Chilton takes first pole for new Ford Focus as underdogs shine in KnockhillPosted: September 3, 2011 | |
After a solid performance in the damp free practice sessions earlier in the day, Chilton went one better in the dry half-hour qualifying session by setting a series of stunning laps around the twisty 1.3 mile circuit in Scotland, dipping under the 53s mark on his way to setting pole position for the first time this year after a trying development season in the new Focus.
The two Honda Civics of local favourite Gordon Shedden and his team-mate Matt Neal set the early benchmark times of the session, before Chilton then bettered their times by two tenths with a lap of 53.123s just before the first of three red flag stoppages occurred to move the Chevrolet Cruze of John George which had ground to a halt at the chicane.
Once the session had restarted, the battle between the Hondas and Chilton again started to fall the way of the Arena Ford man as he set a series of quick lap times that lowered his time to a 53.038 while Neal, driving with a broken hand from a martial arts incident, matched his team-mate Shedden’s time for second place before another stoppage.
This time it was for Andy Neate, who suffered his third off in the day after losing the back end of his Ford coming out of the second corner and sliding off into the gravel.
The action was stopped for a third time shortly after as Paul O’Neill ran wide at the first corner and spun through the mud, after which Chilton killed off the chances of his rivals with a stunning lap of 52.999s for his first pole since Donington last year, 0.202s ahead of second place man Neal.
Behind them, nobody could have predicted the second row of the grid as Rob Austin briefly took third position in the Audi A4 in the dramatic dying moments of the session, before being pipped by Frank Wrathall who continued from his giant-killing Snetterton performance with a brilliant third place on the grid, the best qualifying by far for the NGTC (next generation touring car) Toyota Avensis.
Austin’s equally spectacular effort was good enough for a personal best fourth place on the grid, all coming at the expense of Shedden who slipped to a somewhat disappointing fifth place for his home round, in a tight session where the gap between second-placed Neal and his team-mate Shedden was less than a tenth of a second in the end.
Jason Plato was the best of the normally-aspirated cars in sixth place as he struggled with the brake bias setup of his Chevy Cruze after a mistake at Scotsman’s corner on his first lap, eventually ending the session 0.3s slower than Chilton.
Championship leader Mat Jackson will start from row four of the grid in seventh place, an impressive performance considering carrying the maximum 45kg penalty ballast for leading the series, ahead of the second works Chevy of Alex MacDowall, Chilton’s team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole and Rob Collard for BMW rounding out the top 10.
The Vauxhall drivers struggled in qualifying, Andrew Jordan ending the session in 11th place just ahead of Triple Eight Racing’s James Nash in 12th.
The kerbing around the circuit had been modified and raised significantly to stop corner cutting, which provided some spectacular viewing for the fans as many drivers – including Chilton himself – scared themselves with some two-wheeled acrobatics through Clark Curve and the chicane.
Plato, Jackson and Onslow-Cole were all to be caught out on fast laps by over-attacking the kerbing, while Chris James proved the most entertaining as he even came close to rolling his ES Racing Chevrolet Lacetti. Aron Smith was another, the Irishman qualifying 15th for his BTCC debut.
1. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 52.999s
2. Matt Neal Honda + 0.202s
3. Frank Wrathall Dynojet Toyota + 0.223s
4. Rob Austin Rob Austin Audi + 0.228s
5. Gordon Shedden Honda + 0.299s
6. Jason Plato Chevrolet + 0.339s
7. Mat Jackson Motorbase Ford + 0.378s
8. Alex MacDowall Chevrolet + 0.423s
9. Tom Onslow-Cole Arena Ford + 0.473s
10. Rob Collard WSR BMW + 0.581s
11. Andrew Jordan Eurotech Vauxhall + 0.598s
12. James Nash Triple 8 Vauxhall + 0.708s
13. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT + 0.736s
14. Paul O’Neill Tech-Speed Chevrolet + 0.797s
15. Aron Smith Triple 8 Vauxhall + 0.829s
16. Daniel Welch Welch Proton + 0.868s
17. Nick Foster WSR BMW + 0.887s
18. Martin Byford AmD Volkswagen + 1.125s
19. Jeff Smith Eurotech Vauxhall + 1.252s
20. Andy Neate Arena Ford + 1.335s
21. Dave Newsham Special Tuning SEAT + 1.416s
22. Liam Griffin Motorbase Ford + 1.778s
23. John George Tech-Speed Chevrolet + 2.426s
24. Chris James ES Chevrolet + 2.905s