Mat Jackson scored his first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position in six years after blasting his Ford Focus to a new qualifying lap record at Rockingham today (5 September). It was double delight in the Motorbase Performance camp as it also represented the team’s maiden pole position in the BTCC.
A late red flag threatened Jackson’s chances of hanging on to top spot, as it had done recently at Knockhill where he was pipped at the post by Andy Priaulx, but this time he was able to hang on to take a popular result.
Aron Smith missed out on his second pole position of the season by just 0.050s as the Irishman proved to be the quickest of the Team BMR RCIB Insurance quartet.
Gordon Shedden left it extremely late to produce a fantastic lap in his ballast-laden Honda Civic Type R as he moved up to third, critically jumping his championship rivals in the process. The Scotsman’s happiness was short lived, however, as he was found to have committed a procedural infringement during qualifying having left the pitlane out of ascending pit bay order. He was later issued with a four-place grid penalty by the Clerk of the Course.
Snetterton race winner Jack Goff was subsequently promoted to third – his best ever qualifying result – as the MG showed its prowess around the Northamptonshire speed bowl.
Tom Ingram starred throughout Saturday with eye-catching runs in practice, before the Speedworks Motorsport driver again proved his pace in qualifying. Although vying for a front row starting slot at one stage, the talented young driver eventually had to settle for a fine fourth. Success ballast, or lack thereof, seemingly proved key with the top four in the final classification carrying little or no extra weight into the session.
Championship leader Jason Plato will be pleased to be starting on the inside of row three, as the double champion produced the goods yet again behind the wheel of his VW CC. Plato currently holds an 11-point gap over Shedden in the standings and he’ll be hoping to extend his advantage on Sunday.
Honda’s Matt Neal will start tomorrow’s opener from sixth, now ahead of Shedden, while Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat enjoyed a career-best run to eighth. The talented teenager is riding the crest of a wave after scoring his maiden podium last time out at Knockhill and he seems set to be mixing it with the big boys again at Rockingham.
The championship-challenging trio of Colin Turkington, Andrew Jordan and Sam Tordoff were next up in the order, whilst Power Maxed Racing’s Josh Cook pipped double Rockingham race-winner Rob Austin to 11th. Turkington’s result means he maintains the impressive feat of being the only driver to have qualified inside the top ten at every event in 2015.
It was an incredibly close session right the way through the field, with the top 19 cars being covered by just three quarters of a second.
Neal, Robb Holland and Nic Hamilton all recovered from minor-offs during the session, but Derek Palmer proved less fortunate – the Scotsman beached his machine with five minutes remaining. The late red flag to retrieve Palmer’s stricken Infiniti caused concern for provisional pole man Jackson, but only Shedden came close to matching his pace following the restart, prompting long awaited celebrations for Motorbase Performance.
The full day of racing will be broadcast live and in high definition from 10:45 on ITV4 and on the ITV BTCC website, while many thousands of fans will enjoy the action live from the impressive Rockingham grandstands. Fans around the world can follow all the action from the live timing and circuit commentary on the official btcc.net live zone.
Click here for the final classification from qualifying for Round 22 of the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.