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Subaru star Turkington takes pole

Colin Turkington claimed pole position in the final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session of the season, after the Silverline Subaru BMR Racing driver produced an incredible effort at Brands Hatch.

The 30-minute session was punctuated by a rain shower and a stoppage following a dramatic accident involving Aron Smith’s VW, but it was double champion Turkington who starred as the chequered flag fell.

Tom Ingram led the way early on, before Smith’s incident interrupted proceedings. The Irishman’s machine looked to suffer from a tyre issue before sliding into the gravel and rolling onto its roof at the exit of Hawthorns. Smith was unharmed in the relatively slow-speed accident, but the lengthy delay to retrieve his stricken car also brought about further rain from the dark clouds in Kent.

A vigorous attempt to dry the track surface followed, with car after car clocking up the laps as conditions improved. Times gradually edged towards Ingram’s benchmark, before Turkington’s Subaru Levorg eventually broke free by more than a second.

Ingram made one final attempt to retake pole position but the Speedworks Motorsport driver fell short by just 0.006s, whilst Rob Austin’s Toyota and Jason Plato’s Subaru looked to have completed the second row. Those positions changed post-qualifying, however, when Ingram’s Toyota failed ride-height checks and he will start tomorrow’s opener from the back of the grid. Subsequently, Austin and Plato will now line up in second and third respectively.

Hunter Abbott’s rich vein of qualifying form continued as the Power Maxed Racing driver took fourth following Ingram’s penalty, whilst Josh Cook – pace-setter during both practice sessions – had to settle for fifth in his MG6.

Team IHG Rewards Club’s Jack Goff was sixth, ahead of reigning champion Gordon Shedden – critically the Halfords Yuasa Racing star finishing in front of his five closest championship contenders.

The Mercedes duo of Aiden Moffat and Adam Morgan were next up, but it was the following quartet of runners that provided further focus on the championship picture.

Standings leader Sam Tordoff was tenth, immediately ahead of title rivals Matt Neal, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan. The second Motorbase Ford of Mat Jackson struggled down in 19th – the lowest of the eight remaining championship protagonists.

An unprecedented number of drivers are still in the reckoning to win the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, which will be decided during tomorrow’s triple-header showdown around the legendary Grand Prix circuit.

West Surrey Racing’s Tordoff currently leads the way by 11 points from Shedden, with Neal just two points further adrift in third – and both Honda men have clinched the crown before. Like Tordoff, team-mate Collard is similarly gunning for a maiden title, whilst Motorbase Performance’s combination of Jackson and Jordan and Subaru duo Turkington and Plato remain firmly in the frame.

So Brands Hatch is set to play host to three unmissable races, which will determine the outcome to one of the hardest-fought championships in history. A huge crowd is expected to descend upon the hallowed Kent venue, with many, many more watching every second live and exclusively on ITV4.

Sam Tordoff (Championship, 1st; Qualifying, 10th) said: “It was a very difficult qualifying in mixed conditions, but I think we did a very solid job and we were quick enough when it mattered – although I actually had no idea where we were until the team told me over the radio at the end! It was the kind of session where everything went against us, and rear-wheel drive is never at its happiest in the wet but we ended up right in amongst our main rivals, so we can be satisfied with that. The plan for tomorrow is to stay out of trouble, collect points – and go and win this championship!”

Gordon Shedden (Championship, 2nd; Qualifying, 7th) said: “That was certainly a bit of a random session. Once the rain began to fall, I didn’t think there was any chance it was going to dry up – and then with eight minutes left on the track, it all started happening! It was the kind of scenario when you could have been on pole or could just as easily have ended up 25th, so whilst it would obviously have been nice to be a bit further up the grid, I’ll certainly take seventh position with 66kg on-board – we can certainly go racing from there!”

Matt Neal (Championship, 3rd; Qualifying, 11th) said: “I’m keeping my glass half full so while it could have been a bit better, it could also have been a lot worse! We’re still firmly in the mix and most of the championship protagonists are in close proximity. We had a fully dry set-up on the car but it was still quite damp out the back of the lap, which made it too loose and tail-happy through the quick stuff. I was struggling to hold onto it a bit and I was wary of putting it in the wall, so I didn’t push flat-out. That said, the Honda Civic Type R should be strong in the dry tomorrow, so it’s game on.”

