James Cole tackled the tricky conditions at Brands Hatch GP circuit on Saturday and emerged with a Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship personal best of seventh on the grid, and admitted he could have even improved.
The United Autosports driver netted a flying lap good enough for seventh in the very final seconds of the 30-minute qualifying session held in difficult wet-dry conditions all Saturday at the Kent venue, qualifying shortened by a red flag period as Dave Newsham beached his AmD Tuning Ford Focus in the gravel trap with three minutes remaining.
Cole ended a season-highest of seventh on the grid with his time of 1m36.380s, which was 2.431s slower than pole-sitter Jason Plato of whom Cole praised when discussing his own personal best qualifying effort.
The Toyota driver afterwards told The Checkered Flag: “That was a good lap, I was pleased with that, although Jason [Plato] being that far up the road is astonishing again. That’s a separate story though and well done to him.
“Tricky, very tricky” was Cole’s response meanwhile to the conditions around the longer Grand Prix loop.
we’re all pushing to the limit and I managed to get one lap out of it good enough for seventh, so I’ll take that.”
“The sun was out, so you can blatantly see the dry and the wet patches, but as you go through the trees, suddenly it’s all dark again. You’re just sort of going in hoping and seeing what happens; I had a couple of moments, we’re all pushing to the limit and I managed to get one lap out of it good enough for seventh, so I’ll take that.”
The bigger problem for Cole during the scramble to pick the right tyres at the right times proved a more distracting one, with radio problems limiting his options and rendering him the catalyst to his own decisions.
“My radio wasn’t working in my car”, added Cole quite alarmingly. “I didn’t know anything, so when we were on wets it was a case of ‘do I make the decision?’…’Do I wait for my pit board?'”
He added that his best lap could have then been improved had the red flags not ended proceedings early than planned, saying: “Luckily it paid off in the end and I got one lap, which was my best lap time, then the second lap I went a bit quicker but obviously the red flag came out – I don’t know how many other people got hindered.
“You’ve got to take your luck when it comes.”
Cole, currently with five points to his name and a fastest lap from the tricky Oulton Park meeting in 2014, added that the trip towards the front end of the field is one that he expects to enjoy more so than the lower half of the action.
He added: “I’m hoping that it’s going to be a tamer and calmer race than it is at the back to be honest. If the car has got the pace to be there, then I’ll make sure it stays there. We’ve just got to see what we can do.
“I’d hope to think that we can stay there. Hopefully racing at the front will be a lot easier than being at the back. I think dry weather would be easier for everyone, but I can’t imagine what it will be like – it’s the last race at Brands, you never know!”
The Toyota man’s first full BTCC season has been filled with thrills and spills, heavy shunts at Donington and Silverstone among the low points. Cole heavily praised his United Autosports squad for their efforts in 2014, and feels more confident in the season finale so far.
“United Autosports have done a great job all year. The package hasn’t been the fastest, but I know that they’ve got the capability and I’ve got the confidence in them and in myself.”