Frank Wrathall has taken his first ever Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position at Snetterton.
The 25-year-old shaded Jason Plato by 15-thousandths of a second to earn first place on the grid, with Dave Newsham backing up his strong practice form by qualifying a brilliant third in his ES Racing Vauxhall Vectra S2000.
Defending champion Matt Neal was down in seventh but his teammate Gordon Shedden – whose car caught fire in the first practice and was stuck in the garage for the second session – endured more problems.
He will start from the back after his Honda Civic stopped on circuit, bringing out a red flag, before restarting and crawling back into the pits, where it stayed for the rest of qualifying.
Andrew Jordan joins Newsham on the second row while impressive performances from Adam Morgan and Dan Welch see them fill out row three. Neal, Lea Wood, Tom Onslow-Cole and Jeff Smith make up the rest of the top ten.
Wrathall headed the timesheets early on, the top four blanketed by a quarter of a second. For a short while it look as though Plato would repeat his Free Practice 1 feat as he took over top spot from Wrathall and went four tenths clear, but then his rivals rallied.
The DynoJet Avensis regained top spot by 0.015s – a margin he’d keep till the flag – and then Newsham went quicker, missing out on pole by just 0.054s, the Scot delighted nonetheless with the unexpectedly competitive Vectra.
Behind them, Morgan – enjoying a very impressive day in Norfolk – moved ahead of Welch, as did morning pacesetter Jordan, who may well be disappointed to squeeze on to the second row of the grid.
Mat Jackson and Redstone Racing were delighted to qualify the brand new NGTC Ford Focus ST in 16th in what is the car’s shakedown. His teammate Aron Smith, running the S2000 model, was 11th, three-quarters of a second quicker. Team Principal Dave Bartum said: “It performed faultlessly and didn’t miss a beat – which, considering it was only finished at 3am this morning and saw daylight for the first time when it arrived here at 6am, is pretty damn good going!”
But it was Wrathall who was left with the biggest smile following his “unbelievable” qualifying, after labelling the morning “dreadful”, his maiden pole also Toyota’s first in the series since 1993.