Plato halts Honda dominance with first pole of 2011

Jason Plato took his first pole position of the 2011 season with a scorching lap at Croft in qualifying this afternoon to stop Honda’s run of pole positions this year.

The reigning champion left his best run till very late in the 30 minute session to beat his main rival Matt Neal by almost four tenths of a second, as cars chopped and changed up and down the timesheets in drying conditions after rain interupted various stages of the day’s running.

BMW have always been strong at Croft, and for the majority of the session it appeared that Rob Collard would produce a shock as his strong effort early in the session saw him produce a lap of 1m25.391s that put Collard was on top of the timesheets, only to slip down to the second row late on and to an eventual third position.

WSR and Collard’s glory was eventually cut short as championship leader Neal finally showed his Honda Civic’s performance after a relatively quiet showing throughout the day to go fastest with a time of 1m25.211s.

That was then lowered further when Plato, who had rejoined the track late in the session after a quite significant change to the set-up of his car, went to the top of the timesheets with a 1m24.839s lap that secured his first pole of the season by 0.372s.

It was a good qualifying session all round for the Silverline Chevrolet team as Plato’s team-mate Alex Macdowall ran second midway through qualifying in the second Cruze before eventually securing a solid fourth place starting spot for tomorrow’s first race.

The session also hinted that Plato’s wishes from Oulton Park were answered as qualifying saw three of the top four cars all being S2000-specification cars, and Plato’s margain at the front suggested that the further 0.05 boost reduction may have had an effect on the turbo-engined cars.

Eurotech’s Andrew Jordan will head the third row of the grid as the second of the independent drivers (Collard being the first), alongside fellow Vauxhall driver James Nash for Triple Eight completing the top six.

“It should be good tomorrow” said Jordan. “We’ve got Collard ahead of us so i think he could just drive between the front row off the start but we’re fifth and ahead of the independents rivals which is good.”

Behind them was the second Honda of Gordon Shedden, who finished a surprisingly dissapointing seventh over eight tenths off Plato’s pole time, ahead of the first of the Arena Fords driven by last year’s pole-sitter and lap record holder Tom Chilton.

Chilton pipped the older specification Ford Focus of Mat Jackson to eighth place, meaning Jackson will start from the fifth row of the grid alongside the Tech Speed Chevrolet Cruze of Paul O’Neill rounding out the top ten.

The sensation of qualifying was the stunning performance of Rob Austin, who produced a spectacular – and sideways – lap that was good enough to qualify just outside the top 10 in 11th position, ahead of Tom Boardman, Nick Foster, Dave Newsham and Tom Onlsow-Cole, whose return to the Arena Ford team only ended up with 15th place at the half hour’s end.

The changable conditions early in the session caught out a couple of drivers in the session, including a spin for Collard at the second corner, while Andy Neate and Frank Wrathall also had an off at the turn three chicane. Neate would end up a lowly 18th for tomorrow, while Wrathall outqualified the third Ford driver for a strong 17th place on the grid out of the 24 starters. 

Qualifying results:

 1.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet             1m24.839s
2.  Matt Neal        Honda              + 0.372s
3.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW              + 0.552s
4.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet           + 0.708s
5.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall      + 0.736s
6.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall      + 0.817s
7.  Gordon Shedden   Honda             + 0.835s
8.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford           + 0.981s
9.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford         + 1.089s
10.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet       + 1.152s
11.  Rob Austin       Austin Audi         + 1.350s
12.  Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT     + 1.408s
13.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW            + 1.475s
14.  Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT      + 1.666s
15.  Tom Onslow-Cole  Arena Ford         + 1.693s
16.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall      + 1.785s
17.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota      + 2.124s
18.  Andy Neate       Arena Ford             + 2.307s
19.  Tony Gilham      Triple 8 Vauxhall       + 2.353s
20.  Lea Wood         Central Honda          + 2.793s
21.  Shaun Hollamby   AmD Volkswagen        + 3.376s
22.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford         + 3.617s
23.  John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 3.893s
24.  Chris James      ES Chevrolet            + 5.138s


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