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Plato plants his MG on pole

MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save’s Jason Plato continued his domination of Snetterton by taking pole position in commanding fashion ahead of championship leader Colin Turkington. Plato’s team-mate Sam Tordoff will line-up on the second row alongside Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal.

Plato has won 11 times at the Norfolk venue during his BTCC career – by far the most successful driver ever at the circuit – and he signalled his intentions earlier today by clocking an unbelievable lap during practice. He couldn’t match the pace during qualifying but his lap time of 1:56.495s was still good enough to score pole position and a new lap record around the Snetterton 300 layout.

eBay Motors Team Boss Dick Bennetts had said ahead of qualifying that he’d be content with Turkington starting on the third row of the grid for tomorrow’s opening race, believing that Snetterton posed its BMW 125i M Sports with its toughest challenge remaining this season. His lead driver had other ideas, however, as the Ulsterman pipped Tordoff by producing a masterclass lap in his well-known smooth style.

Not only was Turkington delighted with his own performance to take second but his nearest title rivals further aided his progress by enduring their own respective challenges throughout the day.

Honda Yuasa Racing’s duo ran in tandem for much of the session in an attempt to gain a slipstream advantage along Snetterton’s two main straights, but the approach didn’t pay off for Gordon Shedden. The Scotsman could only manage 11th although team-mate Neal fared much better in fourth.

Reigning champion Andrew Jordan is currently third in the overall standings but his day came to a rather abrupt and premature end during free practice. A huge shunt into the barrier, after outbraking himself at Riches on a greasy track, left Jordan showing signs of concussion. He was taken to hospital for precautionary checks before returning to the circuit where he was further assessed by the BTCC medical team. Unfortunately Jordan was not granted permission to compete in qualifying and will therefore start at the back of the grid for Sunday’s opening contest, but only if he is passed fit to race in a further medical review tomorrow morning.

Tordoff will line-up third at the venue where he scored his maiden BTCC victory last season, believing that his race pace gives him a chance of scoring another win tomorrow.

Alain Menu had shown good form throughout practice, particularly having topped the times in the opening session, and he backed up that promise during qualifying by setting the fifth fastest time. It was a great run for Team BMR Restart’s new quartet of VW CC’s with three of its machines qualifying inside the top ten. Aron Smith and Jack Goff joined Menu in the leading order by taking seventh and tenth respectively, whilst Team Manager Warren Scott will start tomorrow’s opening race from 17th.

Smith’s VW will be sandwiched between the impressive Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan. Ingram’s Toyota and Morgan’s Mercedes had shown front-running pace for much of the day and both cemented their performance with a great showing in qualifying.

Airwaves Racing rescued its session late on as Mat Jackson hauled his Ford Focus up to ninth, while team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi chose to simply scrub in his tyres as he’ll start at the back of the grid due to a previously incurred penalty.

Jason Plato said: “After FP2 we were pretty confident with our pace. I have been at this game for long enough to know when you are in the zone that the perfect lap will be good enough. I did want a bit more but I have to be pleased with pole and what we’ve achieved. Job one of four is done! We have to make the most of it and score big points in the races tomorrow.”

Colin Turkington said: “I was really pleased with the end result and it was more than I expected. There are three really difficult sectors here at Snetterton. You do feel the weight (Turkington is carrying 45kg success ballast) but you have to forget about it and be really neat and tidy as well as brave to make up the time. The team really improved the BMW for qualifying and we are in a good position for tomorrow.”

Sam Tordoff said: “P3 is a good result, and it’s good to be up the front where we need to be. We have good race pace and Snetterton doesn’t have high tyre wear which will suit us. I expect Colin Turkington to be leading into turn one, but it’s not a BMW circuit and that weight will hurt him towards the end of the race and we hope to be there to pounce. I am hoping for a win again this year and will be disappointed if I don’t. I would like three top fives to get back in the championship hunt.”

Andrew Jordan said: “I’m gutted. I would’ve loved to have been out there but I have to listen to doctors orders. I do feel a bit tired and groggy so I think it’s best that I get a good rest tonight and come back tomorrow. It’s frustrating of course but I hope to get the all-clear in the morning and I’ll be on a mission!”

Click here for the final qualifying classification from Snetterton.

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