Rookie Ashley Sutton battled the elements in a breathtaking qualifying session at Donington Park to claim his first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position.
Having impressed in both Media Day at the very same Leicester circuit last month and in the opening meeting of the season recently at Brands Hatch, Renault UK Clio Cup champion Sutton stole the headlines as he lead an all-MG front row in Saturday’s 30-minute encounter.
It wasn’t a session without drama however, starting with a damp surface underfoot following a mid-afternoon hailstorm that hit Donington Park in the build-up.
The drying track did eventually see several drivers switch to slick tyres in the final 10 minutes, before a red flag interruption set up a crescendo when Andrew Jordan‘s Motorbase Ford Focus ST slid off the road at the Old Hairpin.
The five-lap dash that followed saw slicks become the order of the day, Mat Jackson the man moving to the top of the times in the second Motorbase Focus.
However, yellow flags were soon waving when Jackson threw his car off the road himself at McLeans on his final tour, exploiting a chance for Triple Eight to steal the show as their drivers completed their laps without disruption.
In only his second ever BTCC qualifying session, it was Sutton who grabbed pole position with a time of 1m11.729s, beating team-mate Josh Cook by almost half a second as both demoted Jackson to third.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden planted his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type-R fourth on the grid ahead of Brands Hatch winner Tom Ingram, Rob Collard best of the rear-wheel drive cars in sixth.
Aron Smith planted Team BKR‘s Volkswagen CC seventh ahead of Jack Goff‘s BMW and championship leader, Matt Neal, the top 10 rounded out by the flying Team HARD Toyota Avensis of Jake Hill.
Best Team BMR Subaru Levorg was next up in 11th, Colin Turkington 2.4s adrift while Jason Plato starts 18th.
Unable to restart under BTCC regulations after his off, Jordan fell down the timesheets to an eventual starting position of 25th for Sunday’s opening race, which starts at 11:37am.