Double champion celebrates milestone in style at Knockhill
Silverline Subaru BMR Racing star Jason Plato will start his 500th Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race from pole position, after the tin top legend set a sensational last gasp lap record during qualifying at Knockhill.
Plato has scored at least one race win in each of the BTCC seasons he has contested, and tomorrow he will be searching for his maiden success with Subaru during his milestone contest.
The double champion had been fighting at the front throughout the day – setting the pace in the opening practice session – but was forced into waiting until the final seconds of qualifying to snatch his 49th career pole position.
Tom Ingram was close to claiming his third pole of the season, but the Speedworks Motorsport driver had to settle for second after Plato’s performance. Ingram’s Toyota Avensis has shown stellar form on Saturdays during the 2016 campaign so far, and the young charger will now start alongside the BTCC’s most decorated racer in tomorrow’s opener in Fife – evoking memories of their epic battle at Rockingham last season.
Sam Tordoff grabbed third for Team JCT600 with GardX, representing an extremely good result for the ballast-laden BMW. The Yorkshireman – currently lying second in the overall standings – edged out West Surrey Racing stablemate Jack Goff, who produced his best qualifying result of the season in fourth.
The third WSR car of Rob Collard didn’t fare so well, however, as he could only manage 18th. Incredibly the championship leader has only qualified inside the top ten on one occasion this season.
Colin Turkington made it two Subarus in the top five as he fended off two fellow former champions in the shape of Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal. Jordan was a real spectacle throughout both practice and qualifying as he wrestled his Motorbase Performance Ford Focus over and around the contours of the 1.27-mile Knockhill circuit.
Adam Morgan sat out the final five minutes of the session, watching his WIX Racing Mercedes A-Class slip down the order to eighth as the chequered flag fell, whilst Rob Austin claimed ninth – a first top ten in qualifying for Handy Motorsport, building on his podium last time out at Snetterton.
Series returnee Dave Newsham – standing in this weekend for Power Maxed Racing’s Kelvin Fletcher – claimed an impressive tenth at his home circuit.
Neal’s Honda team-mate – reigning champion Gordon Shedden – endured a difficult session in front of his passionate and partisan home crowd. He had been languishing way down the order until late on, but the Scotsman eventually clocked a lap good enough for 11th.
The top 26 cars from the 31-strong field were separated by less than a second, making this the closest qualifying session of the season so far.
Rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at Knockhill tomorrow, with all the action being screened live and exclusively on ITV4 from 11am.
Jason Plato said: “Going into the last lap I knew I had the pace in the car, we just had to get a clean lap in around here with the traffic. Every one I did was getting spoiled in one way or another. I’m chuffed with that and I think I’ll get a strong start tomorrow. Everything has to be perfect around here. I was relieved to get the lap in and had I not got pole I’d have been frustrated. We’ve got a good balance and we’re in good shape.”
Tom Ingram said: “It could have been even better as we set that lap on old tyres, but it was my mistake with losing the new set out there. We know I’m going to get mugged off the line by some of the rear-wheel drive cars, but if we’re inside the top five at the end of the first lap then we’ll be lucky. We’re in a decent place though and the car feels good – we’ll give it our best shot.”
Sam Tordoff said: “That was more than a tenth quicker than last year’s pole, which we actually thought would be good enough. We can be really pleased with that considering we have 66kgs on board, and particularly as those around us are carrying far less weight. The BMW is fantastic around here – it always is – but in truth that adds a little bit of pressure. We’re expected to deliver this weekend and we need to hammer home that advantage. We need to score some strong points tomorrow and we’ve given ourselves a good chance of doing so.”
Jack Goff said: “We’re up where we should be finally. I’m happy but I’m also frustrated as I was a tenth and a half up on the lap, but the traffic meant I lost a bit of concentration in the final sector. We can race from there and we have quite a light car too. We’ve been at the sharp end all day and the race pace looks good. We need three solid results here to get ourselves back up the table.”
2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Knockhill:
1 Jason PLATO (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing 51.521s
2 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.021s
3 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.030s
4 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +0.046s
5 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.098s
6 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.297s
7 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.359s
8 Adam MORGAN (GBR) WIX Racing +0.378s
9 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.391s
10 Dave NEWSHAM (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.437s
11 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.462s
12 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.463s
13 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.494s
14 James COLE (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.541s
15 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.584s
16 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.585s
17 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.606s
18 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.644s
19 Jake HILL (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +0.669s
20 Michael EPPS (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +0.748s
21 Warren SCOTT (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.768s
22 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.829s
23 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +0.845s
24 Hunter ABBOTT (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.886s
25 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.936s
26 Dan WELCH (GBR) Goodestone Racing +0.996s
27 Michael CAINE (GBR) TLC/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.095s
28 Alex MARTIN (GBR) Dextra Racing +1.411s
29 Stewart LINES (GBR) Maximum Motorsport +1.421s
30 Mark HOWARD (GBR) BKR +1.947s
31 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD Tuning.com +2.402s