While all the focus was on the impending championship fight between the top three Tom OnslowCole swept to pole position in his eBay Motors BMW for his first pole since Silverstone in 2010 when driving the Team Aon Ford Focus.

Though Onslow-Cole took the pole position with ten minutes remaining in the half hour session he had to survive a late challenge from Andrew Jordan, the independents’ championship ending the session as the best place Honda on the grid.

A lap of 1:31.719 around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix track seemed to have secured pole position for the BMW driver, the time nearly two tenths better than Matt Neal, the defending champion occupying second place before the first in a flurry of late improvements came from Pirtek Racing’s Jordan.

First he moved to just 0.012 off Onslow-Cole’s marker, then briefly eclipsed the BMW man’s time – leaping ahead with a time of 1:31.703, only for Onslow-Cole to respond, clinching pole on 1:31.615.

The late lap times from the front row men cut the title contenders adrift. Matt Neal will line up the best of three realistic contenders (Jordan lies within range, but a winning scenario for him would likely include multiple DNF’s for the trio ahead) in third, Rob Collard fourth in another eBay Motors M3. Collard lies 28 points down on Jordan in the Independent drivers’ championship, with a maximum 60 points on offer in tomorrow’s races.

Collard – another to set his fastest lap as he passed beneath the checkered flag – demoted Jason Plato to the third row of the grid, the MG KX Momentum Racing team leader ending the session in the Paddock Hill Bend gravel, spinning off as he began what – regardless – would have been his final lap with just seconds remaining.

Championship leader Gordon Shedden will start in seventh, meaning the three chief title contenders will start line astern down the inside of the Brands Hatch pit straight to begin the first of the three races that will decide the 2012 champion.

Plato and Shedden were split by a surprising Adam Morgan, just three thousandths slower than Plato in his Speedworks Motorsport Avensis with – even more surprisingly – BTCC debutant Aaron Williamson eighth fastest in the Team HARD. 2011 Honda Civic. Mat Jackson and Dave Newsham completed the top ten, Newsham, on pole around Brands’ Indy layout in April suffering a spin at Surtees after dropping his right-side tyres onto the grass.

Aron Smith missed out on the top ten, though he was lucky to complete the session having recovered his Redstone Racing S2000 Ford Focus from a mammoth slide down Paddock Hill. In 13th Will Bratt out-qualified newly re-liveried teammate Rob Austin (16th) for bragging rights in the rebranded www.wixracing.co.uk squad

The spinning Newsham was, however, able to continue in the session, unlike Team ES Racing teammate Chris James, who caused a brief red flag ten minutes into the session after his own spin at Surtees ended with his Vectra beached in the gravel. James will start Sunday from 22nd alongside Andy Neate, who had his own spin, his MG momentarily facing the wrong way up the pit straight and trailing a pair of plastic markers. Thankfully he pulled into pitlane, taking the markers far enough off the track to prevent a second session cessation.