If Friday’s practice sessions at Silverstone were anything to go by, then qualifying for the opening round of the 2018 TCR UK Series was set to be anything but predictable. Happily, the drivers – and weather conditions – didn’t disappoint as a breathless series of events unfolded.
As qualifying got underway, track conditions were unquestionably damp as the cars kicked up plenty of surface water spray. After the first round of lap times had come in, things were looking bright for WestCoast Racing despite the gloomy Northamptonshire setting, with Dan Lloyd leading the way in front of team-mate, Andreas Backman. Lloyd’s early lead was short-lived, however, as Ollie Taylor edged in front while Aiden Moffat promptly split the two WestCoast cars to go third fastest.
One man who had flown under the radar over the course of the weekend was Darelle Wilson, but the ex-Volkswagen Racing Cup driver was about to put an end to that. Despite having had far less test running than the rest of the field, Wilson had come alive in his bright green Vauxhall Astra TCR. Lloyd had reclaimed the top position from Taylor, but then as the track began to dry further, Wilson went two hundredths of a second faster than the WestCoast Racing frontrunner.
From then on, the lap times kept on tumbling. Carl Swift was the next driver to go fastest in his Cupra TCR, which would’ve been quite a turn-up for the books if he’d managed to hold on to the top spot. He soon felt the handicap of running a DSG gearbox, though, and was bypassed by his rivals in sequential-equipped cars.
It became clear that due to the quickly drying track conditions, the last driver across the line would most likely be the fastest. Nineteen-year-old Lewis Kent would’ve been hoping for that to be him as he overhauled Swift at the top of the time sheets, with little time left on the clock. However, it was not meant to be for the youngster in the Hyundai.
With a minute left to go, every car (apart from the Alfa Romeo of Derek Palmer which was sidelined in the pit garage) hit the track to stake their claim at getting the first pole position of the season. Nobody seemed to have the pace required to overthrow Kent though, at least until Aiden Moffat crossed the line, that is. The Scotsman’s pedigree had shone through when he needed it the most.
With the current BTCC star sitting pretty at the top, the early form books seemed to have been proven right. But then in the dying embers of the session, Lloyd posted a lap time of 1:00:804s to pip Moffat right at the end. Out of nowhere, Howard Fuller also jumped up the order to go third fastest in his SWR Honda Civic FK2.
Lloyd will therefore start Race 1 (which gets underway at 2pm GMT on Sunday) from pole position, with Moffat alongside him on the front row of the grid.
With a full campaign hanging in the balance, Lloyd wasn’t underestimating the importance of a good weekend.
“It was great, mainly because of the conditions and the circumstances,” said Lloyd. “Any pole position is good, but by far it wasn’t an easy one! We put a pair of slick tyres on and went out; we dropped about three seconds a lap and people were coming in and giving up but we stuck it out and it counted when it needed to.
“There are some really quick guys out here racing this weekend, and especially with these conditions mixing things up a bit as well. The aim is to win, that’s what we’re here for and we’ll just see how we get on. I just want to say thank you to WestCoast Racing for making sure we’re always up there as well; I think they did about eight separate tyre changes during that session – they were on form.
“The aim after this weekend is to try and keep going for the remainder of this championship, so it’s important that I continue to perform for the rest of this weekend.”
As for Race 2, which starts at 4pm GMT, the order of the grid isn’t quite as straight-forward to work out. The TCR UK Series regulations mean that the starting grid for Race 2 will be designated by taking the second-best lap times from all drivers during qualifying, and then reversing the top ten. As a result, Maximum Motorsport‘s Stewart Lines will be joined by Olli Kangas on the front row of the grid.
To keep up with Sunday’s proceedings, you can live-stream both races straight from the TCR UK YouTube channel.
Silverstone Qualifying Results
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