Reigning champion smashes Snetterton qualifying lap record

Gordon Shedden has secured Halfords Yuasa Racing’s first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position in more than three years.

The reigning champion produced an incredible effort midway through the session at Snetterton – smashing the qualifying lap record in the process – but the pack immediately set about attacking the Scotsman’s benchmark.

Colin Turkington’s Subaru Levorg fell short by just 0.015s and then Adam Morgan’s Mercedes blasted into third, only a further 0.013s in arrears. It’s worth noting that the Snetterton 300 circuit is the longest on the BTCC calendar, making the closeness of the top three fight even more incredible.

It was a nervy final few minutes for Shedden but he held on until the chequered flag, bringing home Honda’s first qualifying top spot since Donington Park back in 2013.

The tussle for the next three places was also hugely competitive – albeit more than three tenths back from the lead trio – as Tom Ingram fended off Mat Jackson and the very impressive Hunter Abbott. Power Maxed Racing’s Abbott had earlier targeted the top ten in qualifying, having made significant progress in the front-wheel drive Chevrolet in recent rounds, but a best-ever grid slot of sixth will have been a pleasant surprise for the Maidenhead racer.

Aron Smith shot back into contention today after relatively low key weekends at both Oulton Park and Croft, the Irishman taking seventh for BKR Racing here in Norfolk. Ashley Sutton was the best placed MG in eighth, followed by Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Type R and championship leader Sam Tordoff.

Tordoff’s closest challenger in the title race – West Surrey Racing team-mate Rob Collard – could only manage 18th after a difficult time in the sister BMW 125i M Sport.

Others endured challenging moments with both Martin Depper and Mark Howard experiencing off-track excursions, as did Warren Scott, although he was delighted to see all four Silverline Subaru BMR Racing machines inside the top 15. Andrew Jordan suffered heartache and failed to even join the action after a power steering problem plagued his Pirtek Racing Ford Focus.

Gordon Shedden said: “Pole position! I didn’t expect it but I’m delighted. I can think of worse places to start. It’s only one point for today though and we desperately need a big points haul tomorrow. It’s been a bit random today. We hardly passed go and collected 200 quid in practice but we got everything together for qualifying. We didn’t have time to change things around much but maybe ‘out of the box’ is the best way. It was a really really good lap and it all came together – it was absolutely fantastic.”

Colin Turkington said: “I would have taken P2. On the whole I’m happy to be starting on the front row. It was the first time we’d put the car on new rubber. The balance wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be so it feels like we could improve. I got the most out of the car in its current state but hopefully we can nudge it even further in the right direction. We know where the issues are and we understand where we’re limited. Having not done a huge amount of testing, it’s difficult to know the exact changes to make. We’ll do our homework tonight, work hard and try to get it right tomorrow.”

Adam Morgan said: “I’m ecstatic with that to be honest. It’s my best ever result in qualifying. Having struggled in the past few weekends it’s now time to get back up to the sharp end and we’ve given ourselves every opportunity by starting P3 for race one. The car’s been absolutely mega all day. That two-day tyre test at Snetterton was brilliant. We think we found something with the car and we were able to push harder and harder all day. We were so close to pole, too. I’m going to try and stay out of trouble tomorrow and bring it back with three strong results. I’d love to get back on the podium again and a win would be fantastic, but I’m thinking about the championship overall so points are the important thing.”

Tom Ingram said: “We’re really happy with P4. We are ahead of the guys we’re competing against in the championship, and those in front of us are all carrying less ballast. We’re already in a strong position going into tomorrow and we’re going to try and hold station. Maybe we can pick up a podium, I don’t know but we should be in good shape. It’s going to be the same for us as every weekend, aiming for points so we’ll take what we can get.”
Mat Jackson said:
 “We’re towards the front of the grid and it could be a lot worse. If we can make a couple of places off the line and maybe make the podium then we’ll be happy. There’s always a little bit more. It was the first run and the circuit appeared to drop off thereafter but what’s done is done. P5 is still a good place to start tomorrow and hopefully we can go forward. It’s very close, there’s not a lot of time in it. Hopefully we can hook up the start and muscle our way through. We need points after the disaster at Croft and hopefully we can put that right.”

2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Snetterton:

1 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +1m55.627s (92.43 mph)
Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.015s
Adam MORGAN (GBR) WIX Racing +0.028s
4 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.382s
5 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.405s
Hunter ABBOTT (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.438s
7 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +0.554s
8 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.579s
9 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.595s
10 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.608s
11 Jason PLATO (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.654s
12 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.767s
13 James COLE (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.980s
14 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.988s
15 Warren SCOTT (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +1.004s
16 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +1.061s
17 Jake HILL (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +1.071s
18 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +1.125s
19 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +1.176s
20 Michael EPPS (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +1.290s
21 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD
22 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +1.429s
23 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +1.747s
24 Dan Welch (GBR) Goodestone Racing +1.904s
25 Michael CAINE (GBR) TLC/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.983s
26 Kelvin FLETCHER (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +2.167s
27 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Eurotech Racing +2.223s
28 Mark HOWARD (GBR) BKR +2.571s
29 Alex MARTIN (GBR) Dextra Racing +2.975s
30 Stewart LINES (GBR) Maximum Motorsport +4.173s
31 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) Motorbase Performance NO TIME