Andrew Jordan clinched pole position from a manic qualifying session for the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton.
The session had a bit of everything; changing conditions – the track almost immediately proving too dry for those who selected treaded tyres – a red flag and the provisional pole sitter striped of his times before the session ended with a pair of heavy impacts at the start of the high speed section.
The session began with drivers spread across different tyre strategies – some opting to mix slick and wet tyres, other opting for either option on all four corners – but it was those who selected a full complement of slicks who found they had made the right decision as others had to pit to bring themselves into line.
With the drying track times tumbled rapidly, eclipsing Gordon Shedden's practice one time, until then the best BTCC lap of the weekend. As drivers tamed the ever-increasing levels of grip they began to find the limits of the tracks, stewards several times stepping in to delete fastest laps. Mat Jackson, Rob Collard, Jason Plato, Shedden and Jordan all had lap times taken away from up, a fact that only added to constantly changing time sheets.
After one abortive attempt to dip beneath 1:18 – three drivers having times from that bracket deleted – Jordan was the first to stay under the barrier, lapping the 2.4 track in 1:17.389. Shedden – best in both practice sessions soon followed, his time a quarter second slower than the Pirtek backed driver's.
Shedden then moved up to pole (1:16.894) with a little over half the session remaining. Jordan second heading Frank Wrathall – atop a cluster of drivers in the 1:18s. Jason Plato, fresh out of the pits trumped the Dynojet driver to take third fastest but within half a lap – at Church to be precise – the MG was off and in the trees that divide Thruxton the circuit from Thruxton the village. The rear of the MG had stepped out as Plato began to round the rapid right hander, spinning onto the grass and into the tyres, collecting front and ride-side damage.
Though Plato was unhurt the sheer distance he had put between himself and the circuit meant the recovery operation was a lengthy one with the surviving qualifiers returning to the pitlane as rain threatened to negate the 11 minutes left on the clock when flags flew.
Those survivors did not include Matt Neal. The defending champion had already ended his session, sliding into the inside barriers on the exit of the first corner – Allard – damaging the right rear suspension on his Honda Yuasa Racing entry. Meanwhile, teammate Shedden, who had been on pole when the red flag had all his times deleted for an infringement related to the Honda's turbo boost pressure.
Once the session restarted Shedden returned to the track, but struggled to re-find his earlier pace and will start the first of tomorrow's races from 18th, one place behind Rob Austin and one ahead of Neal in a lowly cluster of NGTC Civic's with Jeff Smith starting 21st.
Austin and the Rob Austin Racing team had been forced to watch both practice sessions as they waited for, and then fitted, an engine, but in the late laps Austin appeared to be getting up to pace but as the checkered flag was readied he backed the Audi hard into the tyre wall at Goodwood after spinning off at the corner, already covered by yellow flags after Andy Neate had added more work to the MG KX Momentum Racing list by crashing his car into the barriers.
Despite the evidentially tricky conditions Jordan was able to increase his advantage at the top of the standings, taking four tenths off his own benchmark with a lap of 1:16.983 to secure his second BTCC career pole, his first coming in 2009 as part of the works Vauxhall squad.
Plato – pending the relative formality of a repaired MG – will start second with Frank Wrathall who was almost certainly denied a chance at second place by some slow traffic at the chicane at the end of a late flying lap. Mat Jackson and Dave Newsham will start fourth and fifth. Like Plato Newsham's time from the first part of qualifying had to stand representative after an oil leak on the Vectra limited the Brands Hatch polesitter to just nine laps.
Rob Collard, Aron Smith, Lea Wood, Liam Griffin and Tom Onslow–Cole completed the top ten, Griffin ensuring all three of the Redstone Racing Ford Focus will start from inside the top ten.
The first BTCC race of the day is scheduled for 11:37am, the second and third contests due off at 2:22pm and 5:17pm respectively.