For the fourth time in 2013, and for the second meeting in a row, MG KX Momentum Racing have an all front row lock out; with Jason Plato leading home team mate Sam Tordoff by just a mere 0.009s to take pole position at Silverstone for 25 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Silverstone was always going to suit the MGs thanks to its long straights and, with little ballast on board (just 9kg for Plato), it would have been brave to have bet for any other result prior to qualifying particularly with all threat of rain having long vanished.
With the weather also set fair for tomorrow’s three races it will be difficult to see past Plato for race 1 victory as well. Last year the former double champion took a double victory at Silverstone, including victory in race 3 from last position, and heading into tomorrow’s races Plato admits, “I think we’re in pretty good shape. Our race pace was really good last year here so we’re well placed for tomorrow. I’m pleased to get another 1-2 for the MG KX Momentum Racing team, but we’ve got to convert it to results in all three races tomorrow.”
Strongest challenger to the MGs came from the Toyotas so therefore it was no surprise to see Dave Newsham in third for Speedworks after he had earlier topped Free Practice 2. With two meetings remaining, the season to date has been more than a disappointment for the double race winner from 2012 with Newsham still looking for his first podium of the season and the team’s first ever podium.
Speaking after the session Newsham said, “It’s been good to have such a strong qualifying because we haven’t been able to hook it up so far this season. We came here with a completely different car and we’ve been on it from the word go.”
Lining up fourth and highest championship challenger is Colin Turkington in his eBay Motors BMW 125i M sport. The BMWs like the Hondas were not fancied at all at Silverstone due to the long straights not suiting the short wheel based cars and after Free Practice 2, where all 3 cars were well outside the top 10, it looked like qualifying was going to be an uphill struggle.
Prior to qualifying West Surrey Racing team boss spoke to his drivers saying that the session was all about damage limitations, however the team went on to secure one of their best sessions of the season with Turkington in 4th and team mate Rob Collard in 8th. From 4th Turkington will hope to get a lightning start thanks to rear wheel drive power, although there was less good news for third eBay Motors driver Nick Foster who qualified down in 22nd place.
After running inside the top 5 early in the session, Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet Toyota Avensis had it all to do again after his car failed the ride height check. Despite the setback Wrathall was able to get straight back on the pace and re-gain his 5th place as he hopes to at last have some good fortune during a very difficult season.
Biggest surprise from qualifying was current Clio Cup Champion Jack Goff for Team Hard/RCIB Insurance Racing as he qualified his Vauxhall Insignia a career best 6th. Continuing his fine season to date was Adam Morgan in his Ciceley Racing Avensis as he qualified 7th after the team announced their exciting 2014 where they will enter a Mercedes for the first time in the series history.
As expected the Hondas struggled during qualifying with highest placed driver being Matt Neal in his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic. After a disastrous Rockingham where Neal lost 36points in the championship battle Neal, then suffered yet another Hand injury in a martial arts accident and races this weekend with a broken finger although he can at least be satisfied being top Honda driver.
Reigning BTCC champion, and second in the points, Gordon Shedden in the second Yuasa Honda will start even further down the field in 15th with championship leader Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Racing Honda rounding out the top 10.
Despite only qualifying 10th, Jordan who holds a 30point lead heading into the event declared himself happy after the session and said, “I’m actually really pleased with my lap- I was really smooth and the car felt great. It’s good to be close to Matt with Maximum ballast, and to be ahead of Shedden is really important. Turkington will be really strong from his grid spot tomorrow, but I’ve got to run my own race.”
Just outside the top 10 but nevertheless putting in a hugely encouraging performance, was Andy Neate in his Team Club 44 Chevrolet Cruze. Silverstone is only the cars 4th meeting of 2013 and only Neate’s 3rd as he just missed out on the top 10 by finishing 11th.
Last time out at Rockingham the former MG driver managed just a single lap after a big impact with the Welch Motorsport Proton of Dan Welch ended his weekend early. Welch also didn’t fare well in the incident fracturing his Coccyx, and races this weekend thanks to a heavily padded seat, ending the session 14th.
Once again Airwaves Racing struggled during qualifying, failing to make the top 10 at a circuit in which the car took its maiden victory last year. Mat Jackson who took that win finished in 12th with Aron Smith one place further back. Meanwhile 3rd driver Tom Onslow-Cole, taking part in his second event for the team, was all the way back in 21st although incredibly he was the first driver outside 1 second off pole with the pack so close around the short national circuit at Silverstone.
In the Jack Sears Trophy for the older S2000 spec cars, it was newly crowned champion Lea Wood in his Wheel Heaven/Houseman Racing Vauxhall Vectra, who out qualified the Addison Lee Motorbase Ford Focus of Liam Griffin in the only other S2000 car for this weekend.
The final car on the grid for tomorrow’s race is birthday boy Warren Scott in his Team BMR Restart Racing/Team Hard VW Passat. Things had looked to be hugely encouraging for the former bike racer as he finished a superb 6th in Free Practice 2, however an alternator failure prior to qualifying meant he only took to the track late on and failed to set a lap time.