Sam Tordoff claimed his maiden British Touring Car Championship pole position with a record-breaking lap during qualifying for the sixth round of the 2013 season at Snetterton’s 300 circuit.
The BTCC rookie demolished Frank Wrathall‘s 2012 lap record with a time of 1m56.696s early in the 30-minute session, beating his star team-mate Jason Plato in a straight fight as the MG KX Momentum Racing team secured a second front row lock-out of the season.
In baking summer weather at Norfolk, Tordoff and Plato continued to demonstrate the MG6 machine’s scathing speed that saw them top both practice sessions earlier in the day, both setting the pace in the early phase of the session once the competitive lap times began to take place.
The pair instantly went quickest with sub-1m57s efforts, but it was second practice pace-setter Tordoff this time the man who took the advantage as he pipped his team-mate Plato by 0.223s, clinching his first pole in the championship with that effort alone.
Plato tried to respond, but traffic on his later lap cost him the chance to improve as he abandoned his final effort, the MG squad still repeating their Oulton Park feat by sweeping the front row of the grid.
Tordoff told btcc.net: “I’m thrilled with that. We knew we had the pace – we showed it in the test during the summer break, but you never know how the weekend is going to pan out. This gives us the perfect opportunity for tomorrow – I’ve shown I’ve got what it takes to beat the guys around me, now it’s time to go and do it.”
Plato could at least be content with the result as, not only is the MG6 looking the package to have for the Snetterton trio of races on Sunday, but that championship leader Matt Neal had a session to forget as he could only break into the top 10 at one stage during qualifying, the Honda’s extra 45kg of success ballast hurting the three-time champion as he could only salvage 11th on the grid.
This also opens the door to Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden and nearest title rival Andrew Jordan, the Honda pair locking out row two of the grid.
Shedden, currently equal third on points with Plato and 36 behind Neal, came closest to the KX cars at the head of the field as he trailed them by 0.483s, his final lap being hampered when the S2000 Honda Civic of James Kaye – ironically in a 2011 car orignally from Shedden’s Dynamics team – caused a yellow flag when he spun out at Nelson’s.
Behind Jordan, Colin Turkington broke into the top five for eBay Motors, the BMW man sharing that third row with Aron Smith, the Airwaves Racing man’s brilliant lap coming just before a big accident that caused a stoppage after 13 minutes, the Irishman escaping injury as his Ford Focus speared across the track and into the barriers after a spin on the exit of Riches.
Upon the restart, Tordoff’s effort was not to be beaten, times remaining as they were for much of the front-runners, while the latter end of the top 10 produced some welcome names drop themselves into the list.
Adam Morgan survived a wild sideways moment of his own coming out of Riches on his way to seventh, while Jack Goff secured the best qualifying of his rookie season in BTCC so far, the reigning UK Renault Clio Cup champion finishing eighth in the Team HARD Vauxhall Insignia.
Dave Newsham made it two Toyotas in the top 10 as he sealed ninth place, while it was a welcome return to the top 10 for the Proton of Dan Welch, beating championship leader Neal in 11th ahead of Rob Austin.
The S2000 class was topped in the end by Lea Wood, the Central/Wood Racing Vauxhall Vectra driver having only ventured out in the second half of the session after an electrical problem stopped him participating in second free practice.
Wood qualified ahead of the new NGTC Chevrolet Cruze of Andy Neate which finished 22nd on its debut, but more crucially ahead of nearest Jack Sears Trophy rivals Kaye and Liam Griffin.
– Racing gets underway at noon on Sunday, and you can follow all the happenings from Snetterton on thecheckeredflag.co.uk, and on Twitter through tcfBTCC.