Ford's qualifying dominance goes on at Croft

Ford's qualifying dominance goes on at Croft

Ford's dominance in qualifying continued with Tom Chilton taking pole position for round 13 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. This was Chilton's 3rd pole in 5 races so far this season and the blue oval's 4th consecutive pole ...

Ford's dominance in qualifying continued with Tom Chilton taking pole position for round 13 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. This was Chilton's 3rd pole in 5 races so far this season and the blue oval's 4th consecutive pole position.

Tom Chilton.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

This will be far from a popular pole in the paddock with many of the teams and drivers. In particular Jason Plato, believing the LPG Turbo powered Ford Focus' still have an unfair power advantage over the rest of the field, despite being fitted with a restrictor before the last race at Oulton. This has failed to slow the Arena prepared cars, however, and the Fords may even be pecked back further after this meeting.

For now though this will not change so the team can celebrate yet another pole but this time the pole wasn't as convincing according to Chilton, who also topped free practice 1, "I only just got back out of the gravel trap when I'd been off. My mechanics did a great job with the gaffer tape! Then on my second run, when I set the time, I hit a kerb really hard and thought I'd punctured a tyre but it all held together. But I knew it was my last chance so gave it my all. It was the perfect lap but I admit I was very lucky."

Lining up alongside Chilton on the front row will be the impressive Gordon Shedden who has shown incredible speed in his Honda Racing Civic. So far this year the Scot has taken four 2nd places with only cruel luck denying him a victory so far this season.

Rob Collard will start 3rd in his WSR prepared BMW putting in one of his best qualifying performances so far this season and he will also be hoping for his first victory of the season.

Not for the first time this season, youngster Alex MacDowall had a great qualifying lap and will once more start ahead of his more experienced Silverline Chevrolet teammate Jason Plato.

Splitting the two Chevrolets will be championship leader Matt Neal who did top the second of the day's free practice session.

Neal goes into the first of tomorrow's races with an 8-point advantage over Plato and was very glad of a change of heart during qualifying and said, "I initially set a 25.5s and thought about parking it - I didn't think any more was possible with the success ballast in the car. But I gave it another go and it's important I did or I'd have ended up in ninth.

"Initially, Jason was three or four places behind me but when I looked at the times at the end he's right there with me! That's going to be a very busy first corner tomorrow..."

Plato isn't too concerned starting behind Neal and aims for success during the later two races of the day with the 2001 champion saying, "This is the sort of circuit where success ballast does give you a bit of a kick in the teeth. I've got it again for race one tomorrow and don't expect to be able to make any progress. I think the best I can hope for is sixth and then for the weight to come off for race two. Then we'll have a car that can move forward."

Next up will be the man in form, Tom Onslow-Cole, in the second Team Aon Focus having been top points scorer from Oulton Park moving him in to fourth in the championship. Another driver hoping to continue from where he left off from Oulton will be James Nash, fresh from his podium in the first of the Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectras.

Paul O'Neill will be hoping for better luck this weekend after a frustrating weekend at Oulton, and he will start alongside Andrew Jordan, who suffered an even worse Oulton Park event and will round up the top 10 hoping for no more issues with his NGTC turbo powered Vectra.

Just outside the top 10 but still nonetheless putting in an impressive performance, will be Daniel Lloyd on his debut in the series in the second Triple 8 Vectra.

Alongside him will be the first of the Airwaves BMWs of Mat Jackson. Not for the first time this season both cars have had disappointing sessions with Stephen Kane starting even lower in 15th.

Despite this the pair, who currently lie 3rd and 5th in the championship, always seem to get it together on race day, particularly current independent points leader Kane.

Tom Boardman will start 13th for Special Tuning UK in the Seat Leon which suffered an oil leak during the first free practice session of the day. Dave Pinkney will start 14th in another NGTC powered Vectra.

Behind Kane in 16th will be Martin Depper who put in a stunning performance in his Forster Motorsport BMW.

Depper put behind him earlier mechanical trouble, which he suffered in the second free practice session, to out qualify his team mate Arthur Forster, for the third race in a row, who starts 3 cars behind him.

Forster, like Depper, suffered a bruising encounter at Oulton Park but did impress at his home circuit during the opening free practice session of the day ending up in 14th. He did spin into a crop field during the second session.

Martin Johnson will start 17th in his Boulevard Vauxhall Astra Coupe with John George starting alongside side him. George experienced another wild day and, like Forster, was another one to find the crop field during the morning.

Shaun Hollamby will be next up in his VW Golf and he also went off track during the day going off entering Clerveaux in the second session. Lea Wood had a far less enjoyable qualifying than last time out after he broke a drive shaft on his out lap and failed to post a time in his Central Racing Group's Honda Integra.

Wood will not start last however, that will be the second WSR of Andy Neate.

Neate did qualify in 16th place but will start last due to a 6-place grid penalty, which he received after contact with Jordan at the last event.

That's how the grid will line up as the BTCC prepares for its half way stage and summer break. Be sure to follow the day's action on for regular race reports and to find out who will take the advantage going into the summer.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series BTCC
Drivers Tom Chilton , Paul O'Neill , Arthur Forster , Jason Plato , Matt Neal , Rob Collard , Tom Boardman , John George , Tom Onslow-Cole , Andrew Jordan , Stephen Kane , Martin Johnson , Dave Pinkney , James Nash , Mat Jackson , Martin Depper , Lea Wood , Shaun Hollamby , Alex MacDowall , Daniel Lloyd