Colin Turkington will line up on pole position for round 13 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship after beating Jason Plato, becoming the 5th driver in 5 meetings to claim pole. In doing so he goes into the first race of the day tomorrow just a single point behind series leader Matt Neal, who finished down in 8th after once again all Vauxhall drivers struggled in the North East heat and now surely Turkington has the championship lead in sight at the mid way point of the season.
A delighted Turkington said, "This is perfect. It's exactly where we needed to be and with Matt back in eighth it's looking even better. But it's only 50 per cent of the job done - there are no guarantees how things will work out on Sunday." Meanwhile Neal was hoping for cooler weather for race day and is trying to look on the bright side. His preparations were not helped during free practice 2 when ex Vauxhall driver Tom Onslow-Cole, making a late surprise return to the series taking the place of Alan Morrison for personal reasons, clipped some tyres which Neal smashed into causing damage and forcing him out of the session after only 3 laps. Neal went on to say, "The BMWs always really suit the hot conditions like today and I was on the back foot a bit considering I missed one of the practice sessions this morning with some damage to my car. I'm not overly disheartened - I've given it everything and we'll just see where we end up tomorrow. There's a forecast for slightly cooler weather which could bring us right back into it."
Stephen Jelley in the other Team RAC BMW will line up in a season best third position ahead of Cartridge World driver Adam Jones, who continued his excellent form despite Onslow-Cole causing more trouble when his Team Aon Focus had poured oil all over the circuit making the lap even more impressive.
Next up were two more Chevrolets driven by two rather ill drivers. In fifth will be Team Silverline driver Mat Jackson who said, "After the technical dramas on my car at Oulton Park two weeks ago, I said I was hoping to find a four leaf clover... instead all I found was a dodgy curry! Obviously it would have been nice to take the top slot, but given how green I'm feeling I'm happy with fifth. I actually know I could have bettered it, but I was blocked by slower drivers on my last flying lap."
In sixth was an even worse looking Harry Vaulkhard in his Tempus Sport Lacetti who put in an excellent performance considering how he felt. His qualifying performance was even more impressive considering he spent most of free practice 2 in the kitty litter after sliding off and said, "The way things were heading this morning with me being ill with food poisoning all of yesterday put us slightly on the back foot for first free practice. Then in second practice I was trying to find too much time in one go and that's why I ended up putting it in the sand, but considering how depressing things were looking before qualifying... sixth, you know, we'll take that."
Vaulkhard is also determined to put in a good showing in front of his home crowd which he admits give him more motivation, "It's always good to race at your home track. The crowd at Croft is always really enthusiastic and knowledgeable and hopefully I will be able to put on a bit of a show for them tomorrow."
Just ahead of Matt Neal in 8th was the first of the Vauxhalls driven by youngster Andrew Jordan. Just behind Neal is another local driver James Thompson, who goes into the weekend in superb form with 3 wins out of 6 and remains optimistic for more good results, particularly in race 3 with the reverse grids and is looking back to Oulton for inspiration despite his relatively poor qualifying position after topping the times in free practice 1 said, "In race trim I think we are in good shape but are slightly disappointed with how qualifying went considering we were fastest in the first practice session. But we've had near-tropical weather here today and with the ambient temperature being so high it seems to be pushing our tyres over the edge a little too much for our qualifying set-up like it did at Oulton. But tomorrow is another day and as we showed at Oulton we can come from the back and the key thing is to win at least one race every weekend, but we will see. Maybe the third race tomorrow or even the second, we shall see."
Next up were the two disappointed drivers from Airways BMW who couldn't match the performance of the two RAC BMWs. Tenth was Rob Collard who hopes for another miracle drive as he did at Oulton, when he went from 20th to 4th in race 3, said, "I'm a little bit frustrated to be tenth. The car felt quite strong, but we are further away from the front than we thought we would be. I was struggling a bit in the braking zones so that's something we will have to work hard on to iron out. I'm confident the team will deliver a very good set-up for the races, though, and we will be able to challenge for strong finishes." Jonny Adam also matched his teammate's disappointment and said, "I feel a little bit disappointed for the team after that session because we've been pretty quick in qualifying over the past few rounds. We thought we would be a lot closer to the other BMWs but we obviously have a bit of work to do. However, when you look at the times it's really close between the top half of the grid and as always we'll go out and have a real go when the first race starts."
In 12th in the second Cartridge World Seat Leon is Dan Eaves hoping to score some points for the first time since the opening round at Brands just ahead of reigning double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi in a very disappointing 13th. The Italian clearly admitting after words that he doesn't fancy his chances this weekend and just like team mate Neal is hoping for cooler conditions said, "Don't put any money on me tomorrow! Clearly it is the heat again, like at Oulton, but I cannot explain the reason why we are in this position now because it's something that we don't fully understand yet with the car. I like the sun, but tomorrow I prefer it if there are clouds in the sky to keep the conditions cooler!"
In 14th maybe another disappointed driver in James Nash in another RML prepared Chevrolet after Nash surprised everyone in free practice 2 finishing 4th. Sadly he couldn't repeat his performance when it mattered alongside Paul O'Neill who also enjoyed a better performance in free practice when he was running in the top 8.
Dave Pinkney is next up in 16th ahead of the two Focuses of Tom Chilton and the oil slick machine of Onslow-Cole. John George is in 19th after missing much of the free practice sessions when his engine let go in the first session of the day causing him to miss the second one. Despite this he qualified ahead of fellow Integra driver Martyn Bell who lines up alongside Martin Johnson on the back row of the grid.
Drivers to miss out once again are Nick Leason, Jason Hughes and Liam McMillan who has had his engine returned but in many different pieces!
Racing starts tomorrow at 12 noon GB time so be sure not to miss any of the action and please return for full reviews of the day's action.