Jason Plato heads team-mate Sam Tordoff in exciting BTCC qualifying session
Jason Plato will start the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Rockingham tomorrow (Sunday 15 September) from pole position after the double champion produced a stunning lap that edged out his MG team-mate Sam Tordoff.
Tordoff had been trading provisional pole position with the WIX Racing Audi A4 of Rob Austin before Plato’s record-breaking lap around the 1.94 miles of tarmac. Young gun Tordoff held on to confirm yet another front-row lockout for the MG KX Momentum Racing squad, while Austin will be delighted to have backed-up his recent podium exploits at Knockhill with another top order showing here.
Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan was next up and saw three of his main title rivals qualify behind him. Reigning champion Gordon Shedden was fifth while his Honda Yuasa Racing team-mate Matt Neal set the seventh fastest time. The other Pirtek Racing Honda of Jeff Smith was sandwiched between them in sixth.
Lea Wood in his Vauxhall Vectra won the Jack Sears Trophy battle after Liam Griffin’s Addison Lee Motorbase Ford Focus had set the pace during the early running.
The session was briefly halted when Frank Wrathall’s Dynojet Toyota Avensis had to be retrieved from the gravel after the Preston racer endured a spin. Despite the brief reprieve, qualifying was fast and furious throughout with just over eight tenths of a second covering the top 14 runners when the chequered flag fell.
Jason Plato said: "I knew if we did everthing right we’d be on pole but that’s been the frustration sometimes this season as we’ve made too many mistakes. We hold our hands up when we make mistakes but now we need to sharpen up because this is obviously a really tough championship. It’s an important pole position and great that both Sam and I are up there, but we’ve got a tough job to do tomorrow. Sam is out there for himself too so there’ll be no protection but I am looking forward to it as I think there’ll be some great racing."
Sam Tordoff said: "It's a good result and it’s great for the team. It was vital that we bounced back as a team after Knockhill and a one-two is the perfect way to do it. Personally for me I felt that I should have had pole, but I just didn’t pull off a lap that I was completely happy with. So there’s a little bit of time in me but it’s difficult to complain when you’re on the front row. It’s all about going for wins now for me, which is what I’ll be trying to do tomorrow. We don’t really know what to expect with the weather but we’ve given ourselves a great chance."
Rob Austin said: "Knockhill was a dream and I put a lot of pressure on myself again this weekend, as it was our opportunity to show some consistency. Everything felt good through free practice – we were running with really old tyres and the car still handled pretty well. We’ve always had a better car in the dry than in the wet so hopefully we’re looking good for race one and can stay near the front to get a good grid position in race two. The aim going into qualifying was to be in the top five, so third on the grid is a great result for us. On the other side of the garage Will (Bratt) has gone well today too – we had an inkling he’d be quick, and if he can score some top tens tomorrow it’ll be great."
Andrew Jordan said: "To be the fastest Honda with the ballast we’ve got on-board is a fantastic result. I got a bit baulked on my quickest lap, and while I don’t think we could’ve matched Jason’s time we could have been a tenth or two quicker. What’s really important is that the guys I'm challenging for the title are behind me, and it’s going to be all about keeping them there tomorrow. If it’s dry I think MG will be very strong, but in the wet we’ll definitely be right up there – our race pace is looking good in any case. It’s good to see Jeff on form today too – he’ll be running his own race for sure, but if he can stay in front of Matt and give me more of a points buffer it’ll be a bonus. Even though I’ve been really consistent and scored in every race this year, I’ve got to finish ahead of Matt now and, given that he’s the most experienced out there, it’s going to be a tough challenge."