Colin Turkington set an impressive qualifying pace at Croft to claim his second successive Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position for Silverline Subaru BMR Racing.
Turkington – dubbed the 'King of Croft' during his West Surrey Racing days – will be looking to add to his tally of ten victories at the North Yorkshire circuit tomorrow, and he'll be quietly confident of doing so after producing a commanding performance in qualifying.
The double BTCC champion controlled the session, continuing to raise the bar throughout the 30 minutes of running. Turkington kept his rivals at arm's length for the most part, and was able to extend the advantage whenever his supremacy looked in doubt.
His first benchmark lap time was a 1:24.291s, as Halfords Yuasa Racing's Matt Neal initially slipped into second. Sam Tordoff, Tom Ingram and the talented youngster Jake Hill then took turns to relegate Neal slightly down the order, but considerably worse was to follow for the Honda driver.
As the session reached mid-distance Neal's Honda Civic Type R approached Rob Collard's BMW at speed, with the latter having just left the pit lane on cold tyres. Although Collard looked to give Neal room to pass on the inside at Hawthorn's, the two cars made contact, ending both of their challenges on the spot.
"I thought there was enough space but unfortunately we just touched wheels," was Neal's take on proceedings.
"Matt misjudged the gap," claimed Collard. "I was on cold tyres and left a gap. He’s apologised, he got it wrong, but it doesn’t bring qualifying back for me. I’d shown good pace and we were looking for a potential top five – it’s very frustrating."The Clerk of the Course adjudged that Neal was in the wrong as he was handed a post-qualifying reprimand and two penalty points on his licence for his part in the incident.
Turkington was into the 1:23s bracket before the stoppage to retrieve Neal and Collard's stricken cars, but the pace quickened further after the restart.
Jeff Smith, Adam Morgan and Jason Plato were among those to recover from spins, whilst Ashley Sutton slid wildly on two separate occasions, but critically without any lasting damage to his MG6.
Incredibly the young MG Racing RCIB Insurance driver bounced back brilliantly from his double setback, as he and another BTCC rookie – Daniel Lloyd – produced late heroics. Sutton blasted into second, only to be immediately pipped by Lloyd's Eurotech Honda. The 24-year-old Yorkshireman had already performed admirably during practice, and he astonishingly backed that up by scoring his second front row start in succession.
Turkington had lowered the target further still before the finish, as Lloyd and Sutton wedged themselves between the Ulsterman and the sister Subaru of Plato.
Championship leader Tordoff had to settle for fifth, but it was still a great effort for the Team JCT600 with GardX driver in his maximum ballast-laden BMW. Jack Goff left it late to grab sixth in the Team IHG Rewards Club BMW, whilst Hunter Abbott was later still in securing his best qualifying result of seventh.
It was an encouraging display from Power Maxed Racing's Abbott, who had earlier signalled his intent to score solid points at Croft this weekend.
The Motorbase Performance pairing of Andrew Jordan and Mat Jackson were next on the timesheets, whilst WIX Racing's Adam Morgan did well to recover from ride height failure and an earlier spin to claim tenth.
Colin Turkington said: "I’ve always really enjoyed driving at Croft, no matter what the car. I usually go well here. Like at Oulton Park, we gradually improved the Subaru throughout the day, and qualifying was the first time we bolted on fresh rubber. I need to say a big ‘thank you’ to the boys for giving me a great car again, and it’s fantastic to be able to reward them with another pole position."
Daniel Lloyd said: "We took a bit of a risk at the end of the session and we only really had one lap to move up the order. It was great to really make that lap count. It’s mega to be on the front row for the second weekend on the bounce, particularly now that I’ve got a bit of experience of competing at the front in the BTCC. Racing is obviously another kettle of fish and I got caught out on a couple of occasions at Oulton, but I won’t be letting that happen again!"
Ashley Sutton said: "I made a mistake on my first lap. We then put on another new set of tyres and went back out. I was on a really good lap, which was two tenths faster than the one that eventually put me third, but I lost the car again at turn 12. I had to make quite a big save, which hurt the tyres a little bit, and then the next lap was the one that got me the grid position. That said if someone would have told me before the weekend that I would qualify third at a predominantly rear-wheel drive track I would definitely have taken it. I’m over the moon."