Rob Austin claimed Handy Motorsport‘s first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position after the exclusion of Subaru’s Ashley Sutton from qualifying at Donington Park.
Austin’s second spot on the grid became pole position later in the afternoon, only after Team BMR‘s Sutton was stripped of a lap record-beating effort good enough for top spot after an overboost issue was found with his Subaru Levorg GT.
Having sat 29th in the day’s second free practice session, Sutton looked to have claimed a third pole of his still-young BTCC career after a rapid effort during a hectic opening 10 minutes at Donington.
The battle was initially with Team BMWs Colin Turkington, who was first to dip under the 1m10s barrier after disposing Honda’s Matt Neal from the helm of the times.
Sutton went faster, but it counted for nothing as his time was deleted due to disrespecting track limits. The Subaru man’s second lap was not to suffer the same setback, a 1m09.412s effort enough to top the session and lower team-mate Jason Plato’s 2014 lap record in the process.
His exclusion however promotes the flying Toyota Avensis of Austin to pole position for Sunday’s opening race of the day in Leicester.
The Handy Motorsport driver’s decisive lap of 1m09.518s came in the last minute of the 30-minute session, joined on the front row of the grid by Eurotech Racing‘s Jack Goff in the best of the Honda Civic Type-R entries.
Brands Hatch race winner Tom Ingram will make it two Toyotas in the top three, joined on row two by Aiden Moffat who made a late improvement to go fourth fastest in the Laser Tools-backed Mercedes A-Class.
The Team Dynamics duo of Neal and series leader Gordon Shedden lock out row three, with Team HARD‘s Michael Epps again impressing in seventh ahead of the Ciceley Racing Mercedes of Adam Morgan.
Jeff Smith – dovetailing BTCC with MINI Challenge duties at Oulton Park over the hectic Easter weekend – was ninth fastest following qualifying’s shake-up, while Turkington’s session suffered a blow 10 minutes from the end after a water coolant leak from his BMW 125i limited him to 10th on the grid and caused trouble for numerous rivals at Old Hairpin.
Turkington’s BMW team-mates Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan start 13th and 14th respectively, while Josh Cook was top Ford in 17th for Maximum Motorsport ahead of Mat Jackson – a winner here last year.
Sixth on the timesheets, Jake Hill was another to be excluded from qualifying, joining Sutton at the back of the grid after the rear wing on his Team HARD Volkswagen CC was found to be out of alignment.
Photo: BTCC Media