Points leader Shedden qualifies behind chief rival Plato ahead of title-decider
Tom Onslow-Cole has achieved pole position in a sensationally close Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent.
But just seconds later, Onslow-Cole, on his final lap as well, flashed across the line with an even better time of 1m31.615s to reclaim top spot on the starting grid for the first of tomorrow’s title-deciding final three races of the season.
Significantly, Onslow-Cole very nearly didn’t take part in the session – earlier on his car’s throttle cable broke near the end of a fast lap. Luckily he was able, just, to coast back to the pit lane where his WSR crew rapidly fixed the problem.
New Malden’s Onslow-Cole commented: “I’ve got my team to thank so much. Firstly for the fix on the throttle cable which enabled me to get back out there. Then for the communication on that last lap – I didn’t realise how close it was with Jordan and all I could hear on my radio was my engineer screaming ‘keep pushing!’ Unbelievable…”
Lichfield’s Jordan, who is hunting a maiden Independent Drivers’ title, said: “I knew Tom was close behind me and that he was the big threat so even when I’d crossed the line I delayed any celebrating just in case. Still, at least I held pole for a brief moment and I’m still on the front row of the grid.”
Defending Champion Matt Neal was third in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic ahead of Onslow-Cole’s team-mate Robert Collard who, on his final lap, bumped Jason Plato down to fifth position. Honda’s Gordon Shedden, who Plato is chasing for the outright drivers’ crown, was seventh behind Adam Morgan in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis.
Plato’s session, meanwhile, ended with a spin into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend as he made one last effort to improve.
A sensational eighth on his debut was youngster Aaron Williamson in Team HARD.’s older S2000-spec Honda Civic.
Dalgety Bay’s Shedden, aiming to become the first Scottish driver to win the BTCC since John Cleland in 1995, said: “There was nothing left in the car – that was the most I could get from it with the extra success ballast on board. It makes it interesting for tomorrow, eh?”
Oxford’s Plato, sensing a third drivers’ title, added: “I’m slightly frustrated – I was two and half tenths of a second up on my best lap but ballsed it up at Clearways. At least I know the car is capable of going a bit quicker so it will be maximum attack tomorrow.”