By Pat Cranham, BTCC reporter
- Gordon Shedden on pole
- Title leader James Nash sits tenth on the grid
- Nicolas Hamilton has huge crash in Clio Cup support series
For the second consecutive year Honda Racing’s Gordon Shedden has taken pole position at Thruxton and will lead the pack away for round 7 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
I’m really pleased with that performance as I needed to give it everything considering how tight it is at the top.
Shedden who has had an indifferent start to the season, mostly due to circumstances beyond is control, such as being disqualified from third position last time at Donington, and as a result lies just 7th currently in the standings. However Shedden hopes this is the kick start his season needs and said after a highly successful day, “I’m really pleased with that performance as I needed to give it everything considering how tight it is at the top. The high speeds here always make tyre wear a real concern over a race distance, but from the runs we did this morning in practice our tyres looked mint so I think we’re in good shape for tomorrow as well.”
Andrew Jordan continued his fantastic start to the season and was the top Vauxhall, coming in second just a mere 0.062s behind Shedden’s time. The Vectra has often dominated this event and Jordan hopes that this will continue and said, “I’m very happy with that. I’ve got a little bit of success ballast in my car, plus it was the first time we’d put a qualifying set-up on the car because we’d concentrated only on race performance in practice. After all it’s tomorrow when the points are scored and this has always been a happy hunting ground for the Vectra.”
The second row of the grid will see Matt Neal who set fastest time during the mornings Free Practice sessions and currently lies just 4 points of the championship lead will start from third. Tom Chilton will start as the top Ford in 4th where he will be aiming to take the Blue oval’s first BTCC victory at the circuit since 1991. Hoping to get his season back on track following his disastrous Donington Park outing will be Jason Plato and he will start his Silverline Chevrolet now without any ballast in 5th.
Star of qualifying was Tom Onslow-Cole and he will start his AmD Miltek Golf from 6th, by far that car’s best qualifying position since it entered the series last season. Onslow-Cole scored the teams first ever points in the championship by taking 7th last time out and now he continues to go from strength to strength. Onslow-Cole was clearly delighted by not only his pace today but by the progress from his AmD Miltek team and said, “Our pace today is definitely representative of where we are with the car at the moment. I think we’ll be good over a race distance, too, so we’re confident we’ll be able to hold our own tomorrow. Today was good and everything’s coming together very nicely. The team has really put the hours in and it’s paying off because we’re making steps forward with the Golf. “There’s still a lot to improve on as well, which is a really positive thing, although the chunks we’re looking at taking from now on will be a lot smaller as we’ll just be making fine adjustments to try to really hone our performance.”
In seventh, also continuing his fantastic form from Donington where he gave 5th will be the second Pirtek Racing Vectra belonging to Jeff Smith. Third race winner from Donington Mat Jackson will start 8th in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus and he will start ahead of Tom Boardman in his Special Tuning Racing Seat in 9th, although he earlier finished the first Free Practice session of the day in 2nd.
Rounding out the top 10 will be the first of the Triple 8 Vectra’s belonging to current series leader James Nash. The points leader found the going tough on his first ever visit to the circuit in a BTCC car combined with carrying maximum ballast as well. Nash however remains positive for tomorrow where he hopes the car will perform better in the race, “I made a mess of what would have been my best lap but even if I’d made it count it might have only gained me a few places. On saying that, in race trim I think we’ll be quite a bit stronger than some of those starting in front of us.”
Alex MacDowall will start the second Silverline Chevrolet just outside the top 10 in 11th with the second Triple 8 Vectra belonging to Tony Gillham alongside him. Paul O’Neill will start 13th in the first of the two Go Mobile with Tech-speed Chevrolet Cruzes and he will start alongside local hero Rob Collard who despite plenty of effort continues not to be able to make an impression in the top 10 in his WSR BMW.
In 14th and 15th will be two Fords belonging to Andy Neate Team Aon and Liam Griffin Airwaves Racing. They will start in front of the other WSR BMW belonging to Nick Foster who is be enjoying his home event for the firs time in the BTCC.
John George will take the 17th spot in the second Tech-speed Chevrolet with the two NGTC cars on the grid next, belonging to Frank Wrathall in the Dynojet prepared Toyota Avensis and Rob Austin in his own teams prepared Audi A4.
Austin once again continues to drive the car with little being known over Dave Pinkney, who was the confirmed driver for the season. Pinkney was absent for the last meeting at Donington due to business commitments but his absence today perhaps raises some questions over his participation within the team although the team do hope to get a second car on the grid shortly.
The final car on the grid belongs to Chris James in his ES Racing Chevrolet Lacetti.
As reported missing this weekend will be Tony Hughes for Speedworks while Dave Newsham’s late switch to Special Tuning came too late for this weekend also as a result his previous team Geoff Steel Racing will also not be present this weekend.
Away from Touring Cars once again 2008 Formula 1 world Champion Lewis Hamilton was present giving support to his younger brother Nicolas who competes in the Clio Cup support race to the BTCC. This is only Nicolas’s third ever car meeting and he has had a more than tough weekend so far after rolling the car very heavily yesterday during Practice. A new car was found for Nicolas after writing off his normal racecar. He also had another small off with the barrier during qualifying at the same place although this time he was able to get back to the pits just with damage to the front of the car. However with Lewis’s guidance Nicolas kept it together during the race and stayed out of trouble to finish a promising 10th with one race to follow tomorrow.