Colin Turkington has scored Silverline Subaru BMR Racing’s first pole position in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after the Ulsterman set a stunning pace at Oulton Park.
An exciting session at the 2.26-mile Cheshire track commenced with Turkington and team-mate Jason Plato initially holding a one-two for the Japanese marque.
The fightback came from a whole host of challengers, however, which saw Plato demoted down the order by the likes of Gordon Shedden’s Honda and Ashley Sutton’s MG.
Most of the field pitted shortly after the midway stage of the 30 minute session – as is relatively normal procedure in the BTCC – in preparation for a final flying run on fresh Dunlop rubber.
Sam Tordoff was up to second as the session neared its end in his Team JCT600 with GardX BMW, before rookie Daniel Lloyd amazingly pipped him in the Eurotech Honda.
Challengers came and went, and despite the incredibly close gaps throughout the top ten, nobody could dislodge double BTCC champion Turkington from top spot.
The result represents a huge upturn in fortunes for the manufacturer-backed Subaru squad – impressively bouncing back from a disappointing weekend at Thruxton last time out. Recurring fuel system issues – first experienced at Donington Park – forced the team to make the difficult decision to withdraw from action on safety grounds from last month’s meeting in Hampshire, but new components, engine modifications and a two-day test have seemingly had the desired effect on the all-new Levorg model here at Oulton Park.
Lloyd grabbed a brilliant second in qualifying, just 0.019 seconds shy of pole-sitter Turkington, providing Eurotech Racing with its first front row spot since Thruxton in 2014. Tordoff took third ahead of the earlier pace-setting Toyota of Tom Ingram, while reigning champion Shedden had to settle for fifth – though just 0.001 seconds behind Ingram’s Speedworks machine. The extraordinarily close session saw the top five separated by less than a tenth, with less than a second covering the top 22 cars.
Plato’s Subaru had nipped back past Sutton’s MG on the final run with the two coming home in sixth and seventh respectively, whilst the ballast-laden Honda Civic Type R of Matt Neal was a credible eighth. Aron Smith and Josh Cook rounded out the top ten.
A number of usual front-runners endured challenging sessions, including the two BMWs of Jack Goff and joint standings leader Rob Collard that had to make do with 15th and 16th respectively. Motorbase Performance also had a tough time with Andrew Jordan taking 12th and Mat Jackson down in 25th.
Arguably the most surprising performance in qualifying came from WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan, who ended up way down in 28th position. Morgan claimed a podium hat-rick at Thruxton last month – scoring more points than any other driver – but he’ll be looking to forget a dismal day here, citing balance issues in his Mercedes A-Class.
Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship are being screened live and exclusively on ITV4 from 11:15am tomorrow.
Colin Turkington said: “We had to work really hard for that! This is the jump we had hoped for. Admittedly, Oulton Park favours rear-wheel drive a little bit more, but even at Thruxton I could feel we had made a step forward with the chassis. We then had a productive test at Pembrey where we made further progress, and I’m delighted to have come here and secured Subaru’s first BTCC pole. I’m thrilled for all the BMR guys who have put in a tremendous amount of hard work.”
Daniel Lloyd said: “That was mega! I’m still getting used to these tyres and learning how to extract the most from them. My first two runs weren’t ideal, and then on my third run, I messed up the first turn and missed the apex completely. I was tempted to abandon the lap, but then from Cascades on, I nailed every single corner. It wasn’t a knife-edge lap by any means – it was all fairly neat and tidy and accurate. I’m a bit gutted about the mistake in the first corner because it almost certainly cost me pole, but to be on the front row in only my second time out with Eurotech Racing is unbelievable. I’m over the moon with that.”
Sam Tordoff said: “I’m really happy. It was a difficult session – I was struggling with the balance and the car wasn’t feeling 100%. We made some changes and now we’re up at the front, which is critical around here. We were quietly confident prior to the session – we’re not carrying much ballast and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We have another rear-wheel drive car ahead of us though, in the Subaru of Colin Turkington, so we’ll see how we go.”
Tom Ingram said: “I can’t deny I’m disappointed, because the car definitely had the pace for pole but we just didn’t link it all together. We had an issue with the brakes at the start of the session which the boys worked frantically to rectify, and then none of our laps fell into place, some of which was due to traffic and some me not getting it right. We knew it was going to be extremely close because it always is here. The speed was there and we should have done it, but hopefully we can turn it aroundtomorrow…”
Gordon Shedden said: “I think the ballast affected the car a little bit everywhere around the lap; if you look at the cars in front of me on the grid, they either had no ballast on-board or are rear-wheel drive. We possibly didn’t hook it up quite perfectly, but I think we’re in a good place. It’s difficult to overtake round here, but that’s never been for a lack of trying in the past and it won’t be tomorrow either!”
2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Oulton Park:
1 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing 1m26.264s (92.89mph)
2 Daniel LLOYD (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.019s
3 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.051s
4 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.078s
5 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.079s
6 Jason PLATO (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.102s
7 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.175s
8 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.226s
9 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +0.229s
10 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.379s
11 Hunter ABBOTT (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.462s
12 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.485s
13 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.487s
14 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.545s
15 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +0.575s
16 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.624s
17 Jake HILL (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +0.639s
18 James COLE (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.690s
19 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.712s
20 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.721s
21 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.875s
22 Michael EPPS (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +0.947s
23 Warren SCOTT (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +1.025s
24 Daniel WELCH (GBR) Goodstone Racing +1.105s
25 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +1.115s
26 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD Tuning.com+1.205s
27 Adam MORGAN (GBR) WIX Racing +1.390s
28 Kelvin FLETCHER (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +1.485s
29 Alex MARTIN (GBR) Dextra Racing +1.607s
30 Chris SMILEY (GBR) TLC/RCIB Insurance Racing +2.098s
31 Mark HOWARD (GBR) BKR +2.332s
32 Stewart LINES (GBR) Maximum Motorsport +2.876s