Rob Collard (Championship, 4th; Qualifying, 12th) said: “We don’t seem to be making the job very easy for ourselves at the moment! We had a gear linkage problem at the start of qualifying which was an early blow, so we never got a run on new tyres before the rain came down. At that stage, I really thought it was all over and even when we went back out following the stoppage, it still didn’t look particularly promising because the rain was still falling. The car was very strong but we just had too many laps on the tyres by the end of the session when conditions were at their best. Still, it was a good recovery and whilst 13th might be unlucky for some, hopefully it will be a lucky number for me tomorrow.”

Mat Jackson (Championship, 5th; Qualifying, 19th) said: “We had a differential problem on the car from the word ‘go’, and it was just too big a job to fix in the time available so we were fighting a lost cause throughout. We’ve obviously made our life a lot harder for tomorrow, but it’s a different day and we all know that anything can happen in the BTCC. We’ve got a big hill to climb, but I fully intend to put my overtaking head on and see what we can do. This isn’t over yet!”

Andrew Jordan (Championship, 6th; Qualifying, 13th) said: “It was a difficult session. In hindsight, we probably should have gone out a bit sooner. The car itself felt good, but we weren’t able to generate sufficient tyre temperature or grip. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, and with most of the title contenders in similar mid-grid positions, the scene is certainly set for an exciting finals day. Let’s see what we can do!”

Colin Turkington (Championship, 7th; Qualifying, 1st) said: “I didn’t know I was quickest. I was out there running by myself and midway through I was 18th. It was raining and I thought I was in big trouble. I went out early after the red flag to try and build up temperatures on the slicks and we put everything on the line for the guys – I had everything to gain. It’s now 36 points to Sam Tordoff, not 37. I won’t give up. Thirty-six points is a big gap over six other drivers. I’ll do my best and my goal is to move up the leaderboard. To win it might be a bit unrealistic but I’ll certainly give it a try!”

Jason Plato (Championship, 8th; Qualifying, 3rd) said: “It was really tricky because the conditions kept changing and it was difficult to read the circuit. In the beginning I was right on the button but then I just couldn’t get a clean lap when the conditions were at their best. I did make a slight mistake on my fastest lap but I’m delighted with the effort from everyone. I’m very confident for race day, I’ve got a good race car and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. My job is to win some races and put on a good show – I plan to end the season on a high.”

2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Brands Hatch GP:

Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing 1m31.838s
Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.214s
3 Jason PLATO (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +0.221s
Hunter ABBOTT (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.228s
Josh COOK (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.258s
6 Jack GOFF (GBR) Team IHG Rewards Club +0.366s
7 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.482s
Adam MORGAN (GBR) WIX Racing +0.553s
Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.743s
10 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +0.849s
11 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +1.019s
12 Robert COLLARD (GBR) Team JCT600 Racing with GardX +1.142s
13 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) Motorbase Performance +1.247s
14 Michael EPPS (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +1.257s
15 Ash SUTTON (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +1.261s
16 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD Tuning.com +1.541s
17 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +1.563s
18 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Eurotech Racing +1.578s
19 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +1.725s
20 Jake HILL (GBR) RCIB Insurance Racing +2.065s
21 James COLE (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +2.247s
22 Warren SCOTT (GBR) Silverline Subaru BMR Racing +2.726s
23 Aron SMITH (IRL) BKR +2.900s
24 Alex MARTIN (GBR) Dextra Racing +2.955s
25 Kelvin FLETCHER (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +3.130s
26 Tony GILHAM (GBR) TLC/RCIB Insurance Racing +3.984s
27 Dan WELCH (GBR) Goodestone Racing +4.041s
28 Mark HOWARD (GBR) BKR +5.050s
29 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing +5.691s
30 Stewart LINES (GBR) Maximum Motorsport +6.428s
EXCL Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport NO TIME