Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
MG KX Momentum Racing’s Jason Plato has taken his second pole position of the season and will lead away the field in tomorrow’s first race of three races in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park.
Plato dominated the day by posting fastest time in both morning Free Practice sessions, the first help in largely wet conditions and the second in dry conditions that was cut short due to a number of incidents.
It all came down to that final run.
Despite his dominance in the Free Practice sessions the former double champion didn’t have it his own way in qualifying as Plato explains, “I put the team under a bit of pressure in that one. I ran wide at Lodge corner in my first run and on my second was off track an through the puddles at cascades. It all came down to that final run. Matt Neal had set a very good time but we thought it still might be just possible so it was all or nothing on that last lap”
Plato will line up alongside his arch-rival Matt Neal for Honda Yuasa Racing who he beat to pole for just 0.077seconds. Neal said, “I was on track at the end and I knew Jason was as well. I was sure he had something up his sleeve and suddenly the team started telling me over the radio that he was setting best sector times. I was warming up a new set of tyres for what was going to be my final run but couldn’t get across the line in time to respond.”
The man to watch off the grid tomorrow must surely be Rob Collard in his fast starting rear wheel drive eBay Motors BMW. Collard has already taken the lead from 5th on the grid at Donington and once again will be hoping to get another fast start an said, “Im very happy with third. Now all I need is one of my demon starts tomorrow but it’s very tight at Oulton. I went from fifth to first at Donington Park but whether I can squeeze between Jason and Matt at the start here... I think the gap might close very quickly”
Lining up alongside Collard will be pole sitter from Thruxton for Pirtek Racing Andrew Jordan although this time he will be hoping to make it past the first corner. Fifth in an identical New Generation Honda Civic will be the second Honda Yuasa Racing belonging to man in form and Oulton Park maestro Gordon Shedden.
In 6th will be the second of three eBay Motors BMW belonging to Tom Onslow-Cole who hopes to claim only his second podium of the year with Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet prepared NGTC Toyota Avensis lining up behind Onslow-Cole. Wrathall scored his maiden podium of the season last time out at Thruxton brilliantly holding off Plato and the former Ginetta champion will be hoping for more of the same this time around.
Qualifying in a career best 8th will be Dan Welch who caused quite a surprise in his Welch Motorsport NGTC Proton Persona. Team ES Racing’s Dave Newsham will start 9th ahead of two Redstone Racing Ford Focuses with Mat Jackson leading Aron Smith.
Mat Jackson was the first driver to have a big off in Free Practice 2 crashing down the cascades on his first flying lap after running wide coming out of the first corner bringing out the red flags. Another driver to go off in Free Practice 2 was the second MG KX Momentum Racing of Andy Neate. Neate had hoped that Oulton Park would kick start his season and things had been going to plan finishing 4th in Free Practice 1 and ended up 6th in Free Practice 2 despite going off on the entry to the Hairpin with a break bias issue sending him left into the barriers perhaps affecting his qualifying pace.
The other driver to have a major off in Free Practice 2 ending the session with just over 10 minutes left was Ollie Jackson in his AmD Tuning.com Golf after suffering brake failure ending down the cascades. Like Redstone Racing, AmD worked miracles to get the car back out but a disappointing 20th was the best he could mange after showing encouraging pace before his crash.
Elsewhere Will Bratt survived a couple of early spins in the wet Free Practice 1 and will start his maiden BTCC race back in 18th in the sole Audi A4 for Rob Austin Racing on the 22 car grid.
So that’s where the main protagonists will start round 10 of the championship. So far this season we have had plenty of thrills n spills and tomorrow we are definitely set for more around a circuit which always provides plenty of action. So will Plato claim his second victory for MG and his 70th career win to maintain his lead in the championship? Will Collard get another great start and take his second win of the year, or will Shedden continue his great Oulton Park form and close the gap on Plato? Well there is of course only one way to find out by logging back on to Motorsport.com tomorrow evening for a quick round up before a full report on Monday.