Jason Plato set a qualifying lap record to grab pole position for the first of tomorrow’s three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire.
Plato left it right until the end of a highly exciting session to post a best time of 1m26.872s in his KX Momentum Racing MG6 and pip arch rival Matt Neal to pole by just 0.077s. Neal’s time of 1m26.949s in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic was also beneath the old record.
So too were the times set by Robert Collard, third in his eBay Motors BMW and Andrew Jordan, fourth in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
Significantly, all these times were set in less than ideal track conditions with a number of damp patches still on the circuit. Furthermore, championship leader Plato’s time was set in a car carrying the maximum 45kgs of success ballast.
The former double Champion from Oxford commented: “I put the team under a bit of pressure in that session – I ran wide at Lodge corner on my first run and on my second was off the track and through the puddles at Cascades. It all came down to that final run – Matt had just set a very good time but we thought it still might just be possible so it was all or nothing on that last lap.”
Worcestershire’s Neal, the reigning Champion, added: “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 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.”
And said Hampshire’s Collard: “I’m very happy with third. All I need now is one of my demon starts tomorrow but it’s a very narrow circuit 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 that gap might close very quickly.”
Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden was fifth fastest while, just a few places behind, Daniel Welch qualified a career-best eighth in his Welch Motorsport Proton Persona.
Tomorrow’s three BTCC races at Oulton Park will be shown on ITV4, ITV4 HD and www.itv.com in two shows – live from 11.30am-4.00pm and then highlights from 8.00pm-10.00pm..
Leading Qualifying Times, Dunlop BTCC, Oulton Park, Sat 9 June
1. Jason Plato (GBR), MG KX Momentum Racing/MG6, 1m26.872s
2. Matt Neal (GBR), Honda Yuasa Racing Team/Honda Civic, +0.077s
3. Robert Collard (GBR), eBay Motors/BMW 320si, +0.117s
4. Andrew Jordan (GBR), Pirtek Racing/Honda Civic, +0.179s
5. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Honda Yuasa Racing Team/Honda Civic, +0.585s
6. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), eBay Motors/BMW 320si, +0.631s
7. Frank Wrathall (GBR), Dynojet/Toyota Avensis, +0.787s
8. Daniel Welch (GBR), Welch Motorsport/Proton Persona, +1.042s
9. Dave Newsham (GBR), ES Racing.com/Vauxhall Vectra, +1.097s
10. Mat Jackson (GBR), Redstone Racing/Ford Focus ST, +1.161s