Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan has broken the BTCC’s longest standing qualifying lap record on his way to securing pole position at Thruxton earlier today (3 May).
Frenchman Yvan Muller had previously set the fastest lap round the high speed 2.36 mile circuit way back in 2002, but reigning champion Jordan blitzed that benchmark after dominating proceedings throughout today’s running.
Despite his dominance in topping the time sheets for both free practice sessions, Jordan eventually only held a slender 0.172s advantage over Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal in qualifying. The triple champion’s Tourer team-mate Gordon Shedden was third, completing a 1-2-3 for Honda. With Hondas having won each of the last five races contested at Thruxton the Japanese marque is best placed to extend its run.
Jordan’s third Thruxton pole position in a row highlights his love for the circuit in qualifying, but incredibly the 24-year-old will be aiming to take his first race victory at the Hampshire speed bowl tomorrow.
Special mention should go to Mat Jackson and Tom Ingram for securing fourth and fifth on the grid, with the latter taking the best starting berth of his short BTCC career so far.
Jackson’s Airwaves Racing Ford Focus was in fine fettle from the outset and the Warwickshire driver set his fastest time early on in the 40-minute session. Team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi found his ‘Blue Oval’ machine an altogether different challenge, however, as he saved the car from a wild slide late on and also had a high-speed spin at Noble. The Italian would still go on to set the 12th fastest time, cementing an encouraging day for the Motorbase-run outfit.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save’s driver duo Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff will line-up sixth and seventh respectively for tomorrow’s opening race after a solid showing. Plato lost a tenth or so on his quickest lap after getting baulked up behind the Hondas, whilst Tordoff was content with his effort, believing that the MG6’s race pace will be more competitive than its one-lap credentials at Thruxton.
Rob Collard, Alain Menu and Adam Morgan brought three different German marques to the top ten with the BMW, VW and Mercedes incredibly separated by just 0.071s.
Collard’s eBay Motors team-mate Colin Turkington was a notable absentee from the top ten, eventually having to settle for 13th ahead of a brilliant effort from United Autosport’s James Cole. The team practically had to build an all-new car for Cole after his Toyota Avensis was destroyed in an accident at Donington Park last time out. Both he and the squad bounced back in style to score his best ever BTCC qualifying result.
Andrew Jordan said: “I was hanging on to it out there. I didn’t think it was the perfect lap but it was enough, which is great. It’s our third pole in a row here but I’m yet to win a race so it’d be good to finally convert one into a victory. Three solid results are even more important for the championship, however, so we’ll go through the data and make sure we’re set-up well for tomorrow.”
Matt Neal said: “Andrew was just too quick so fair play to the lad. Pirtek are always quite aggressive with their set-up though so if we can hang on to them we might be able to give them a good run in the second half of races. I got a good slipstream from ‘Flash’ [Shedden] in my final run so it was a great result. Getting the wins like we had here last year might be a bit of a tall order tomorrow, but never say never.”
Gordon Shedden said: “It was a good first run and we found some improvements in the car. We tried some slipstreaming later on in the session but it didn’t really work for me. We’re both on the front two rows and we’ve completed important race runs today too, which Andrew [Jordan] hasn’t, so he’ll be going into the unknown a little. I am sure we can race from here, but then there’s the Fords, MGs, BMWs and a fair few others up there and we’re back to the same struggle with probably 12 cars capable of winning.”
Mat Jackson said: “The Airwaves Racing Ford Focus has performed well from the word go today. We were up there in the practice sessions and when it mattered in qualifying we were on the pace too. I am really happy with the car and we’re in the right place. You have to be comfortable in the car at a place like Thruxton, and the Focus has been difficult at some times in the past, but now we seem to be in good shape.”
Tom Ingram said: “A great qualifying session. I didn’t make it easy for myself as I had a half-spin on my first run. We were playing catch up after that but I managed to get it together to go P5, which was quite a surprise to be honest. I’ve always liked the circuit but I was more nervous here this weekend than ever before as it’s my first Thruxton event in the BTCC and a front-wheel car. I’m delighted but now we need to turn a good qualifying session into results tomorrow.”
2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Thruxton – Qualifying
1. Andrew JORDAN (Pirtek Racing): 1:16.192s
2. Matt NEAL (Honda Yuasa Racing): +0.172s
3. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): +0.296s
4. Mat JACKSON (Airwaves Racing): +0.323s
5. Tom INGRAM (Speedworks Motorsport): +0.413s
6. Jason PLATO (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save): +0.484s
7. Sam TORDOFF (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save): +0.617s
8. Rob COLLARD (eBay Motors): +0.712s
9. Alain MENU (Chrome Edition Restart Racing): +0.774s
10. Adam MORGAN (WIX Racing): +0.783