Adrian Flux Subaru Racing’s James Cole has claimed a maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position after producing a fantastic late qualifying lap at Rockingham.
The 29-year-old has been in stellar form in recent weeks, having taken a series of top five finishes, but few could have expected a first ever BTCC pole for the Subaru star. Not only was Cole’s lap a stunning pace-setter, but it was also the first ever qualifying top spot for a rear-wheel drive car at Rockingham.
Eurotech Racing’s Jack Goff led the way for a significant period, but he eventually had to settle for second after Cole’s hugely impressive flying lap.
Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram vied for top spot with Goff in the early running, and seemed a likely candidate for pole position having earlier set the pace in both practice sessions. The Toyota driver was able to deliver his own solid effort during qualifying, but it was only good enough for third on the grid when the chequered flag fell.
Championship contenders Ashley Sutton and Colin Turkington were next on the timesheets, as the talented duo coped brilliantly with the ballast-laden Subaru and BMW respectively. Sutton even recovered from an earlier moment when he outbraked himself into turn two, and had to spin his Levorg back into action.
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal was seventh, ahead of MG Racing RCIB Insurance’s Josh Cook. Power Maxed Racing’s Tom Chilton showed well to seal ninth in his Vauxhall Astra, ahead of BTCC legend Jason Plato.
Reigning champion Gordon Shedden could only take 16th in his Honda Civic Type R, whilst fellow title protagonist Rob Collard struggled down in 20th in his Team BMW 125i M Sport.
The competitiveness of the session was once again there for all to see as 27 of the 32 competitors were blanketed by less than a second.
Rockingham will now host what is expected to be a pivitol triple header of races tomorrow, as the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship fight moves towards the final stretch. Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 30-race season will be contested around the 1.94-mile circuit with all the action being screened live and exclusively on ITV4 from 10:45.
James Cole said: “I did not expect that at all and until I was told at the end of the session I had no idea! I didn‘t want my team to tell me – amazing job by them, this is fantastic. I’m genuinely speechless! Given how we were in FP1 and FP2, if we got everything right for qualifying I was expecting to maybe get into the top ten but didn’t think we could do that! It always feels very, very good to be up there. Going into race one, here it’s about looking after your tyres and with a front-wheel drive car next to me, I’m looking forward to it! My confidence is up and what more of a boost can you get than that? It’s qualifying where we’ve been weaker at times and we’ve been stronger in the races, so I’m looking forward to it. Ask me in the morning how I slept!”
Jack Goff said: “It’s not too bad. I thought we had it with a minute to go but the front row’s still good. We were out of position at Knockhill so it’s nice to be up here again as it can be so difficult to pass cars when everyone’s running so closely. There are places to pass here but with a rear-wheel drive car ahead of me, I know it’ll be hard work – I know how fast they start, I had that experience last year over and over again.”
Tom Ingram said: “I’m happy to be third, albeit slightly disappointed that we couldn’t quite get onto the front row given the pace we showed in the two practice sessions. In that respect, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity but nonetheless, it puts us on the inside line and it’s a good place to start. The weight makes quite a big difference around here but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Ashley Sutton said: “I’m over the moon with that effort. I’ve got everyone behind me that needs to be behind me and as the second heaviest car on the grid (in terms of success ballast), I’m so pleased. It was the deepest I’ve ever dug for a lap. We were 0.4 seconds away at the start of the session so we made a couple of tweaks and it was just a case of giving it a big effort and seeing what we came up with. I’m over the moon for James (Cole). His driving’s come a long way this year and he’s deserved that. He’s done a sterling job.”
Colin Turkington said: “That’s pretty solid for us all things considered. Rockingham is for sure one of the more difficult places to carry ballast. We need to sit down now and try and see what we can do for the race. The car’s working really well and it has been from the get go this weekend – good balance and pretty smooth so far. The 75kgs of ballast you get for leading the championship into a race weekend is equivalent to a passenger being alongside me. As much as you try not to think about it, as soon as you get in the car, everything seems more lethargic – even though it seems like it’s only a small percentage of the overall weight of the car. It’s incredible the difference it does make. That said, I prefer to have the points on the board and carry the weight. You’re keeping an eye on the guys running at the front of the championship. I’m very aware of who I’m racing and it might be a long day ahead tomorrow, but I’ll give it my best shot.”
2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Rockingham
1 James COLE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing 1m23.187s (83.95 mph)
2 Jack GOFF (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.048s
3 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.082s
4 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.121s
5 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.195s
6 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +0.198s
7 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.263s
8 Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.295s
9 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.382s
10 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.435s
11 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +0.467s
12 Josh PRICE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.481s
13 Aron TAYLOR-SMITH (IRL) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.485s
14 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts +0.493s
15 Michael EPPS (GBR) TAG Racing +0.509s
16 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.512s
17 Dave NEWSHAM (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.518s
18 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.550s
19 Ant WHORTON-EALES (GBR) AmDtuning.
20 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.637s
21 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +0.674s
22 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.742s
23 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.789s
24 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +0.814s
25 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.825s
26 Brett SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.924s
27 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +0.970s
28 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +1.072s
29 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +1.112s
30 Will BURNS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.671s
31 Jake HILL (GBR) TAG Racing +1.796s
32 Stewart LINES (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport 2.333s