Reigning champion Ash Sutton topped team-mate Jason Plato as the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing duo produced a front row lockout during qualifying for Round 13 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Croft.
Sutton’s Subaru Levorg set the pace early on and the 24-year-old then bettered his own effort mid-session to clock a 1m24.222s lap time, which was enough to secure his first pole position since Croft last year. Plato was the closest to challenging his younger stablemate but eventually fell short by 0.156s, as the benefits of a ballast-free rear-wheel drive machine came to the fore.
This was further evidenced when BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan completed a late flying lap to take third away from Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Sam Tordoff. Fourth still represented a good result for Tordoff as the Yorkshireman brought his Ford Focus home as the first front-wheel drive car on the timesheets. In a field that includes four Yorkshireman, Tordoff also earned bragging rights over the other local drivers at his home circuit.
Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram had shown a return to form throughout the day and he confirmed the pace of the Toyota Avensis by claiming fifth ahead of the Team BMW pairing of Colin Turkington and Rob Collard. Turkington in-particular will be extremely pleased with his top six result, having qualified his BMW 125i M Sport with maximum success ballast on board. Both of the Bavarian manufacturer’s experienced drivers had topsy turvy sessions, however, as Collard spun wildly going into the Complex early on whilst Turkington ran off-track through Tower on his final timed effort.
Stephen Jelley made it four BMWs in the top ten as the Team Parker Racing driver scored a season’s best qualifying result, at a circuit that has historically suited the 1 Series.
Josh Cook in the Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall and Rob Austin in the HMS Racing Alfa Romeo ran higher up the order in the first half of the session, but eventually had to settle for ninth and tenth respectively.
Halfords Yuasa Racing endured a challenging run with Matt Neal down in 15th and his rookie team-mate Dan Cammish in 20th. Three-time champion Neal also had to pit late on with damaged bodywork following contact. Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat was also in the wars as he went off at high speed in the closing moments, with his Mercedes A-Class eventually coming to rest after hitting the barrier.
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will take place at Croft today with many fans due to attend the North Yorkshire venue with many many more watching all the action live on ITV4 from 11:15.
Ash Sutton said: “I would have liked to have got pole a bit earlier on in the season to be honest, but we’re here now. Croft is obviously a rear-wheel drive track, so with both Jason and myself being ballast-free, we kind of expected this – it makes our life a little bit easier. The BMR Racing boys have done a lot of work back at base to try to find the missing ingredient. There are cars around us that are still quicker through the speed traps and we’re still not quite there yet in my opinion, but Adrian Flux Subaru Racing have done a brilliant job.”
Jason Plato said: “A front row lockout is a really good result considering the way our season has gone so far. We’ve made a little step forward with the engine since Oulton Park, and it does feel quite different now. The big thing for me is that I’ve now got balance and I’ve got an engine, and now we’ve got a car that’s competitive, we’re back in the game. There’s no question that Croft flatters rear-wheel drive cars, but I think you should see us back at the pointy end a bit more often. My tail is up again, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow… I want to be spraying that champagne.”
Andrew Jordan said: “I’m really happy with that. It puts us in a strong position to score some good points tomorrow, and hopefully we can come out of this weekend in good shape championship-wise. I think we all expected the Subarus to be fast here, and I’m sure both Ash [Sutton] and Jason [Plato] will be feisty in the races. I’ll try to keep my nose clean and get stuck into when I need to. I’ve finished inside the top six in each of the last six races, which to me is a championship-challenging performance. I’m feeling good and I’ve got some momentum behind me, so now we need to keep that momentum going.”
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Croft Circuit
1 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing 1m24.222s (90.83 mph)
2 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.156s
3 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.173s
4 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team GardX Racing with Motorbase +0.203s
5 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.442s
6 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.450s
7 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.476s
8 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +0.669s
9 Josh COOK (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +0.671s
10 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing +0.734s
11 Dan LLOYD (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.804s
12 James COLE (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.848s
13 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +0.860s
14 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +0.882s
15 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.920s
16 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +0.983s
17 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.987s
18 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +1.036s
19 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +1.039s
20 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +1.077s
21 Josh PRICE (GBR) Autoglym Academy Racing +1.096s
22 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +1.098s
23 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +1.165s
24 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +1.218s
25 Jake HILL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +1.273s
26 Jack GOFF (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +1.274s
27 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +1.395s
28 Brett SMITH (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +1.465s
29 Michael CAINE (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +1.478s
30 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +1.752s
31 Tom BOARDMAN (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +2.070s
32 Sam SMELT (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +2.096s