MG promised before the event that they were going for maximum attack, and their weekend got off to the best possible start as Jason Plato lead home his youngster team mate Sam Tordoff, in an MG KX Momentum front row for the first ever occasion, to take pole for round 10 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in glorious sunshine at Oulton Park.
Plato was one of the favourites to take pole heading into the session after his puncture at Thruxton meant for the first time since round 1 that he was not carrying maximum ballast. The former double champion didn’t disappoint as he took pole position for the second year running at the circuit, going a full seven tenths quicker than in 2012 completing just 4 laps in qualifying proving just how much of an advantage Plato had.
Speaking after qualifying a delighted Plato reflected on this unique moment for the team and said, “It’s been an historic day actually - it’s the first ever all MG KX Momentum Racing front row. Both Sam and myself and everybody in the team are really pleased with that. I was quietly confident after Free Practice that we had the pace in the car. Our expectations are for wins. When the planets align and things are going well you’ve got to maximise it. We appear to have a bit of pace over the opposition. So we have to make hay while the sun shines!”
Despite this being Tordoff’s maiden full year in the series, it already looks like he has been there his whole career as he followed home his team mate to take his first ever front row start, as he hopes to make the podium once again like he did during the opening meeting of the year at Brands Hatch.
Unlike his KX mentor Plato, Tordoff did require a second run to get on the front row and admitted he should have been closer to Plato’s time rather than the four tenths behind and said, “We achieved what we set out to do in that session. My first run was a bit messy and I didn’t get the best out of the car, and on the second tyre run the track was a little slower so in hindsight I think I could have been a little closer to Jason’s time if I’d done it on the first run. Oulton Park is an MG friendly circuit, but you never know how the tyres will last over the race distance. The plan tomorrow is just to get away at the front and not crash into Jason!”
Leading the second row will be the first of the Honda’s belonging to reigning BTCC champion Gordon Shedden. Shedden responded well after having his early fastest time disallowed after exceeding track limits but, despite carrying less ballast than Plato, admitted that he was no match for the MG’s and said, “The car felt good and I don’t think there was a great deal more left in the tank. Looking forward I think quite clearly we can’t match the straight line speed of the MG’s, but we have got great balance and as the temperature rises it will hopefully play into the hands of the Civic a little more, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Over the past 5 weeks many of the teams have benefitted from testing with one of those teams being Speedworks, as Dave Newsham put in a superb performance after a late lap moved the Toyota Avensis from 9th to 4th to lead the Independent drivers’ home.
Speaking after qualifying a delighted Newsham admitted that the car is now where he wants it to be and said, “It’s great to get this result in the team’s back yard. Coming into this weekend we made a lot of progress in the car, it’s much more to my liking now. We knew we had moved forward but we didn’t know how it would be in comparison to the other cars, so this is great. This is where we should be. I thought maybe Jordan would have got ahead of us, so to be the fastest of the Independent s is brilliant. I was still surprised when I crossed the though.”
With Newsham’s late lap this meant Andrew Jordan, who had earlier topped Free Practice 2, had to settle for 5th in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic. Lining up alongside the current Independent champion will be Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet prepared Toyota Avensis as he hopes to put some of his recent bad luck behind him.
Colin Turkington was the only eBay Motors driver to put his BMW 125i M sport in the top 10 in 7th while, yet again, his two other BMW team mates continued to struggle with Rob Collard and Nick Foster, despite testing since Thruxton, down in a very disappointing 16th and 22nd respectively.
Current points leader Matt Neal could only manage 8th in the second Honda Yuasa Racing Civic, who of course had to qualify with maximum ballast, while Adam Morgan in the Cicely Racing Avensis and the star from Thruxton, Tom Onslow-Cole driving the VW Passat for PPCGB.com/Kraftwerk Racing, round up the top 10.
Despite completing a couple of tests since Thruxton, Airwaves Racing failed to make the top 10 with Mat Jackson the best placed driver in 11th and Aron Smith all the way back down in 17th. Another driver who must be slightly disappointed after qualifying is Jeff Smith in the second Pirtek Racing. Jeff Smith has been one of the most improved drivers in 2013 but he made heavy contact with the barriers in Free Practice 1 as he went left where the corner went right damaging the front of his car, which he never recovered from only managing 15th during qualifying.
Leading the S2000 spec cars competing for the Jack Sears Trophy was Oulton Park specialist Lea Wood. Last season Wood managed a fantastic 5th at Oulton Park and once again he delivered, qualifying ahead of several NGTC cars to claim 19th in the outright standings.
Wood will have a new competitor to face in this weekend’s Jack Sears Trophy as James Kaye is away on business commitments, meaning his AmD Tuning.com VW Golf will be piloted by current VW Cup points leader Aaron Mason, who will make his BTCC debut.
Sadly though this weekend’s races have come too soon for Andy Neate who was set to make his debut in his newly set up IP Tech Race Engineering driving an NGTC Chevrolet Cruze. The car is now complete and was on display at the circuit but the car was finished later than anticipated and, despite the car having taken part in a shakedown, Neate continues not to enter the series until he is fully satisfied that the car as had some proper mileage behind it rather than testing and racing.
Neate’s Cruze isn’t the only Chevrolet Cruze to miss out this weekend, as Joe Girling in the older S2000 spec Chevrolet, run by M247 Racing with Techspeed, will also not be present meaning we will see 26 cars take the grid for the first of tomorrows 3 races.