Having topped both free practise sessions earlier in the day, Ashley Sutton secured pole for the Croft round of the British Touring Car Championship, despite being involved in a session-ending red flag ten minutes in.
The rainy conditions which had permeated the circuit during free practice continued into qualifying, with a couple of cars venturing off into the rallycross circuit at the exit of Chicane, which was only a small indicator of what was to come.
The session was red flagged after Motorbase Ford driver Luke Davenport ran wide at the Jim Clark Esses, took a trip through the grass and broke his sump returning to the circuit, spilling oil over the circuit at the Barcroft and Sunny In corners.
“You don’t want to hit oil on a circuit as slippery as this,” explained Andrew Jordan to ITV Sport afterwards, who was also involved in the accident. “There’s no much runoff through there, and you’re on such an edge in these conditions, so you don’t have time to react. You’re just a passenger.”
After Davenport had crashed and left oil over the circuit, he was stranded on the racing line, causing a chain reaction of accidents starting with Jordan and Jeff Smith. After ending up in the tyre barriers, Smith was then hit at speed by his Eurotech team-mate Jack Goff, with Árón Taylor-Smith, Stephen Jelley and the AmD Tuning pair of Ollie Jackson and Ant Whorton-Eales following them off the circuit and into the barriers, and ricocheting off each other.
Eventual pole-sitter Sutton had also gone off the circuit and broken his Subaru’s rear suspension, but the three worst-off cars from the accident were Davenport, Smith and Taylor-Smith. The latter had been unconscious for a brief moment after the accident, but was still able to extricate himself from the car before being taken to the medical centre for checks. Davenport and Smith meanwhile had to be cut out of their cars due to the extent of the damage inflicted during the pile-up, with both being taken to the medical centre after being removed from their stricken cars, and Smith being airlifted to hospital thereafter.
The mixture of rainy conditions with the oil spilled on the track meant the session was cancelled, leaving the weekend’s pacesetter Sutton to claim pole position despite his own incident during the ensuing chaos. Colin Turkington was able to capture the other front-row slot, over half a second off the polesitter’s pace, with Mat Jackson and Gordon Shedden both within a tenth of the Northern Irishman on the second row.
Triple Eight saw one of their strongest performances of the season in qualifying, with Josh Cook rounding out the Top 5, though question marks will remain as to whether Taylor-Smith’s heavily damaged MG will be race-worthy to line up alongside his team-mate in 6th position come the first race.
The stoppage also allowed for a remarkable qualifying result for the entire Subaru BMR team. Jason Plato was able to put his Levorg 7th on the grid, just ahead of long-time sparring partner Matt Neal, and the remainder of the Top 10 was completed by Josh Price and James Cole in the remaining pair of Subarus.
The red flag did mean however that those who failed to set a competitive time before the accident would be left to start at the back. The worst affected by the stoppage was BTC Norlin Racing, with neither Dave Newsham or Chris Smiley having set a laptime before the red flag came out, leaving them with provisional starting positions of 30th and 31st. This is likely to change however with drivers who may not be able to take their grid spots on Sunday.
|1||Ashley Sutton||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||1:33.182|
|2||Colin Turkington||Team BMW||+0.561|
|3||Mat Jackson||Motorbase Performance||+0.604|
|4||Gordon Shedden||Halfords Yuasa Racing||+0.626|
|5||Josh Cook||MG Racing RCIB Insurance||+0.722|
|6||Árón Taylor-Smith||MG Racing RCIB Insurance||+0.807|
|7||Jason Plato||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||+0.829|
|8||Matt Neal||Halfords Yuasa Racing||+0.895|
|9||Josh Price||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||+0.904|
|10||James Cole||Adrian Flux Subaru Racing||+1.002|