Jason Plato has dominated day 1 at Rockingham, to claim pole position for round 22 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, breaking the qualifying lap record in the process to take his 4th pole of the season.
Plato had earlier topped both morning Free Practice session’s and needed just 6 laps to claim pole; watching the majority of the session in the garage with his two daughters in his arms as he finished a massive 0.636 seconds clear of the field.
This will be the second consecutive meeting Plato started on pole but he will be hoping for more, as last time out at Knockhill he got hit out of the race on lap 2 and just recorded a single 11th place finish after being plagued with Turbo issues. The time before that when the former double champion started on pole at Oulton Park, things didn’t go Plato’s way as he failed to start that race again with mechanical issues.
One of those Honda Yuasa Racing drivers will start alongside Plato on the front of the grid in the hands of Gordon Shedden. Following his non finish in race 3 at Knockhill, Shedden heads into race 1 of tomorrow’s races 10 points adrift of team mate Matt Neal in the standings.
Following qualifying Shedden admitted he had mixed feelings from the session due to being so far away from the MG at the front and said, “I’m both happy and disappointed with that. On one hand as a team we have got an awful lot out of the car in qualifying. That lap time is a second faster than pole in 2011 but I’m still over six tenths of pole while six tenth cover second down to 11th. Jason obviously got one heck of a lap out of it but tomorrow is very different with race tactics as tyre management comes into it.”
Leading the second row away will be another Honda Civic but this time belonging to the Independent points leader for Pirtek Racing, Andrew Jordan. After qualifying Jordan admitted that there was no point in challenging Plato’s time and said, “It was a pretty uneventful session for me. I only did one flying lap and was quite happy with the time so decided to scrub new tyres in for tomorrow. There was no point wasting tyres to challenge Jason as it was never going to happen.”
Lining up alongside Jordan on row 2 will be Mat Jackson who is really starting to get to grips with his new NGTC Ford Focus for Redstone Racing. This will be the third meeting for the car, which was introduced for the second half of the year, as Mat Jackson flew his Focus through the chicane to take 4th as he hopes to secure the cars maiden podium.
Proving how quick the MG is around Rockingham was Andy Neate as he qualified the second Triple eight prepared MG 6 inside the top 5. Neate was inside the top 6 in all 3 sessions as he secured his best qualifying position of 2012 despite cutting the final chicane 3 times during qualifying.
In sixth will be the second Honda Yuasa Racing Civic of current championship leader and reigning BTCC champion Neal. Neal will be seriously hampered this weekend following a recent motorcycle accident that broke the same hand as he did this time last year during a martial arts accident. Speaking about his injured hand Neal said, “It’s worse than last year and bloody hurts, but bike riders have to deal with far worse so I am going to keep my trap shut and get on with it. It will be heavily strapped up when I am in the car and on painkillers.”
First up on row 4 will be Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet prepared NGTC Toyota Avensis as he hopes to get over his recent engine failure at Knockhill, which forced him out of race 1 and to miss races 2 and 3. Double winner of that event Rob Collard will line up 8th in the first of three eBay Motors BMW.
Jeff Smith will start 9th following his superb second in race 3 at Knockhill in the second Pirtek Racing Civic with Adam Morgan, who at last hopes to turn his speed into a decent result in his Speedworks Toyota Avensis, rounding off the top 10.
Also deserving of a mention is youngster Howard Fuller who makes his BTCC debut for Tony Gilham’s team HARD squad in their S2000 Honda Civic. Fuller put in a spectacular display to put the little green and pink Civic 14th to finish ahead of some well established names in the 20 car grid which will make up tomorrow’s grid for the first of three races.
Source: Pat Cranham