Pat Cranham, BTCC correspondent
Tom Chilton has taken his and the ‘Global’ Ford Focus' first pole position of the season at Knockhill for round 19 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Chilton broke the qualifying lap record within the 30minute session which saw 3 red flags.
The new ‘Global’ Ford Focus hasn’t quite reached the heights as expected of it as yet, having taken just one podium to date so far this season. But having completed further tests prior to this weekend Chilton now believes the car is in the best possible shape and said, “It’s been a long time coming but this is exactly where the Global Focus should be. We’ve been developing it all season and now we’re starting to see the results. This is fantastic for everyone in our team who have put so much effort in. And of course I’m also delighted, personally, to be back on pole. Tomorrow’s going to be tough but I’m here to win.”
In a valiant second despite carrying a broken hand from a martial arts accident was Honda Racing’s Matt Neal. Afterwards Neal declared himself very happy despite his handicap, “I’m very happy with that – the hand isn’t giving me too much jip but it still isn’t fully healed which has made gripping the wheel a bit awkward. Congratulations to Tom who put in a stonking lap but, thinking of the championship, it’s good for me to be in front of the others – after losing the championship lead at Snetterton I’m looking to come back strong here.”
However, the biggest story from qualifying was the incredible pace from the New Generation Touring Cars, particularly of Frank Wrathall for Dynojet Racing in his Toyota Avensis and Rob Austin in his Rob Austin Racing Audi A4 who qualified just 0.005 seconds apart to lock out the second row of the grid. Wrathall who was on the podium last time out as an Independent winner from Snetterton was over the moon with third and said, “This car just gets better and better – after the fourth place we achieved in the race at Snetterton, I’m now staring at a possible first outright podium result.”
While Austin was also very happy with his days work following the recent developments to his car and looks forward to mixing it at the Sharpe end of the grid tomorrow, “The development of this car which is still very new is starting to pay off. We showed at Snetterton we had great pace and I knew we’d improved it since then. I’m really up for a fight tomorrow.”
In perhaps a slightly disappointing 5th was local hero Gordon Shedden in the second Honda Racing Civic. Shedden had led the two earlier wet Free Practice session’s but lost out with the red flag stoppages during qualifying and stated afterwords, “The session just didn’t quite come together for me – there were three red flags which ruined a couple of my runs. The grid has a bit of a different look to it which adds to the unpredictability but the Honda has great race pace and I know a few tricks around her”
Those red flags were for the two Chevrolet Cruzes belonging to Paul O’Neil and John George from Go Mobile with Tech-speed, who both went off at Leslie’s while Andy Neate went off in his Team Aon Focus gently tapping the barriers at Clark. The latter also caused a red flag in Free Practice 2 after going off at Leslie’s like the TechSpeed drivers. The trio qualified 14th, 23rd and 20th respectively.
Completing the top 10 were Jason Plato and Alex MacDowall for Silverline Chevrolet in 6th and 8th sandwiching series leader Mat Jackson in 7th for Airwaves Racing, while Tom Onslow-Cole in the third Team Aon Ford and Rob Collard for WSR will grid 9th and 10th.
Putting in a respective time in his debut for Triple 8 Racing was Irishman Aron Smith who qualified in 15th, less than a second off of the pace and just over 0.100s off of regular Triple 8 racer James Nash in 12th, who was yet another driver to fall off the road at Leslie’s causing a stoppage during Free Practice 2.
Daniel Welch in his Welch Motorsport Proton Gen-2 was 16th but had earlier showed fantastic speed in only it’s second BTCC meeting and still qualified within a second of Chilton’s time; in fact less than a second covered Chilton in pole down to Nick Foster in 17th for WSR.
However one very disappointed driver from the session will be the second Scot, Dave Newsham who served electrical problems in his Special Tuning Racing and qualified only 21st out of 24 riders for tomorrow’s first race.
So that concludes the rundown of qualifying. Knockhill is a unique circuit that often brings up just as unique results. With the season starting to reach the tail end of the season could this be where the championship is won or lost? For all the answers stay logged into Motorsport.com for race by race coverage from tomorrow’s three races from the tight and twisty 1.3mile circuit at Knockhill.