Reigning champion Colin Turkington secured his second pole position of the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after getting the better of his Team BMR stable-mates Aron Smith and Jason Plato.
The fledgling squad has been in fine form throughout the season but this was arguably its finest moment in a timed session as it scooped its first ever 1-2-3 finish. In fact, it was the first top three qualifying clean sweep in the BTCC since Vauxhall achieved the feat back in 2007.
The session commenced in fast and fierce fashion with no fewer than eight drivers immediately dipping under last year’s qualifying lap record, set by Plato in the MG6.
It was Jordan’s MG that led the field in Free Practice earlier today and he was back at the top during the early stages of qualifying, before he was quickly relegated by first Plato, and then Smith.
Honda’s Matt Neal and the West Surrey Racing duo of Andy Priaulx and Sam Tordoff were in the top six fight in the opening ten minutes, which concluded with a spin for Nic Hamilton’s Audi S3.
There was another wild moment shortly after as Stewart Lines spun his Toyota Avensis immediately in front of the identical machine of Kieran Gallagher. Both cars were able to continue without damage while the action at the front was hotting up again for the final flurry of timed laps.
Turkington hit the top with eight minutes remaining, and without setting fastest times in any of the three sectors round the 2.99-mile circuit. The Ulsterman’s consistency on what is the longest layout on the calendar proved vital, and although Smith fought back to improve his own time on the next tour, it wasn’t enough to dislodge Turkington.
The final threat came from Triple Eight MG’s Jack Goff, who set the very fastest time in the opening sector. With all eyes on the talented young gun he unfortunately locked-up at the Complex and ran wide on to the grass. The moment was gone for Goff as he seemingly pushed his car beyond its boundaries of performance and he eventually had to settle for seventh.
So it was joy in the pitlane for Turkington who had long since parked his car, and he was quickly joined by both Smith and Plato as celebrations kicked off in the Team BMR garages.
The battle for fourth on the grid was no less frenetic with just 0.006s separating three legendary tin-top champions. Jordan’s MG took the honours ahead of Neal’s Honda Civic Type R, whilst Priaulx completed the top six. Tordoff dropped to eighth, behind Goff, by the finish.
The Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram took ninth ahead of WSR’s Rob Collard, with the latter having been tenth in all three timed sessions during the day.
Notable absentees from the top ten included returnee Mat Jackson and championship leader Gordon Shedden. Jackson’s Motorbase Performance Ford Focus had set the pace during summer testing at Snetterton but he could only manage 14th today after citing a ‘lack of grip at the rear’ of his machine.
Shedden, whose previous lowest qualifying position of the season was seventh, finished 16th in qualifying at the Norfolk track. Mechanical steering woes blunted his challenge and the Scotsman will now have it all to do from the eighth row of the grid and with maximum ballast on-board his Honda Civic Type R.