Neal Sets Donington Qualifying Lap Record For Second Straight Pole
Matt Neal shattered the qualifying lap record to secure pole position for round two of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire.
Worcestershire’s Neal (pictured) knocked more than a second off the previous record as he set a best time of 1m10.129s in his new turbocharged Honda Civic for his second pole in a row.
Second fastest, just 0.043s behind, was his Honda Racing Team team-mate Gordon Shedden while rising star James Nash was third in his turbo-powered 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra.
Notably, Scotsman Shedden had set the pace during the early part of the session, but was unable to respond to Neal’s time when his car’s front suspension broke.
Former double champion Neal, currently fifth in the standings, said: “‘Lively’ is the best way to describe that lap – it was like riding a lap of the Grand National.
“But while we’ve clearly got great pace over a single flying lap, we know we cannot sustain that over a race distance tomorrow. We are going to have a real struggle on our hands to keep the tyres and brakes.”
Fife racer Shedden commented: “It’s slightly frustrating I couldn’t have a crack at Matt’s time but, hey, at Brands Hatch two weeks ago I was starting from the back of the grid after a crash so I can’t complain too much. But Matt is right – we know it’s going to be marginal on tyres and brakes tomorrow. The last laps of each race could be squeaky bum time.”
Newport Pagnell youngster Nash, currently third in the standings just ahead of Shedden and Neal, added: “I think that’s about as much as I could have got out of the car, but the Hondas were always out of reach on a flying lap. I think in race trim we should be able to hang on to them, but beating them is going to be a big ask. Won’t stop me trying, though.”
Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Vectra and Tom Chilton’s Team Aon Ford Focus completed the top five in qualifying. A surprise, best-ever sixth was Jordan’s team-mate Jeff Smith.
Championship leader Jason Plato, his Chevrolet handicapped with the maximum success ballast of 45kgs, was eighth fastest. Starting just ahead of Plato on tomorrow’s race one grid will be his current closest championship rival Mat Jackson. He set what would stand as the seventh fastest time before spinning off the track at high speed – one of a number of incidents that caused no fewer than three red flag stoppages during the session.
Tomorrow’s BTCC action from Donington will receive seven hours of live TV coverage (11.00am-6.00pm) on the ITV4 and ITV4 HD channels as well as being live-streamed on the itv.com website.