Rockingham: Series qualifying report

PLATO ON ROCKINGHAM POLE POSITION AS TITLE RIVALS STRUGGLE FOR PACE Jason Plato will start the first of tomorrow's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Rockingham from pole position after setting the fastest lap time in this...

PLATO ON ROCKINGHAM POLE POSITION AS TITLE RIVALS STRUGGLE FOR PACE

Jason Plato will start the first of tomorrow's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Rockingham from pole position after setting the fastest lap time in this afternoon's qualifying session.

Former champion Plato, driving his Racing Silverline Chevrolet, secured his fourth pole position of the season with a lap of 1m24.087s around the Northamptonshire track. That was just 0.107s ahead of rising Scottish star Jonathan Adam who qualified a best-ever second in his Airwaves BMW.

Third and fourth were Plato's team-mate Mat Jackson and Team RAC BMW driver Stephen Jelley. Fifth and sixth were 'giant-killer' Paul O'Neill in his older BTC-spec sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra and Gordon Shedden in newly-formed team Club SEAT's SEAT Leon as less than a second covered the 15 fastest runners.

Title protagonists Colin Turkington and Fabrizio Giovanardi experienced differing fortunes. Series leader Turkington was only 14th fastest in his Team RAC BMW while Vauxhall ace Giovanardi - who is trying to close down an 11-point gap to the Northern Irishman - was seventh.

Former F1 star Johnny Herbert showed he is getting to grips with the BTCC with the ninth fastest time in only his second outing in the Team Dynamics Honda Civic. Tom Chilton was a highly encouraging tenth in Team Aon's Ford Focus ST to make it six different makes of car representing seven different teams in the top ten.

Oxford-based Plato, third in the championship, said: "I'm really pleased with my lap considering my car is carrying success ballast (27kgs) which we reckon is worth another three tenths of a second. I really nailed it and I think there's a sniff of a couple of wins tomorrow. But don't ask me about the title. Colin and Fabrizio are way too far in front to catch. Anyone asking me about it I'm telling to behave."

But Giovanardi, champion these past two years, disagreed with Plato, saying: "He tells people he has no chance but he is always crying too much. He could win twice tomorrow and me and Colin only pick up third and fourth places and suddenly he is there right with us before we go to Brands Hatch."

Turkington, aged 27 from Portadown, added: "We've been chasing our tails all day with car set-up. Sure, my car is carrying the most success ballast (45kgs) but I don't think that's the problem. We need to have a good look to see if we can turn it around for tomorrow."

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Adam from Kinghorn, Fife, said: "I'm delighted with that. I was quick here in the mid-season test and was quick out of the blocks again in practice this morning. I really want to get my first win in the BTCC and hopefully I can take advantage of the BMW's rear-wheel-drive traction and get away in the lead but Jason is always a tough nut to crack."

All three BTCC races will receive live TV coverage tomorrow on the ITV4 channel during a mammoth broadcast from 11.00am-5.30pm.

-credit: btcc.net

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Series BTCC
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Fabrizio Giovanardi , Tom Chilton , Paul O'Neill , Jason Plato , Colin Turkington , Gordon Shedden , Mat Jackson , Jonathan Adam , Stephen Jelley