Frank Wrathall has spectacularly taken the first pole position of his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship career at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk.
The 25-year-old from Preston achieved pole in a time of 1m57.595s in his Dynojet Toyota Avensis to pip former double Champion, Oxford’s Jason Plato in his MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 by just 0.015s.
Wrathall’s pole is the first for a Toyota driver in the BTCC since 1993 and also a qualifying record for the championship around the Snetterton track.
Inverness’s Dave Newsham was also close to pole, just 0.054s away from Wrathall in third in his Team ES Racing.com Vauxhall Vectra.
An elated Wrathall said: “That was very close as Jason and I were trading fastest times but in the end I came out on top. I’d come back into the pit lane and knew he was out there giving it one final go, but it seems he made a mistake and went off the track – when the team told me I was shouting a lot in the car! To beat a driver of his stature makes it all the more rewarding and I’m delighted.”
Plato replied: “Congratulations to Frank – it’s always nice to see a young driver doing well, even if it is at my expense! The important thing is I’m ahead of the two drivers I’m chasing for the title and from here can start thinking about taking points back off them.”
And added Newsham: “Finally the Vectra feels like it did back at the start of the season when I had three really strong opening events. From what we’ve seen in the earlier practice sessions our tyre wear rate is also excellent so I’m hoping for three very strong races tomorrow.”
There were career-best qualifying results, too, for Preston's Adam Morgan and Fleet's Daniel Welch – a fine fifth and sixth fastest in their Speedworks Motorsport Toyota and Welch Motorsport Proton respectively.
But there were major frustrations for the two championship leaders, Honda Yuasa Racing Team team-mates Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. Worcestershire's Neal was a lowly seventh by his standards and Fife's Shedden 22nd and last after on-going problems with his Civic – which had suffered a major fire in practice this morning – prevented him from setting a time.
Elsewhere Warwickshire's Mat Jackson, another of the championship’s top names, qualified the Redstone Racing team’s all-new Ford Focus ST an encouraging 16th fastest on its debut. The Focus, only completed at 7.00am, becomes the seventh different make of car to be built to the BTCC’s new and much-applauded NGTC regulations…
Meanwhile Neal will go into tomorrow’s three BTCC races at Snetterton leading the standings by a point from Shedden. Plato is a further 28 back with 20 awarded for a race win. All the action will be shown live on the ITV4 and ITV4 HD channels plus www.itv.com in a seven-hour show from 11.00am-6.00pm.
Top positions, Dunlop BTCC qualifying, Snetterton, Sat 11 Aug 2012
1. Frank Wrathall (GBR), Dynojet/Toyota Avensis, 1m57.595s
2. Jason Plato (GBR), MG KX Momentum Racing/MG6, +0.015s
3. Dave Newsham (GBR), ES Racing.com/Vauxhall Vectra, +0.054s
4. Andrew Jordan (GBR), Pirtek Racing/Honda Civic, +0.538s
5. Adam Morgan (GBR), Speedworks/Toyota Avensis, +0.610s
6. Daniel Welch (GBR), Welch Motorsport/Proton Persona, +0.668s
7. Matt Neal (GBR), Honda Yuasa Racing Team/Honda Civic, +0.957s
8. Lea Wood (GBR), BINZ Racing/Vauxhall Vectra, +1.104s
9. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), eBay Motors/BMW 320si, +1.286s
10. Jeff Smith (GBR), Pirtek Racing/Honda Civic, +1.620s
Source: BTCC Media Office