Team Aon boss Mike Earle was “stunned” by the pace of Jason Plato's heavily ballasted Silverline Chevrolet in qualifying for the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) finale, the championship leader – and teammate Alex MacDowall – dominating Saturday running at Brands Hatch.
The Arena Motorsport run Ford squad on the other hand struggled for outright pace, running in the middle of the top ten through the free practice sessions, the team citing a lack of traction in the 1.2 mile track's acceleration zones as their main problem.
In qualifying, as rain threatened to make worse their grip problem, it was Tom Chilton who emerged much the better of his title contending teammate Tom Onslow-Cole. Chilton, in his no.23 Ford Focus finished the session fifth fastest – a quarter of a second from Plato's pole time in a field tightly packed – fifteen drivers covered by less than a second.
“I’m quite happy with that, it is always so close around here, but I do love this place,” enthused Chilton, who while out of the race for the overall drivers' points race is still in contention for the independents' title. circuit was quite greasy at the start of qualifying and so we elected to just leave our rear tyre’s on for each qualifying run, where as normally you would always have brand new tyres and the extra temperature in them seemed to help us as I think fifth was the best we could hope to achieve today.”
Meanwhile, suffering the worst from the team's set-up struggles, Onslow-Cole could only manage tenth fastest, with his title rivals occupying the front three place on the grid.
“It is still all to play for, although that obviously wasn’t the qualifying we needed,” said Onslow-Cole. “We are throwing everything at it though, we just needed a few tenths to be up there with Jason. We took a risk on the set-up to try and find that time, which didn’t pay off. We can bounce back from this though, I need a good start and hopefully we can come through to the top five, then it is all to play for in race two.”