Stoneman lands homeland pole at Brands Hatch

The FIA Formula Two series is at the Brands Hatch circuit this weekend and there was nearly a surprise pole winner in Friday's qualifying but in the end, it was Dean Stoneman who grabbed the pole with a blistering lap of 1:15.758 for a new series lap record.

Dean Stoneman.
Photo by FIA Formula Two Championship.

The young Briton will lead the field for the first race of the weekend tomorrow, his third start from pole position this year.

"I knew I was quick in practice this morning, I knew I had a good pace. I never give up," declared Stoneman, "obviously we've just got to go for points at the minute, and hopefully Jolyon has a bad one, I have a good one and obviously I can catch up in the championship."

Stoneman is currently 26 points behind the super-consistent Palmer, with a total of 156 to his countryman's 182. Eight of the eighteen races for the season remain, including this weekend's pair of races, but the two are far ahead of their rivals: Philipp Eng, third in the points, has 88 points, less than half of Palmer's total.

Stoneman's flying lap was four-tenths of a second faster than Sergey Afanasiev but it was Jack Clarke who set the time to beat before they switched to new tires for their final hot laps. Sandwiched between the two local British drivers, the Russian will start on the front row with his best lap of 1:16.160.

Afanasiev had a good time on and off the track today as he explained: "The deal (Sergey had an arrangement with championship co-ordinator James Gornall) was about the dress - (Gornall) had to put on a dress and be my grid girl if I got pole! But anyway I had a bit of luck from James Bearne (an F2 photographer), he shouted something at me in the pits - as usual with these photographers you never know what they are doing!"

Slotting third was Clarke with a 1:16.234, just off the front row by 0.074 seconds. "Yeah, it wasn't looking like it for a minute in the first two practices but I knew looking at the data and looking at whether I'd used my boost, tyres etc. that I had some pace and it was really about putting it together and getting a lap in where I put some decent sectors together. Here I am - third," he said.

Five of top seven in qualifying were from Great Britain, giving the fans a good show on their home circuit. And with two Russians in the top seven as well -- Ivan Samarin was sixth -- Philipp Eng was the fastest driver from any other country, and will start eighth on the grid, 0.649 seconds slowed than Stoneman's pole-winning lap.

Behind Clarke was Will Bratt followed by Tom Gladdis. Jolyon Palmer, the points leader, was seventh fastest, sixth-tenths off of Stoneman's pole time.

The first race of the weekend will start at 11:45 local time tomorrow, followed by the qualifying session for the second race at 15:50.