drive in race 3 at Rockingham, where he led for 10laps, Aron Smith, who has really come alive in the second half of the season, once again put in another good showing in his S2000 Redstone Ford Focus to finish 7th. He will have Tom Onslow-Cole starting alongside him in another eBay Motors BMW.
Lining up just in front of Neal on row 5 will be Adam Morgan in his Speedwork Toyota Avensis as he hopes to finally get a good finish under his belt following a number of mistakes and bad luck.
Despite Shedden’s poor performance, to prove how close the cars are around the short Silverstone national circuit, Shedden in 19th was still within 1 second of Plato’s fastest lap. The first driver outside the 1 second barrier was Jeff Smith who, like the other Honda’s, was struggling in his Pirtek Racing Civic. The fact that Jeff Smith is there at all is a miracle after writing off the car in the last race at Rockingham 2 weeks ago; his team with the help of the works Honda team- Team Dynamics- have somehow repaired the car ready for this weekend.
Chris Stockton was due to make his BTCC return this weekend, for the first time since 2008, at the wheel of the NGTC Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Insignia. Sadly for Stockton, despite qualifying the car in 21st, it has been announced that instead Tony Gilham will drive the car due to illness.
As a result Gilham will start 24th for round 24; the biggest grid so far of the season, and he will start alongside a very disappointed Ollie Jackson who performed so well last time out to record a double 8th , the best positions of the season for his AmD Tuning.com team in their VW Golf.