Tordoff back on Top
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save’s Sam Tordoff topped the second free practice session of the day at Donington Park ahead of the Chrome Edition Restart Racing pair of Aron Smith and Alain Menu. Tordoff, who celebrates his 25th birthday today, had a few issues at the opening event of the season at Brands Hatch, but his lap times today bode well for the Yorkshireman ahead of qualifying.
“I’m halfway to a half century today,” said 25-year-old Tordoff. “We tried some different things at Brands Hatch but we’ve gone back to basics here and I’m feeling a lot happier. We’ve had a really good morning but FP2 counts for nothing so lets see how we go in qualifying.
“We knew the improvements to the MG over the winter would show more here than they did at Brands so I’m really happy. Aron and Alain are up there so the VW is obviously going very well, but the usual suspects are not far behind. If I can get pole it will be a great birthday present and we can have a real celebration but if we have a disaster then it’ll completely ruin my day!”
The VW Passat of Smith set the pace in the first session this morning, and he was the first driver to drop below the 1:10s barrier just 12 minutes into FP2. The cold air temperature and dry track meant that the top three drivers were all under the pole lap record set by Gordon Shedden in 2013, and it looks certain that even more drivers will put in record-breaking times when the stop watch comes out for qualifying. Smith’s team-mate Menu is confident that the car has the potential to be a winner, and said after FP2, “We showed promising performance at Brands Hatch but unfortunately Aron and I didn’t get the results to show for it. We knew that the speed was there although maybe not quite as quick as the top guys, but we hoped the car would suit Donington Park.
“Testing is limited and I’m still not completely comfortable in the car so it’s difficult. I’d like to get it perfect but so far I haven’t quite been able to. Donington is one of my favourite circuits, I have some great memories and I hope to make so more this weekend. I’d like to get a podium, but first we have qualifying and I hope to get a top four there.”
The second manufacturer-backed MG, piloted by Jason Plato, was 0.410s behind his team-mate Tordoff with the fourth fastest time of the session and will be carrying 9kg of ballast during qualifying for his current fifth place in the drivers’ championship. Other ballast-laden cars include Shedden who posted the sixth fastest time, and championship leader Andrew Jordan who was just behind in seventh place.
A quick lap from WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan late on in the session put the Mercedes A-Class an impressive fifth fastest. Morgan suffered with a lack of straight-line speed at Brands Hatch but the team is confident the issue has been resolved and Morgan’s pace puts them in a strong position for this afternoon’s qualifying.
One of the biggest improvements across the two sessions came from Airwaves Racing’s Fabrizio Giovanardi. His FP2 time of 1:10.368s was ninth fastest, but significantly was almost a second quicker than he had managed in the first session of the day. It was a similar story for Giovanardi’s team-mate Mat Jackson who also improved by around a second across the two sessions in his Ford Focus.
One notable omission from the top half of the time sheet was Colin Turkington. The Ulsterman posted the third fastest time in FP1 but found himself down in 16th place. The team is looking to provide extra high-speed stability for the three eBay Motors cars, but at the chequered flag all three were outside the top ten.
The session was the first of the year to see the full 31 cars out on track, as Dan Welch took to the circuit for the maiden laps of his brand new Proton Gen2. He completed a number of installation tours, and looks to set his first flyers later today. Qualifying gets underway at 15:40.