Jason Plato celebrating his BTCC pole position at Snetterton

Jason Plato just pipped Gordon Shedden to take pole position in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s qualifying session on Snetterton’s new 300 circuit in Norfolk.

Plato produced one of the finest qualifying laps of his career to set a best lap of 1m58.691s in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze. It was enough to put him ahead of Honda Racing Team driver Shedden by just 0.025s.

Their respective team-mates Alex MacDowall and Matt Neal qualified third and fourth fastest. MacDowall had also looked to be in the running for pole before a dramatic flash fire on his car in the pit lane. Neal’s time, a mere 0.248s from Plato, was impressive as it was set in a Honda Civic carrying the maximum 45kgs of success ballast.

Reigning Champion Plato, from Oxford, currently lies sixth in the standings with a 40-point deficit – equivalent almost to three race wins – to make up to Neal. He commented: “That was the limit… absolutely the limit. But pole is everything to us as it gives us a chance to take it to the turbo cars like the Hondas. I can stick my elbows out a bit from there. But it’s only pole for the first race and there are three to get through – it’s going to be a massive fight.”

Shedden, from Dalgety Bay, Fife and third in the current standings added: “There was nothing left in the tank, but the front row is still pretty good. Snetterton’s been a happy hunting ground for me in the past and a nice big bag of points is my goal tomorrow.”

Carlisle racer MacDowall said: “That was a pretty hairy moment with the flames but the team soon had it under control. We’ve seen in the past how good they are at repairing cars – look what they did when Jason had his roll at Donington – so I’ve no doubts they’ll quickly have it back in tip-top condition.”

James Nash (888 Racing/Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra) and Tom Chilton (Team Aon Ford Focus) qualified fifth and sixth fastest. A best-ever seventh for himself, his Dynojet team and its Toyota Avensis was Frank Wrathall – the first time a car built to the BTCC’s latest Next Generation Touring Car technical regulations has qualified inside the top ten. Dave Newsham was also a career-best eighth in his Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon.

There were also highly encouraging performances from Martin Byford and Daniel Welch, both making their BTCC debuts this weekend. Byford, from nearby Colchester, was 19th in AmD Milltek Racing.com’s VW Golf and Welch 20th in his Welch Motorsport team’s all-new Proton Gen-2, the car just over two seconds off the ultimate pace having only turned a wheel for the first time in this morning’s practice sessions. Its appearance has also pushed the grid size to 26 cars – the biggest seen in the BTCC since 2007.

All of tomorrow’s BTCC action from Snetterton will receive comprehensive live TV coverage on the ITV4 and ITV4 HD channels as well as the www.itv.com website.

Photodesks: image above shows Jason Plato celebrating his BTCC pole position at Snetterton. Click here for a hi res version. For all the latest BTCC news in the run up to the event visit the official btcc.net website.

BTCC qualifying, Top Ten, Snetterton, Norfolk, Saturday 6 August

1. Jason Plato (GBR), Silverline Chevrolet/Chevrolet Cruze, 1m58.691s

2. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Honda Racing Team/Honda Civic, +0.025

3. Alex MacDowall (GBR), Silverline Chevrolet/Chevrolet Cruze, +0.217s

4. Matt Neal (GBR), Honda Racing Team/Honda Civic, +0.248s
5. James Nash (GBR), 888 Racing with Collins Contractors/Vauxhall Vectra, +0.376s
6. Tom Chilton (GBR), Team Aon/Ford Focus, +0.393s
7. Frank Wrathall (GBR), Dynojet/Toyota Avensis, +0.393s

8. Dave Newsham (GBR), Special Tuning Racing/SEAT Leon, +0.561s

9. Paul O’Neill (GBR), GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed/Chevrolet Cruze, +0.729s

10. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), Team Aon/Ford Focus, +0.824s