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Plato pips chasing pack to pole position

Double BTCC champion produces stellar Saturday performance at Silverstone

Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing’s Jason Plato claimed pole position for Round 25 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship after producing a stellar performance during qualifying at Silverstone.

The double BTCC champion – still searching for his first win of 2019 – dominated proceedings throughout Saturday around the 1.64-mile National Circuit, having set the pace during both practice sessions before taking the 51st pole position of his career. 

It looked as if the old guard would come out on top with Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal joining Plato on the front row for the first time in many a year, but BTC Racing’s Chris Smiley had other ideas as he fired his stealth grey Honda Civic Type R up to second in the closing stages. It was an exciting duel for second, but third still represents Neal’s best qualifying result of the season so far.

Tom Ingram experienced a fast but wild session behind the wheel of his Team Toyota GB with Ginsters Corolla, setting a time good enough for fourth on the grid for tomorrow’s opener, before spinning off at Copse on his final run.

Team BMW’s Tom Oliphant led the way for much of the running after he enjoyed an early tow from team-mate Colin Turkington. Oliphant eventually had to settle for fifth as he failed to improve in the second half of the session.

Pressure was building throughout the 30 minutes of running for championship leader Turkington as he languished outside of the top ten in his success ballast-laden BMW 3 Series, but the reigning champ showed his class on one of his final flying laps. The Northern Irishman hauled his #1 machine through the Complex and crossed the line to snatch sixth – edging out all of his main title rivals in the process.

Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish will be frustrated with only seventh, particularly having set the second-fastest times during the earlier practice sessions, but at least he has Turkington in his sights ahead of him.

The Subaru Levorg of Ash Sutton showed better form than it has done on recent Saturdays as the 2017 champion grabbed his first top ten qualifying position since Croft back in June, ending a run consisting of 14th, 18th, 12th and 14th qualifying positions during the previous four events.

BTC Racing’s Josh Cook kept his championship hopes alive with a solid lap to take ninth, whilst Adrian Flux Subaru Racing’s Senna Proctor completed the top ten positions – setting the exact same lap time as Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s Tom Chilton.

To further emphasise the highly competitive nature of the session, the top 28 cars were covered by less than a second.

Fellow title contenders Rory Butcher and Andrew Jordan will have to fight from further down the order tomorrow, after the multiple race-winning duo could only manage 12th and 14th respectively.

Rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will take place at Silverstone on Sunday with a huge crowd expected to attend the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’. Many more will watch the action on ITV4, which will be live throughout the day from 10:20.

Jason Plato said: “I’m really pleased for everyone here. We’ve kept chipping away all year. I’ve made a couple of parking errors that have cost us a couple of good results I think. We knew it was going to come, we just had to keep motivated and keep at it. It’s great. I started to look at getting a tow early on but it was just ruining my vision. I did all my times this morning in clear air so I just thought ‘let’s get on with it’. Lining up on the grid is easy here because it’s a straight piece of Tarmac. I’ve had two uncompetitive years – that hurt. I knew I hadn’t forgotten how to drive a car. I just needed the right equipment. This Astra is a great little car and it’s nice to be back with Vauxhall – where I won my first title. We’ve got a lot of that team here and it’s working nicely.”

Chris Smiley said: “I’m happy enough. Second is good enough. There’s a little bit left in the car. We’re on the front row and the guys have done a great job. We’ve worked on the car in a few different areas and the lap time came to us. We’ve got the faster soft tyre for the opener tomorrow and we want to win races. The weather looks sketchy but it’s the same for everyone. I’m hoping it’s not changeable and a gamble. I don’t mind the rain, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Matt Neal said: “Old feuds never die. I was trying to get on the front row just to be alongside Jason (Plato). That gave me extra motivation and it looked to be on the cards for a while. Joking aside, I am really pleased with third. I was hoping we’d do a bit better as a team to get Dan (Cammish) up there as well, but the weight on his car was just a bit too much. Tomorrow, we need to see what the weather does. I imagine the BMWs will be all over us from the start, but we should have good race pace in the dry. If it’s wet then it could be a bit more of a lottery, but either way it will be a team game on our side.”

2019 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Silverstone

1 Jason PLATO (GBR) Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing 57.430s
Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Racing +0.055s
Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.059s
4 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Team Toyota GB with Ginsters +0.092s
5 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Team BMW +0.130s
6 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.138s
7 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.227s
Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.247s
9 Josh COOK (GBR) BTC Racing +0.271s
10 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.275s
11 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.275s
12 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance +0.283s
13 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance +0.318s
14 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.335s
15 Jack GOFF (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +0.347s
16 Michael CAINE (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.382s
17 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing +0.406s
18 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.407s
19 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.419s
20 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct +0.476s
21 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +0.529s
22 Jake HILL (GBR) TradePriceCars.com +0.541s
23 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +0.578s
24 Michael CREES (GBR) GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct +0.597s
25 Daniel ROWBOTTOM (GBR) Cataclean Racing with Ciceley Motorsport +0.712s
26 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +0.762s
27 Carl BOARDLEY (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +0.843s
28 Mark BLUNDELL (GBR) TradePriceCars.com +0.933s
29 Rob SMITH (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +1.135s
30 Sam OSBORNE (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +1.529s

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