Tom Chilton took pole position for round 25 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car for Team Aon at a damp Donington Park leading home his team mate Tom Onslow-Cole. Tom Chilton celebrates pole. Photo by Pat Cranham. The two morning...
Tom Chilton took pole position for round 25 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car for Team Aon at a damp Donington Park leading home his team mate Tom Onslow-Cole.
The two morning Free Practice sessions, which were topped by Jason Plato and Gordon Shedden, took part in fine weather but a constant light drizzle throughout qualifying made conditions difficult.
This did not put off Chilton who described his 4th pole position as "millimetre perfect" with the scuff marks on the left front of his Ford Focus to prove it. Chilton though admits it will be a tall order to stay in the hunt for the championship and said, "I've got a lot of ground to make up tomorrow if I'm to stay in the hunt going to the final round at Brands Hatch next month but this is a great start. Ideally, I need to come out of the first corner tomorrow in the lead, look in my mirror and see the other four taking each other off into the gravel."
Unlike his team mate Onslow-Cole still remains very much in the championship hunt currently 3rd, 22 points behind Plato. Although at first today it seemed like he was struggling in the morning session and ended the first session down in 12th so he was obviously delighted about his front row start and is aware of what he has to do during the races to close the gap in the championship and said, "I didn't think we'd have the pace to qualify on the front row so it's a nice bonus. The main aim tomorrow has to be to finish in front of both Jason and Matt so it edges me just that bit closer but obviously I could with them getting stuck behind a few other cars."
Shedden also remains just about in the championship race but is 33 points behind Plato in 4th in the standings. Things had looked good for the Scot in qualifying topping the session for a period of time before being knocked off the front row by the two Fords. Shedden remains up beat for tomorrows races though, in whatever weather and said, "we could be in for a mixed bag of weather tomorrow but I'm confident our car will be good in all conditions."
However Shedden's Honda Racing team mate Matt Neal who is 20 points behind Plato and second in the championship is hoping for rain and said, "I hope it rains. I want some curveballs coming in because I need them."
Neal will start 5th but vitally in front of the former double champion will be Plato. Like so many qualifying session's this year Plato had to qualify with full success ballast for currently leading the championship so is pleased to be at the business end of the grid and said, "Again we're near the sharp end of the grid with maximum success ballast (45kgs) in the Chevrolet which we calculate is costing us half a second a lap. So I'm pretty pleased with that and I really think in race trim our car can come back at the others."
Amazingly the top five on the grid are also the top 5 in the championship and were separated by just 0.276 of a second. Best of the rest will be Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Racing Vectra who is now thankfully over his food poisoning from Knockhill. Alongside him will be fans favourite Paul O'Neill in the sunshine.co.uk Honda who to everyone's relief looks to have secured enough funds to carry on in the championship.
Leading the fourth row of the grid will be the first of the BMW's belonging to Rob Collard for WSR. Collard must be reasonably happy with 8th considering he had to sit out pretty much the entire second Free Practice session just managing one lap and even then he pushed too hard taking the escape road at the chicane.
Tom Boardman will be delighted to take a best ever qualifying. He is 9th in his Special Tuning UK Seat following his disastrous weekend at Knockhill. Since then the team have reverted back to the normal aspirated engine which is clearly to Boardman's liking as he also took a fine 6th in the first of the morning's Free Practice session.
Rounding out the top 10 will be Knockhill pole winner Alex MacDowall who must be disappointed in the second Silverline Chevrolet. Mat Jackson will start just outside the top 10 in 11th for Airwaves BMW. Jackson might also be disappointed with 11th especially as he had been second in the first session of the day, but nothing compared to his team mate Steven Kane. Kane didn't even make it out of the pits after his BMW failed to start and will be lining up in last position for the first of the days races seriously denting him in his hunt for the independents title.
James Nash will start 12th in the sole Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectra and he will start just ahead of BTCC returnee James Kaye who put in a solid performance in his first race since 2006 in a Honda Integra run by WRC developments with Barwell.
Andy Neate finished the session in 14th but also finished up in the gravel at the first corner redgate briefly causing a red flag. He will start ahead of Lea Wood and John George both in Honda Integra's albeit with different teams with Martin Johnson in 17th in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe.
Dave Pinkney will be in 18th position but he endured a miserable session. He was another driver to spin at Redgate and as he rejoined the circuit he damaged his splitter and radiator stopping later round the lap as a result.
Shaun Hollamby will line up alongside Pinkney in 19th in his AmD Miltek Racing Golf and he will start ahead of the returning Forster Motorsport BMW of Arthur Forster. Both Forster Motorsport BMWs were forced to miss Knockhill after the team suffered significant damage to one of their cars at Silverstone but unfortunately they have not had a change of luck this time out. Forster only managed a handful of flying laps until he suffered gearbox issues but it was even worse for Martin Depper after his engine blew early on in Free Practice 1 eliminating it from the weekend on the spot.
So with the top of the grid all being the top 5 drivers in the championship the racing is clearly going to be intense. Add the likely hood of rain and everything is set for a corker. So be sure to rejoin motorsport.com after the days racing to see who will be leading the championship heading to the final race at Brands Hatch in 3 weeks time.