Tom Onslow–Cole is hoping that the rain that hampered his qualifying effort stays away on race day, after he qualified 15th on his return to Team Aon.
The 24-year-old was competing in the Global Ford Focus for the first time and admitted that he still getting to grips with it in the inclement weather conditions, leaving him unprepared for the dry qualifying session. Onslow-Cole is still confident that he can move forward on race day though if the weather holds up.
“There was also a small problem with the ride height just before the start of qualifying, which meant it was a bit of a rush with the set-up,” said Onslow-Cole. “It has taken me a while to get used to the car and I really I needed more dry running, but I can make more progress tomorrow.”
Tom Chilton fared much better, qualifying eighth, but encountered similar problems to his new teammate, and rued the wet weather that cost them valuable set-up time in the dry.
“The car was set-up really stiffly,” he explained. “We were quick in the fast stuff around the back of the circuit and the car felt great and really planted but I struggled to find grip in the slower parts and that meant I was losing time.”
“It was frustrating because we would have had time to find a perfect balance over the free practice sessions but they were wet which meant we went into qualifying a bit blind. We have found some of the key areas of the car but the first race tomorrow will be another journey of discovery for us. From there, we should be able to move forward.”
Andy Neate produced the best qualifying result of his career last time out at Oulton Park but couldn't reach the same heights this time, qualifying 18th. The 36 year old is planning to return to his set-up from two weeks ago in an effort to rediscover that form.
“The car felt so different to how it did at Oulton Park. We are learning new things with this car all the time and we put a new set-up on it but it just didn't work for me,” he said. “The car was ruining its tyres after only a couple of laps and we need to solve that problem. Reverting to what I had at Oulton Park will give me confidence to push tomorrow.”
Team Principal Mike Earle is not expecting fireworks initially on Sunday, saying that the team still have valuable data they need to collect, but contrary to his new driver, believes they may be in with a good chance if the rain returns.
“I would say that 80 percent of the changes we have made to the car have worked straight away, so that is positive. We rushed changes through to the suspension geometry and we are getting to grips with that, but we missed a lot of track time this morning because of the weather. That means that race one will be a data-gathering exercise for us. Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole will have different set-ups for the three races while Andy will go back to the Oulton Park set-up. By doing that, we are learning a great deal about the differing handling characteristics. If it rains tomorrow, though, I think we will be very strong.”