Team BMW secured a vital third-row starting spot at Rockingham as they aim to protect their lead of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Colin Turkington, who leads the race for the Drivers’ title with two-thirds of the season completed, will start fifth for Sunday’s opening race after a strong qualifying effort.
His WSR-run BMW 125i M Sport is the heaviest car on the grid due to the 75kg success ballast he carries as championship leader, but the Northern Irishman still managed to lap within two tenths of a second of the pole-position time.
Team-mate Rob Collard, who carries 48kg success ballast by virtue of his fourth place in the Drivers’ points table, qualified 20th in an ultra-close session in which the top 27 cars were separated by less than a second.
Both drivers have combined to give Team BMW the lead of the Teams’ Championship while BMW head the race for the Manufacturers’ crown.
Nine races remain in the 2017 season, starting with tomorrow’s triple-header.
Colin Turkington said: “Today was a good day. To be fifth on the grid and only two tenths away from pole is very pleasing when you consider I’m carrying the full success ballast of 75kg – the equivalent of taking a passenger with you. Rockingham is a circuit that really punishes a heavy car, so I know tomorrow’s first race will be a challenge, but the balance of the BMW is terrific, which gives me a lot of confidence. The aim tomorrow is to maintain the championship lead, so we’ll just have to see what happens.”
Rob Collard said: “Position-wise, the 10th row doesn’t seem that good, but the pace and balance of the BMW is quite good and the gap to pole is much smaller than you’d expect starting 20th. Last year I qualified 26th and ended up with a podium and a good haul of points, so that proves we’re capable of racing through the field here. Tomorrow will be a case of picking off whatever places we can in Races One and Two and then hopefully ending up near the front for the reversed-grid race.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “With Colin carrying 75kg success ballast, my target for him was to be inside the top eight. He’s qualified fifth, which is a strong performance and puts him in a good place to score big points. We would obviously have liked Rob to be higher than 20th, but the reality is that he’s only 0.6 seconds away from pole with 48kg ballast on his car, and everybody knows what a hard and tenacious driver he is on raceday. We have quite a bit of work to do this evening to tweak the cars for race conditions, but we’re in decent shape.”