Team BMW will start the penultimate Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship event of the year from the front row after Ricky Collard qualified a superb second at Silverstone.
Taking part in only his third BTCC event, the BMW Motorsport Junior showed excellent speed during the afternoon session, having improved his performance step-by-step from practice.
The 22-year-old from Eversley, Hampshire took full advantage of the speed of the BMW 125i M Sport as the WSR-run cars circulated together to provide a slipstream to boost each other’s top speed.
In an ultra-close session – in which 24 cars were covered by half a second – Ricky’s championship-leading team-mate Colin Turkington qualified 18th; his pace affected by carrying the maximum 75kg success ballast and therefore driving the heaviest car on the grid.
The Northern Irishman, who is hunting a third BTCC title to add to the ones he claimed with WSR in 2009 and 2014, holds a 43-point lead in the Drivers’ standings with 133 still available and will start Sunday’s opening race ahead of his two key title rivals.
Team BMW lead the Teams’ Championship heading into the triple-header raceday while BMW are also at the head of the Manufacturers’ standings with just six races remaining.
Ricky Collard said: “I’m over the moon. To qualify second in only my third BTCC event is more than I ever could have expected. The team have done a fantastic job to improve the car in every session and we’ve moved up the timesheets from this morning through to qualifying and I’m so grateful to them for the job they’ve done. I’ve started well at more or less every race I’ve done this year, so if I can get off the line cleanly, I’ll be aiming to win and take some big points for Team BMW in the Teams’ Championship.
Colin Turkington said: “Eighteenth is definitely not where I wanted to be, but carrying 75kg success ballast around here is like a noose around my neck, especially when the times are so close. I’d like to have been further up and when you see the speed of the other BMWs, I think that was achievable, but I couldn’t maximise the effect of the tow in qualifying. I’m ahead of my two closest rivals for the championship, which is a positive. The tactic now will be to improve the car overnight, score whatever points I can in Race One, lose the ballast out of the car and then make progress.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “I’m very pleased for Ricky, who has done a very good job today. He’s been on a steep learning curve since his debut at Rockingham, but he’s coped with it maturely and this is the result. He’s been near the front all day and it’s very good for the Teams’ Championship to have him on the front row. Qualifying didn’t go so well for Colin, but with 75kg ballast, he’s done well to be less than four tenths off pole. The BMW has shown good speed so far without ballast, so when Colin loses the weight after Race One, he should be strong.”