Gordon Shedden took his second consecutive BTCC pole with a lap of 1:27.355 around Oulton Park, He, and Honda Racing Team stablemate Matt Neal defied the weight changes decreed by TOCA to annex the front row, continuing their dominance of Saturday running in the championship.
Both drivers' fastest laps were among the early exchanges of the session, Shedden putting the no.52 car on pole before Neal moved into second, again coping easily with the success ballast he starts the weekend with by virtue of leading the championship.
Both Hondas ran the fewest laps of anyone, comfortable in the advantage over the field – Shedden's lap was nearly half a second clear of the man in third place. While drivers improved further down the order their position looked secure, but a red flag with three minutes of the session left forced the cancellation of any late challenges to the Honda pair.
The reason for the red flag was a veritable oil slick on the way down Cascades, dropped by Liam Griffin's Airwaves Racing Focus. The oil caught out several drivers, sliding straight on off the brow of the hill and across the grass. Tony Hughes' Toyota Avensis was one of the first off before Mat Jackson and Rob Austin took trips across the grass, ripping the front splitter off the Focus and Audi respectively.
Andy Neate was almost certainly the story of the afternoon, putting his Team Aon Ford Focus an impressive third when his more decorated teammate Tom Chilton could only manage sixth. The Aon cars have struggled for pace so far this season – at least compared to last season, but an afternoon at Oulton Park conjured up the form of twelve months ago.
Jason Plato, unsurprisingly, was the best of newly lightened normally aspirated cars in fourth going some way to vindicate the latest technical changes.
Alex MacDowall was less fortunate down in seventh, but ended the session in the barriers on the outside of Druids after an apparent rear suspension failure pitched on right on the exit of the fast corner. Paul O'Neill was a place – and nearly two-tenths further back.
While NGTC cars held the front three places the quartet of Vauxhall Vectras struggled. Andrew Jordan – a race winner this season – was well outside the top ten with ten minutes remaining . However, the Pirtek Racing man improved to fifth. Jeff Smith in the second Pirtek run car finished the session down in eleventh. James Nash – who struggled in qualifying at Thruxton was frustrated again, ending the afternoon in ninth.
Tom Onslow–Cole was another to struggle, floundering down in 20th, 2.3 seconds adrift of the pole time.