Alex MacDowall shocked his competitors when he took pole position for round 22 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship ahead of local hero Gordon Shedden. Alex MacDowall. Photo by Pat Cranham. MacDowall, from Carlisle,...
Alex MacDowall shocked his competitors when he took pole position for round 22 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship ahead of local hero Gordon Shedden.
MacDowall, from Carlisle, just outside the Scottish border, produced a stunning lap to beat the Knockhill qualifying record and Shedden, who had topped both earlier free practice sessions.
This will be MacDowall's second pole position of the season but this time he will be hoping for better luck after last time when a mechanical failure prevented him from making the first corner.
"To beat Gordon on his home circuit is pretty special but I'm wary it's only half the battle won," he said. "I was on pole at Snetterton and my gear lever broke ten yards after the start. Hopefully there'll be none of that tomorrow..."
Shedden, though, will have to settle for second in qualifying at his home event but he felt it could have been better if it wasn't for debutant Jeff Smith. Smith is making his BTCC debut at the wheel of yet another Triple 8 Vauxhall Vectra and got in the way of Shedden who had to take avoiding action, hitting the tyres and ripping the front left bodywork off the car. Smith was recovering from a spin and appeared at the same bit of the track as Shedden on a hot lap at the chicane.
A less-than-impressed Shedden said afterwards, "I had to take evasive action and took off part of my car against a barrier but, although it's very frustrating, second still means the front row of the grid. I'm going all out for wins tomorrow in front of my home crowd."
Third will be the second Honda Racing Civic, belonging to early championship leader Matt Neal, who hopes to get his championship back on track; he will start alongside current points leader Jason Plato.
Plato's Chevrolet is carrying full ballast which made his result rather impressive, which shocked double Silverstone winner Tom Chilton who struggled down in seventh.
"Qualifying really hasn't gone as well as planned, but that is partly because everyone is so close," said Chilton. "I'm seventh but under two-tenths of a second from pole! Everyone else has done a really good job and that's why we are all so close, although I'm a little surprised to see Jason so fast seeing as he has maximum success ballast on the car and he's done that sort of time. Imagine if he had no weight in!"
Chilton's Team Aon teammate Tom Onslow-Cole, who is second in the points standings 14 points behind, also struggled and will start alongside Chilton in 8th.
Steven Kane put in a good last run in his Airwaves BMW to put in a time to finish a good 5th ahead of Paul O'Neill who continued his superb form from Silverstone to finish sixth, although he had been on top of the standings earlier on in the session in his Tech-speed Honda Integra.
Rob Collard posted the ninth-fastest time although it could have been a lot better if it wasn't for his WSR team mate Andy Neate.
Neate crashed heavily at the first corner bringing out the red flag just as Collard was setting his fastest time, which was eliminated as a result. Neate said, "I hadn't got enough heat into the tyres, locked the left front and that was it - I was heading straight for the wall and thought it might hurt but although it was a heavy hit the damage is light. Thank goodness for foam barriers!"
Tenth was Andrew Jordan who did put in a very brave drive as he did all day considering he was battling with a suspected bout of food poisoning. Next up will be James Nash in the first Triple 8 Vectra, whose day was hampered with gearbox trouble in the morning meaning so he failed to set a time in the first practice session of the day. Alongside Nash will be Mat Jackson who must be slightly disappointed in the second Airwaves BMW with Dave Pinkney in 13th. Amazingly all 13 cars were separated by less than a second proving just how close the field is.
14th, despite a couple of spins, will be John George with Tom Boardman starting in 15th. This weekend sees Boardman using an NGTC turbo engine for the first time in his Special Tuning UK Seat Leon, although this time he his not joined by Phil Glew.
Clio racer Smith is next up in 16th in the Vauxhall Vectra finishing ahead of Neate following his crash and Shaun Hollamby in his AmD Miltek VW Golf who also had a trip in the gravel spinning at Scotsman.
So that's how the BTCC lines up for round 22 and with the grid so closely covered, action is guaranteed around the tight and twisted circuit. So be sure to log back onto motorsport.com for full reviews and images in what promises to be one of the most exciting meetings of the year.