Newsham stuns rivals with first BTCC pole position

Dave Newsham had a dream start to his new life with underdog squad ES Racing by beating the reigning champion Matt Neal to pole position for the first round of the season at Brands Hatch.

The Inverness driver – who raced BMW and SEAT machinery last year – proved that the pace he showed to top the pre-season media day test was no fluke, moving to the top of the timesheets very early in the session with a time of 48.483s in his new turbocharged Vauxhall Vectra, one which would never be touched for the rest of the half-hour session.

The West Surrey Racing BMW drivers challenged for the top sopt early on, but it was the experienced Rob Collard that came closest to the top spot, running second for most of the session before being bumped to the second row in the dying seconds.

The man responsible for this was reigning champion Neal, who finally got a handle on the Honda Racing team’s new NGTC Civic to record a front row slot in second place, 0.132s of Nesham’s stellar effort.

Behind Collard, Andrew Jordan continued his fine form in the new Civic for Eurotech, reaching fourth spot on the grid after an early half spin at Surtees, although he was controversially blocked by Newsham’s team-mate Chris James on his last flying lap of the session which lead to an exchange of words on the back straight between the pair.

Tom Onslow-Cole was fifth on his return to the WSR BMW squad, ahead of Jason Plato who punched above his weight somewhat in the MG6 that Triple Eight have had virtually no testing with prior to qualifying.

Behind them were the rapid NGTC regulars Rob Austin (Audi) and Frank Wrathall (Toyota), who were helped by the second Honda of Gordon Shedden having his fifth place time deleted for overstepping Graham Hill Bend track limits. Shedden at least will still start ninth, a consolation after a nightmare start to the day with electrical gremlins.

Nick Foster rounds out the top 10 ahead of Redstone Ford’s Mat Jackson in 11th, and Jeff Smith who recovered from a spin in his Eurotech Honda.

Adam Morgan was a solid 13th on his Speedworks Toyota debut, while further back Ollie Jackson had a spin at Graham Hill Bend, and Andy Neate was a unspectacular 19th in the second Triple Eight MG.

John Thorney’s weekend was ruined by a shunt in first practice however when he nosed his new Vauxhall Insignia into the Paddock Hill Bend tyrewall.

Qualifying results:

1.  Dave Newsham     ES Vauxhall        48.483s

2.  Matt Neal        Dynamics Honda     48.615s    + 0.132s

3.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW            48.698s    + 0.215s

4.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Honda     48.698s    + 0.215s

5.  Tom Onslow-Cole  WSR BMW            48.765s    + 0.282s

6.  Jason Plato      Triple 8 MG        48.868s    + 0.385s

7.  Rob Austin       Austin Audi        48.883s    + 0.400s

8.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota     48.963s    + 0.480s

9.  Gordon Shedden   Dynamics Honda     49.022s    + 0.539s

10.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW            49.078s    + 0.595s

11.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford     49.100s    + 0.617s

12.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Honda     49.166s    + 0.683s

13.  Adam Morgan      Speedworks Toyota  49.176s    + 0.693s

14.  Aron Smith       Motorbase Ford     49.257s    + 0.774s

15.  Lea Wood         Wood Vauxhall      49.421s    + 0.938s

16.  Ollie Jackson    AmD Volkswagen     49.604s    + 1.121s

17.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford     49.623s    + 1.140s

18.  Chris James      ES Vauxhall        49.861s    + 1.378s

19.  Andy Neate       Triple 8 MG        50.126s    + 1.643s

20.  Tony Gilham      Gilham Honda       50.617s    + 2.134s

21.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota  52.301s    + 3.818s

22.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton       1m02.449s  + 13.966s

23.  John Thorne      Thorney Vauxhall


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