Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
There are some things always guaranteed at Knockhill. They are that the racing is always close; there are plenty of incidents, and that it rains. We have already had the latter two and we are no doubt to have the close racing tomorrow.
However it was MG KX Momentum’s Jason Plato who took his third pole position of the year, around a wet Knockhill circuit for round 19 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in his MG 6GT. Plato heads into the event just 10 points behind the leading Honda Yuasa Racing Civic of Matt Neal, but is in with a good chance of seeing that gap shrink after Neal could only manage 8th; meanwhile home hero Gordon Shedden, in the second Civic, will start 6th after leading the first of the two dry morning’s Free Practice sessions.
After qualifying Plato admitted he could have gone even quicker with things looking good for tomorrow and said, “I had a bit more in reserve if required but the main thing is I’m starting from the front tomorrow and the two Hondas have a lot to do. But we’re looking good in all conditions – I was very happy with the car in the dry in the earlier practice sessions so I’m feeling good about tomorrow.”
Plato will be hoping for more luck than the last time he took pole at Oulton where he failed to start due to mechanical issues. Even if he does not suffer more issues, there will be a strong chance that he will not lead into the first corner as alongside him on the front row, will be the ultra fast starting Rob Collard in the first of three e-Bay Motors rear wheel drive BMW.
Collard took his first series victory driving an MG for his current team at a wet Knockhill back in 2005, and once again had a strong day and actually set the quickest time of the day after he led Free Practice 2. Collard admitted he gave it his maximum after qualifying and said, “I gave it everything. Pole would have been very nice but I’m satisfied to be starting on the front row which is important here as it’s a tough circuit to overtake.”
In third there was quite a shock with Aron Smith in his S2000 Redstone Racing Ford Focus. Before Snetterton Smith admitted that his season started there with his best finish in 7th and now hopes to at last challenge the podium and said, “I’ve been chipping away all season and finally I’ve got my first top three and it feels great. I’m looking forward to tomorrow – it's a chance to see how the more established names do it and hopefully I can go with them.” Mat Jackson in the second Redstone Racing Ford Focus, albeit the latest NGTC model will start 9th.
In 4th proving the BMW a more than capable car around the tight and twisty Scottish Circuit, was Tom Onslow-Cole taking his best qualifying position so far this season; although he did have an earlier trip into the gravel at McIntyres during Free Practice 2 ending the session in 18th.
In 5th was pole winner last time out Frank Wrathall for Dynojet in the first NGTC Toyota Avensis; another one will start directly behind him after Paul O’Neill put in a superb performance to finish 7th. This will be the second time fan’s favourite O’Neill has stood in at Speedworks for Tony Hughes and, after running superbly all day, ended the first session in 4th after enjoying a recent successful test at Pembrey.
There was less good news for his Speedworks team mate Adam Morgan who had the biggest crash of the day during qualifying going off at the first corner, Duffus Dip, at some speed and ended the session in 13th.
Morgan wasn’t the only one going off track as Andrew Jordan, who broke his winning duck for 2012 last time out at Snetterton, ended his great qualifying record of coming inside the top 4 for every session so far this season; as he also went off just moments before Morgan at the same corner and ended up 11th.
While earlier in the session American Robb Holland making his second appearance for Team Hard slid off at McIntyres ending up in the gravel, bringing out a brief red flag as a result and will start 18th out of 19 cars that will start Sunday's triple races.