Mat Jackson scored his first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position in six years after blasting his Ford Focus to a new qualifying lap record at Rockingham today (5 September). It was double delight in the Motorbase Performance camp as it also represented the team’s maiden pole position in the BTCC.
A late red flag threatened Jackson’s chances of hanging on to top spot, as it had done recently at Knockhill where he was pipped at the post by Andy Priaulx, but this time he was able to hang on to take a popular result.
Aron Smith missed out on his second pole position of the season by just 0.050s as the Irishman proved to be the quickest of the Team BMR RCIB Insurance quartet.
Gordon Shedden left it extremely late to produce a fantastic lap in his ballast-laden Honda Civic Type R as he moved up to third, critically jumping his championship rivals in the process. The Scotsman’s happiness was short lived, however, as he was found to have committed a procedural infringement during qualifying having left the pitlane out of ascending pit bay order. He was later issued with a four-place grid penalty by the Clerk of the Course.
Snetterton race winner Jack Goff was subsequently promoted to third – his best ever qualifying result – as the MG showed its prowess around the Northamptonshire speed bowl.
Matt Neal secured sixth place in the Honda Civic Type R
Tom Ingram starred throughout Saturday with eye-catching runs in practice, before the Speedworks Motorsport driver again proved his pace in qualifying. Although vying for a front row starting slot at one stage, the talented young driver eventually had to settle for a fine fourth. Success ballast, or lack thereof, seemingly proved key with the top four in the final classification carrying little or no extra weight into the session.
Championship leader Jason Plato will be pleased to be starting on the inside of row three, as the double champion produced the goods yet again behind the wheel of his VW CC. Plato currently holds an 11-point gap over Shedden in the standings and he’ll be hoping to extend his advantage on Sunday.
Honda’s Matt Neal will start tomorrow’s opener from sixth, now ahead of Shedden, while Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat enjoyed a career-best run to eighth. The talented teenager is riding the crest of a wave after scoring his maiden podium last time out at Knockhill and he seems set to be mixing it with the big boys again at Rockingham.
The championship-challenging trio of Colin Turkington, Andrew Jordan and Sam Tordoff were next up in the order, whilst Power Maxed Racing’s Josh Cook pipped double Rockingham race-winner Rob Austin to 11th. Turkington’s result means he maintains the impressive feat of being the only driver to have qualified inside the top ten at every event in 2015.
It was an incredibly close session right the way through the field, with the top 19 cars being covered by just three quarters of a second.
Tom Ingram impressed all day and will line up on row two
Neal, Robb Holland and Nic Hamilton all recovered from minor-offs during the session, but Derek Palmer proved less fortunate – the Scotsman beached his machine with five minutes remaining. The late red flag to retrieve Palmer’s stricken Infiniti caused concern for provisional pole man Jackson, but only Shedden came close to matching his pace following the restart, prompting long awaited celebrations for Motorbase Performance.
The full day of racing will be broadcast live and in high definition from 10:45 on ITV4 and on the ITV BTCC website, while many thousands of fans will enjoy the action live from the impressive Rockingham grandstands. Fans around the world can follow all the action from the live timing and circuit commentary on the official btcc.net live zone.
Mat Jackson said: “When the red flag came out we thought it might be Knockhill all over again where we we had pole and lost it at the last moment. But to come away and hold the position is great, the car feels fantastic and has done since we came back to the BTCC. That’s all down to the hard work of the team – it’s great to start on P1, but to be honest the hard bit is tomorrow! We hoped that the car would be good here, but coming into the championship late we’re still learning. Snetterton was a struggle, but Knockhill proved that we had the pace, and now I think that the car is in the window. That’s the first pole position for Motorbase and it’s everybody working together that’s got us here.”
Aron Smith said: “I’m absolutely delighted – it’s our fourth front row from the eight qualifying sessions this year which is so good. Jason [Plato] and Colin [Turkington] tested here, and with what they found the car was really good. As soon as I got behind the wheel this morning it was on the money, so it’s a team effort and we’ve got the result today. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s racing. I’ve always raced well with Mat [Jackson] alongside on the front row. It’ll be hard but fair, we’re former team-mates so there’s a good deal of respect there – he’ll put on a good fight and hopefully we’ll put on a good show!”
It’s a first ever pole for Motorbase in the BTCC
Jack Goff said: “I think that’s my best qualifying so far – we didn’t quite get the best out of the car on the final run but we’re in the hunt. We can race from where we are, get a good start and get our head down and hopefully get some big points. I’ve tried to forget about Knockhill and put it behind me, Rockingham is one of our better tracks certainly in qualifying spec – how we’ll go in the race is a bit of an unknown because I haven’t done a race run in this car here, but we’ll give it our all and see what we come out with. We’ve got to look after our tyres as over previous years the MG has worked its tyres hard, but we’ve improved that a lot this season so we should be OK.”
Tom Ingram said: “We knew that the pace would increase as time went on today, but I’m hugely pleased with that. Unfortunately I just couldn’t get any more out of it towards the end and I’m kicking myself because I know I made a mistake on the lap that put us quickest. We’d definitely have taken this at the start of the weekend, I think we’ve managed to get on top of the car around here. Qualifying has held us back all year, so to finally get a strong grid slot should give us a decent run tomorrow, and who knows what might happen!”
A procedural infringement gave Gordon Shedden a four place grid penalty
Jason Plato said: “It was a good session overall – as before, weight corrected we’d be on pole position by quite a margin. It’s about the best we could have done to be honest, a 1:23.3s was our perfect lap so I’m reasonably pleased with it. I was hoping we could get into the top four, but tomorrow we’ve just got to get points. There’s three people out there I really need to score more points than. It’s going to hurt like hell on the tyres over a race run. If I can increase my championship lead tomorrow, even if it’s only by a couple of points, then I’ve done a good job.”
Gordon Shedden said: “I’ve picked up a four place grid penalty. One of our competitors highlighted a procedural error on the behalf of our team in the pit lane at the last stoppage, and unfortunately the penalty that goes with that is four places. The error broke a regulation that governs how the cars should leave the pit lane. We’ve got to race to the rules, and it would appear that we’ve broken the rule and we’ve been punished – it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do to change it.”
Aiden Moffat also secured his highest qualifying position with eighth