Croft lap record smashed as Turkington takes pole
Championship leader Colin Turkington has obliterated his own qualifying lap record on his way to securing pole position for tomorrow’s opening encounter at Croft. The eBay Motors driver scored his sole BTCC pole position of 2013 at the Yorkshire venue and he repeated the trick in some style this time around.
Turkington tussled for top spot with the MG of Jason Plato and Honda Civic of Andrew Jordan in the early running, but things changed again after a mid-session stoppage, which was caused when the spinning VW of Alain Menu dislodged a stack of tyres.
Portadown-based Turkington was already heading the order but he went on to cement the position with seven minutes to go. A fastest first sector was followed by another in the mid-section of the circuit, and when the timing screens went purple for a third time Turkington’s breathtaking time of 1:23.246s was confirmed – more than 1.2s quicker than his 2013 effort.
Such is the development throughout the competitive BTCC field, combined with the new-for-2014 Dunlop tyre construction, that the top 13 drivers all dipped under last year’s lap record.
“It was a really good lap, especially when you consider that I was carrying a passenger beside me in the form of success ballast,” enthused Turkington. “To be honest the weight hasn’t been much of an issue, our car is so well balanced that I can carry it and put it to the back of my mind. The guys in the eBay Motors team have given me a really good car – it’s getting faster at every race meeting and I’m really enjoying driving it at the moment.”
Plato took second just as Honda Yuasa Racing joined the battle after what had been a fairly anonymous Saturday for the team up to that point. Gordon Shedden pipped his team-mate Matt Neal by just over a tenth as the manufacturer-backed duo produced a second row lockout ahead of Jordan, making it five former champions in the top five positions.
Rob Collard continued his rich vein of form as he backed-up his two podiums at Oulton Park with an impressive sixth in qualifying here. Collard relegated FP2 pace-setter Sam Tordoff down to seventh by just 0.014s, who in turn shuffled the Mercedes of Adam Morgan into eighth. Morgan had actually looked set to produce a potential front-row lap earlier in the session but his effort was scuppered by the aforementioned red flag midway through his flyer.
Alain Menu and Rob Austin completed the top ten positions with the latter having to bounce back from two sizeable accidents in the earlier practice sessions. To make matters worse Austin also lost his initial fastest lap due to a track limit infringement, as did Aron Smith who eventually had to settle for 11th in his VW.
The four Ford Focuses struggled throughout with Mat Jackson’s 15th being the highest placed ‘blue oval’ machine on tomorrow’s grid. Dave Newsham, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Jack Clarke could only manage 16th, 18th and 23rd respectively.
Power Maxed Racing were forced to withdraw from the weekend on the eve of qualifying after the team located an irreparable issue with the engine of Chris Stockton’s Chevrolet Cruze.
Click here for the full qualifying classification