FIRST POLE FOR FORD NAME SINCE 2000, SERIES LEADER TURKINGTON TRAILS RIVALS AHEAD OF TITLE-DECIDER
Tom Chilton has given the Ford name its first pole position in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship for almost a decade in qualifying at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent. The session, which decides the starting grid order for the first of tomorrow's title-deciding three races, ended with the top three separated by just 0.024s.
Chilton achieved pole with a best lap of 1m33.159s in his Team Aon Ford Focus ST - the first pole in the BTCC for the Ford badge since the final round of the 2000 season. Racing Silverline Chevrolet driver Jason Plato was second fastest and Vauxhall's Fabrizio Giovanardi third.
Championship leader Colin Turkington was only tenth fastest in his Team RAC BMW. He goes into tomorrow's three races holding a 13-point lead over Giovanardi with Plato, third, 28 points behind with a possible 51 to be scored during the day. All three races will be shown on the ITV4 channel during a live broadcast from 11.30am-6.15pm.
Poole-based Chilton, whose pole today is his first in the BTCC in almost four seasons, enthused: "We've been improving this car bit by bit all season and eventually it all adds up to make a big difference. It's fantastic to put the Ford name - the most successful in BTCC history - back at the front. Whether we can hang on tomorrow I don't know. I think we can worry the Chevrolets and Vauxhalls but I expect the BMWs to really come on strong as the race progresses."
Oxford-based Plato, the 2001 title-winner, reckoned he could have been on pole and added: "My fault, I messed up with a gear change and that made the difference, but well done to Tom - he's done a stellar job. As for the title, it just looks like it's going to be very exciting, particularly with Colin qualifying back there."
Italian Giovanardi, who tomorrow could make it three titles in a row, said: "I'm a little surprised to be third because I am still learning this circuit. It's a good result for the championship for the fans who want to see an exciting show, but I expect Colin to come up the order tomorrow."
Northern Irishman Turkington said: "I'd have liked to have been higher but we've seen before the front-wheel-drive cars put in some really fast qualifying laps and then the rear-wheel-drive BMWs come back in race trim. That's obviously what I'm hoping for tomorrow and I know from the earlier practice sessions my car is very well balanced."
Elsewhere, there were hugely differing fortunes for Chilton's team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole. All his times were disallowed after his Focus twice failed a mandatory ride height check so will have to start from last place on the 21-car grid.
Meanwhile, former Formula One star Johnny Herbert qualified 13th fastest in his Team Dynamics Honda Civic. It was the first time he'd driven on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit since suffering severe leg injuries in a Formula 3000 crash in 1988 before miraculously recovering and going on to enjoy a lengthy and successful career in Formula 1.