Plato snatches late Oulton pole position from Neal

Championship leader Jason Plato snatched pole position from Honda’s Matt Neal in the dying stages of a thrilling qualifying session at Oulton Park this afternoon.

The Triple Eight driver had topped both of the morning’s practice sessions and entered qualifying as the hot tip for pole, but the session was a tight one in the slightly damp and cold track conditions.

Thruxton pole sitter Andrew Jordan was the first man to again show his speed in the Eurotech Honda Civic by leaping to the top of the timesheets, only to be immediately bumped from the spot by BMW’s Rob Collard.

Plato was the next to make an improvement as he went to the top despite a wide exit onto the grass at the final corner, before Jordan then went even quicker with an exuberant effort of a 1m23.353s, while Plato fell to fourth behind Collard and Neal.

With the track conditions starting to become more managable, drivers began to push harder and it was the Hondas that came to the fore as Neal and Shedden – returning to the track where they infamously took each other out at the last bend in race two last year – jumped to the top, Neal going to pole with a 1m27.424s lap.

With Neal, Shedden and Jordan heading a Honda lockout of the top three spots, they looked set to stay there as conditions at Cascades corner especially became trickier, Jordan using all of his Rallycross experience to brilliantly save a monster slide while on another fast lap.

He wasn’t the only one as Plato half-spun exiting the fast left-hander and splashed the MG6 through the wet mud, followed by Jeff Smith and Nick Foster also leaving the road at the same corner.

Shedden was next to have a big sideways moment on the damp patches, and he was unable to improve on what would be fifth place on the grid for the Scot who lies second in the championship.

His rival Plato then timed his final lap to perfection and in the closing minutes of session he snatched the pole position off reigning champion Neal – who had improved into the 26s bracket – with a sterling effort of 1m26.872s, claiming his and MG’s second pole of the season.

Behind the exciting front row of Plato and Neal, WSR’s Collard put the turbocharged BMW third on the grid, ahead of the Hondas of Jordan for Eurotech and Shedden for Dynamics/Yuasa Racing.

Another BMW was sixth in the hands of Tom Onslow-Cole, while behind them the fourth row of the grid was filled by the surprise packages of the session, Frank Wrathall (Toyota) and Daniel Welch, the latter showing strong pace in the Proton Persona.

Dave Newsham had a steady run to ninth in the ES Racing Vauxhall Vectra, while the top 10 was rounded up by Mat Jackson who was briefly in the top five despite it being a damage limitation after a crash in second practice at Cascades damaged the front of the Redstone Ford.

Andy Neate showed improvements on his way to 12th, Lea Wood ran as high as sixth but ended the session 14th, while Will Bratt qualified the Rob Austin Racing Audi 18th for his BTCC debut ahead of Jeff Smith and Ollie Jackson, the latter having also crashed his Volkswagen Golf in second practice in the same place as namesake Mat.

Qualifiyng results:

1.  Jason Plato      MG                 1m26.872s

2.  Matt Neal        Honda              1m26.949s  + 0.077s

3.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW            1m26.989s  + 0.117s

4.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Honda     1m27.051s  + 0.179s

5.  Gordon Shedden   Honda              1m27.457s  + 0.585s

6.  Tom Onslow-Cole  WSR BMW            1m27.503s  + 0.631s

7.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota     1m27.659s  + 0.787s

8.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton       1m27.914s  + 1.042s

9.  Dave Newsham     ES Vauxhall        1m27.969s  + 1.097s

10.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford     1m28.033s  + 1.161s

11.  Aron Smith       Motorbase Ford     1m28.093s  + 1.221s

12.  Andy Neate       MG                 1m28.125s  + 1.253s

13.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW            1m28.155s  + 1.283s

14.  Lea Wood         Central Vauxhall   1m28.178s  + 1.306s

15.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford     1m28.241s  + 1.369s

16.  Adam Morgan      Speedworks Toyota  1m28.357s  + 1.485s

17.  Tony Gilham      Gilham Honda       1m28.521s  + 1.649s

18.  Will Bratt       Austin Audi        1m28.850s  + 1.978s

19.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Honda     1m28.991s  + 2.119s

20.  Ollie Jackson    AmD Volkswagen     1m29.572s  + 2.700s

21.  Chris James      ES Vauxhall        1m29.657s  + 2.785s

22.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota  1m31.689s  + 4.817s


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