An unusual qualifying session ended with Tom Ingram on top of the timing sheets, giving Toyota their first pole position as a manufacturer in their return to the sport.
Toyota and Ingram have struggled with the Corolla, taking only one win in the reverse grid race at Donnington in April but they have found speed over the summer break and Ingram was able to deliver when it mattered.
Dan Cammish set the early pace in qualifying after topping both practice sessions and was favourite to take pole position.
It was taking at least three laps to get the tyres up to temperature and into the ideal operating window. Track limits was a problem for many, with much of the field having laptimes disallowed throughout the session but it became clear that the front-wheel drive cars were very strong and the BMWs
Prior to a red flag, caused by Stephen Jelley stopping stopping multiple times out on track, Cammish was the driver to beat. Jelley was very angry that he was not allowed to compete in the rest of the session (as per the rules) having not even set a laptime
After the stoppage, Ingram lit up the timing screens and went to the top of the leaderboard with a lap record. Cammish responded but it was not quite enough, just 0.002 behind Ingram.
It was incredibly close, especially considering Snetterton is the longest track the BTCC go to at 2.97 miles in length. All of the hard work put in over the summer break, all of the setup changes, all of the decisions a driver has to make over a qualifying lap and the top two cars cannot be separated until you get to the third decimal place.
Following Cammish’s lap, the top ten did not change much in the final ten minutes of the session.
The teams wanted to save tyres, as they typically only run two sets of tyres in qualifying. Most of the field used one set before the red flag, and one set afterwards. Once the second set had no more performance, the majority of the grid parked their cars in the pitlane and watched the timing screens.
Sam Tordoff showed strong pace again with Tom Chilton just behind, both drivers were not on the same level as Ingram or Cammish.
The best of the rear-wheel drive cars was championship leader, Colin Turkington. BMW were hit by balance of performance changes to their car including ride height changes, a reduction in boost levels and changes to the centre of gravity measurements.
BMW were not strong at Snetterton last year so a fifth place for Turkington, with the full 54KG of ballast, is still an excellent performance considering the disadvantages he has been given.
Elsewhere, Jason Plato was quick and split Turkington from Andrew Jordan. Matt Neal, Adam Morgan and Rob Collard were in the top ten too with experience playing a key part in the session.
Subaru suffered a bad day as Ash Sutton could only qualify in eighteenth. The car looked very lazy in the corners, not giving Sutton the handling that he wants. Subaru have not been able to develop the car as well as they have in previous years and have been unable to extract the downforce that has been a huge strength of the Levorg.
It was an anti-climatic ending but it finished with jubilation and elation in the Toyota garage as they finally showed genuine pace for the first time in 2019.
They will look to see if they have the race pace tomorrow in what should be an exciting day of racing action.
Race One – 11.35
Race Two – 14.10
Race Three – 17.30