Rob Austin concluded a phenomenal day for WIX Racing at Knockhill by claiming a maiden BTCC pole position in one of the most competitive qualifying sessions of all time. It is also the first time an Audi has qualified on pole in the BTCC since Frank Biela at Knockhill back in 1997.
An incredible 19 cars were separated by just 0.833s at the end of the session and it was Austin who topped the lot with a new qualifying lap record of 52.471s – enough to pip the eBay Motors BMW of Colin Turkington.
Andrew Jordan took third, but will face a six-place grid penalty in race one tomorrow after accumulating three reprimands so far this season.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden claimed fourth in front of his home fans and will be happy to see the majority of his title rivals situated behind him. Two of those drivers – Jason Plato and Matt Neal – followed Shedden in the time sheets for MG and Honda respectively.
Adam Morgan won the battle of the Toyotas to take seventh in his Ciceley Racing machine ahead of the Dynojet Avensis of Frank Wrathall. MG KX Momentum Racing’s Sam Tordoff had to settle for ninth.
Daniel Welch continued his good run of qualifying form by hauling his Proton into the top ten for the second time in a row, edging out the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus of Aron Smith and eBay Motors BMW of Rob Collard.
Such was the competitiveness of the session that the top 15 drivers set a time under the existing qualifying lap record of Tom Chilton from 2011.
Motorbase enjoyed an impressive run in the S2000 class as Liam Griffin out-qualified Jack Sears Cup leader Lea Wood.
An accident involving the VW Passat of Warren Scott brought out the red flag after ten minutes, whilst Will Bratt’s Audi A4 was forced to end the session early after failing a ride height test, meaning tomorrow’s opening contest will be bookended by a brace of Audis.
There was also drama for RCIB Insurance Racing when both of its new drivers clashed at the final hairpin. Two-time race winner Paul O’Neill seemed to be on a flying lap when he approached the slowing car of team-mate Kieran Gallagher and the Vauxhall Insignias made contact. O’Neill limped back to the pits whilst Gallagher continued, although the Knockhill specialist could only manage 24th on the grid.
Rob Austin said: “I am extremely happy! I knew the car was good at Snetterton but admittedly I didn’t do a great job there personally. I knew we had a chance here at Knockhill but it’s hard to say I expected pole. I am pretty confident going into tomorrow. Colin’s had a couple of wins already this year so it’s my turn and I’m hopefully going to take it!”
Gordon Shedden said: “That’s the quickest I have ever been around here and considering the ballast on board it was a really good lap. It was also four tenths quicker than we went last season so it really shows the development. In race trim I hope for us to be where we have been all year, which bodes well for tomorrow. The top 15 drivers are covered by half a second and they’ll all be looking to take up the same bit of track, so it’s almost impossible to predict who will win the races. I’m pretty sure the fans are in for an exciting day.”
Colin Turkington said: “I am really pleased. I had a feeling that kind of performance was in the car but that was the maximum I could do. I tried but I just couldn’t get any extra time out of it. It’s going to be three long races so it’s good to be at the sharp end.”
Andrew Jordan said: “We said that if we could start in the top ten with the penalty then we’d be happy so we have to be pleased with that. Of course you always feel like there was a little bit of time left out there but that’s the nature of this place and it’s the same for everyone. It’s so hard to hook up the perfect lap at Knockhill but at least we’re well placed for tomorrow.”
2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Knockhill – Qualifying
1 Rob Austin (WIX Racing) 52.471
2 Colin Turkington (eBay Motors) +0.047
3 Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing) +0.092 (six place grid penalty to be applied)
4 Gordon Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing) +0.110
5 Jason Plato (MG KX Momentum Racing) +0.179
6 Matt Neal (Honda Yuasa Racing) +0.181
7 Adam Morgan (Ciceley Racing) +0.204
8 Frank Wrathall (Dynojet) +0.376
9 Sam Tordoff (MG KX Momentum Racing) +0.382
10 Daniel Welch (Welch Motorsport with Sopp + Sopp) +0.414