Plato denies Shedden with late Snetterton pole position

Jason Plato secured his second consecutive pole position of the season with a fantastic lap in the dying moments of qualifying to snatch the top spot from Gordon Shedden at Snetterton this afternoon.

The reigning champion looked set to start from third position after Honda Racing’s Shedden put in a strong benchmark lap time of 1m58.716s to jump to the top of the timesheets ahead of the Chevrolet duo of last year’s pole-sitter Alex MacDowall and his team-mate Plato two tenths back.

However in the last two minutes of the 30-minute session, Plato put together one quick final lap of the new ‘300’ circuit that leapt the Chevrolet driver to the front ahead of Shedden with a time of 1m15.691s, a mere 0.025s faster than the Scot who had to settle for a front row spot.

The pair’s team-mates filled up the second row of the grid as MacDowall couldn’t quite match his Saturday performance of last year, but was a constant threat for the pole position. After being quicker than team-mate Plato on their first run, he finished the session third after a minor fuel leak-related fire in the pits disrupted him in the closing stages.

MacDowall will start ahead of championship leader Matt Neal who had a quiet but solid qualifying, running fourth for the majority of the session where he remained, the pair a further two tenths off Plato’s time.

Behind them, James Nash showed encouraging signs that he and his Triple Eight team have recovered some of their pace after a difficult round at Croft with fifth on the grid, ahead of Arena Ford’s Tom Chilton in sixth.

The biggest surprise of the qualifying session was the stunning performance of Frank Wrathall, who qualified the NGTC Toyota Avensis in a fabulous seventh place on the grid with a lap time only 0.393s off the pole position time set by Plato, a career best for the rookie and his Dynojet team. Wrathall actually matched the time of Chilton as well, but will start behind the Ford driver as Chilton set his time first.

Another surprise was Dave Newsham’s performance in the Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon, joining Wrathall on the fourth row of the grid with the eighth-best time of the session, out-qualifying winner here in 2003, Paul O’Neill (Techspeed Chevrolet) and Ford’s Tom Onslow-Cole who rounded out the top 10.

It was a dissappointing qualifying for two of the championship contenders – and indeed the two Independent championship leaders – as Andrew Jordan was bumped down to 11th place by the end of the session, 0.867 off of Plato’s pole time, while Mat Jackson was over a second off the pace and could only manage 13th in the Motorbase Ford, the pair sandwiching Rob Collard’s BMW in 12th.

Elsewhere, Rob Austin will start 14th after he almost beat Jackson’s time, and the session also marked the qualifying debut of Martin Byford, who couldn’t carry his stellar top 10 practice form into qualifying and will start his first BTCC race from 19th on the grid.

He will be joined by another man making his debut in the championship, Dan Welch, who qualified a solid 20th on the 26-car grid for tomorrow’s race in the sleek brand-new Proton Gen-2 racer. The Proton, run by Welch Motorsport is the fourth NGTC to enter the series this season, and after some early teething troubles in practice the car ran smoothly throughout the session without serious drama in it’s first ever qualifying, only 2.2s off the pace.

The grid is rounded up by Chris James and a dissappointed Tom Boardman, who will start last on the grid for the first race tomorrow afternoon after failing to set a time.

Qualifying results:

 1.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet             1m58.691s                                
2.  Gordon Shedden   Honda              + 0.025s                      
3.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet            + 0.217s                      
4.  Matt Neal        Honda               + 0.248s                      
5.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall      + 0.376s                      
6.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford             + 0.393s                      
7.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota         + 0.393s                      
8.  Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT     + 0.561s                      
9.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 0.729s                      
10.  Tom Onslow-Cole  Arena Ford           + 0.824s                      
11.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall       + 0.867s                      
12.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW               + 0.973s                      
13.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford         + 1.118s                      
14.  Rob Austin       Austin Audi            + 1.240s                      
15.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall       + 1.335s                      
16.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW               + 1.470s                      
17.  Tony Gilham      Triple 8 Vauxhall      + 1.612s                      
18.  Andy Neate       Arena Ford              + 1.665s                      
19.  Martyn Byford    AmD Volkswagen       + 1.840s                    
20.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton            + 2.219s                    
21.  John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 3.426s                      
22.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford         + 3.683s                      
23.  Lea Wood         Central Honda           + 4.730s                      
24.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota     + 5.853s                    
25.  Chris James      ES Chevrolet          No time                                  
26.  Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT   No time



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