Matt Simpson secures maiden pole position
Stage set for an exciting BTCC race day at Oulton Park
Matt Simpson has sensationally secured his maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position after blitzing the field at Oulton Park earlier today (9 June).
The Simpson Racing driver had already fired out a warning to the rest of the field after setting the pace in the final practice session, and he duly backed up that showing by producing an incredible lap around the 2.23-mile picturesque Cheshire circuit during qualifying.
Simpson’s early 1:25.750s lap time went unmatched during the 30-minute session and the man himself even had to recover from a slight off-track excursion whilst trying to eclipse his own benchmark.
The Motorbase squad enjoyed a fantastic qualifying session as Sam Tordoff pipped stablemate Tom Chilton into second, whilst James Cole came home eighth, meaning all three Fords will start tomorrow’s opener at the sharp end of the grid.
Andrew Jordan was tipped by many to compete for pole position as both he and his ballast-free BMW 125i M Sport suit the circuit, but the BMW Pirtek Racing driver had to settle for fourth at the finish. The fast starting rear-wheel-drive machine is likely to be a contender come race day, however, and the trio in front will need to fend off Jordan’s likely advances in the early stages tomorrow.
Matt Neal grabbed pole position last time out at Thruxton and the BTCC legend produced the goods again here, with fifth place being just reward for the Honda Civic Type R racer.
WIX Racing with Eurotech claimed sixth and seventh in the hands of Jack Goff and Brett Smith respectively, completing a perfect day for the team that also runs Simpson’s pace-setting Honda.
Team BMW’s Colin Turkington and Ciceley Motorsport’s Tom Oliphant rounded out the top ten positions, with the latter producing his best effort during a wild ride in the closing minutes.
The top three drivers in the overall standings failed to make the top ten, highlighting both the ultra competitiveness of the series and also how success ballast can take it toll around the twisty and undulating Oulton Park circuit. Championship leader Adam Morgan could only manage 19th on the grid, whilst Josh Cook and Tom Ingram will start race one from 20th and 17th respectively. Such is the high calibre of the 2018 field that the top 24 cars were separated by less than a second.
A huge crowd is expected to descend on Oulton Park tomorrow with many more watching the action live on ITV4. The BTCC triple header and all of the supporting races will be screened by the giant UK television network from 1115 onwards.
Matt Simpson said: “I can’t believe it. I’ve been waiting for that for as long as I’ve been watching touring cars. I knew we could do it after that time in Free Practice 2 but the pressure was on there. When my team said I was 0.4 seconds ahead of Sam (Tordoff) in first, I couldn’t believe it as that’s an age in touring cars. I just can’t thank everyone enough for this – my family, my sponsors and the team. I had a little off after that lap and hit the barrier. I lost the brake pedal as I overdid it with the slightly softer pads I like – they give me better modulation through the pedal and I’d just overcooked it a bit. I joked on the track walk yesterday that I’d never started on the flat here, I’ve always had to go up hill. With the soft tyre on, the ideal tyre, we’re looking good and it gives me a good chance tomorrow. It really is a dream come true.”
Sam Tordoff said: “It’s been a very good day. We had to work hard for that one. The car is nervous and on the edge over one lap in qualifying trim. It’s been difficult and I’d already been in the fence at Druids this morning. It’s harder to drive right on the limit over the lap but hopefully over a race distance at 99 percent it’ll be a bit kinder. All credit to Matt (Simpson) for that very quick lap and we never thought we were fighting for pole after that. Credit to our boys and girls too – second and third – we can’t argue with that.
Tom Chilton said: “It was so close at the top there and I love the championship because of it. I see Andrew Jordan’s in fourth just behind me, and we’re joint on points so it’ll be a big old fight there. For sure, we’re going to have to change our setup as we had a qualifying one on. Hats off to Matt Simpson with that lap – he’s worked so hard and worked his way right up to the top. I’m so happy for him. I’m happy for my team too. We’ve got all three of our cars in the top eight. We’ve put in 110 percent over the last few weeks and it’s paying dividends now.”
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Oulton Park
1 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing 1m25.750s (93.45mph)
2 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team GardX Racing with Motorbase +0.243s
3 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.332s
4 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.353s
5 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.382s
6 Jack GOFF (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +0.433s
7 Brett SMITH (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +0.457s
8 James COLE (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.464s
9 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.514s
10 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +0.546s
11 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing +0.562s
12 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.586s
13 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.613s
14 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.639s
15 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.643s
16 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.653s
17 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.661s
18 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +0.821s
19 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +0.852s
20 Josh COOK (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +0.872s
21 Jake HILL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +0.963s
22 Dan LLOYD (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +0.966s
23 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +0.998s
24 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +0.999s
25 Michael CAINE (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +1.117s
26 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +1.129s
27 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +1.132s
28 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +1.197s
29 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.222s
30 Tom BOARDMAN (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.426s
31 Sam SMELT (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +1.669s
32 Josh PRICE (GBR) Autoglym Academy Racing +2.802s