ROWBOTTOM ROARS TO DONINGTON PARK POLE POSITION
NAPA Racing UK top exciting opening qualifying of BTCC season
Dan Rowbottom roared to pole position for the opening round of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship earlier today (22 April), edging out NAPA Racing UK team-mate Ash Sutton by just 0.041s at Donington Park.
Qualifying was run under the ‘Top Ten Showdown’ format – as it will be at five of the ten events this season – so it all came down to a final flying ten minutes for the leading runners.
All drivers took part in the normal 30-minute qualifying session to record their lap times. Following a short five-minute break, the fastest ten competitors progressed to a ten-minute pole position showdown to determine the top ten places on the grid.
It was a NAPA Racing UK 1-2-3 in the opening segment as Sutton led Rowbottom and Dan Cammish respectively, with the majority of the BTCC’s big hitters making it through.
Then the likes of Cammish and Tom Ingram enjoyed very brief spells at the top of the pile during the ‘Top Ten Showdown’, before Rowbottom hit the front.
Sutton was languishing down the order after his initial lap time had been removed for a track limits infringement, and with the clock running down his #116 Ford Focus squirmed wildly through Redgate for the final time.
A purple middle sector from the three-time champion meant it was going to be close for P1, but a slightly conservative run through the final chicane for Sutton ensured that Rowbottom was celebrating his third career pole position.
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) and Colin Turkington (Team BMW) made it an all-BMW second row for tomorrow’s curtain raiser, whilst Cammish (NAPA Racing UK) completed the top five positions.
Reigning champion Ingram could only manage sixth for BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 as the Hyundais slipped slightly behind on pace when compared to the Fords and BMWs.
Josh Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) and Adam Morgan (Team BMW) were seventh and eighth respectively, whilst debutant Andrew Watson starred to take ninth.
The CarStore Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall of Watson was one to watch throughout qualifying as he impressively fought his way back into the top ten on a number of occasions.
Ricky Collard produced a good lap to sneak into the ‘Top Ten Showdown’ but was unfortunately unable to take any further part after his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK machine suffered with a fuel leak.
Solid runs from Ronan Pearson (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) and Dan Lloyd (Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils) saw the duo just miss out in 11th and 12th, whilst the experienced Rory Butcher (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK) and Tom Chilton (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) were next in the order.
Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will take place at Donington Park tomorrow with a big crowd due to attend the famous venue, whilst many more watch the action LIVE on ITV4 from 1045.
Dan Rowbottom said: “I’ve not been here for a while but when you look at the result it proves where all the hard work is at – a one-two! I’m glad I was the one who took pole position for NAPA Racing UK, but it’s just mega for the whole team.
“We’ve set the bar now and have got to have a good day tomorrow. I just trust in the team and know they have given us all a good car – as long as we don’t trip over each other which is always a risk – we’ll be okay.
“This championship is hard, it’s really really hard, and you need to be with the right people. I think we’ve found a good home.”
Ash Sutton said: “I had a purple sector but just played it safe through the last chicane because we didn’t have a time on the board. So, I played it too safe and it bit me. The car was capable of pole but fair play to Dan [Rowbottom], it’s great for NAPA Racing UK
“In Q1 I did a sensible lap time but it was good enough for pole. But in Q2 the new track limit rule meant we lost our lap time. I had to come out of the pits with only one lap on the tyre and it was pushing it. We were up, we were on for it, and I just played it too safe and I’m kicking myself for it.
“A mega start to the championship and the car is absolutely on rails – the boys and girls have done a great job.”
Jake Hill said: “Nice to be best of the rest. These Fords have turned out pretty quick this year, there’s no two ways about it. But I’m thrilled to bits with my Laser Tools Racing BMW. To beat Colin [Turkington] still at the end there for third gives us a nice chance to try and pick these front-wheel drive cars off at the front tomorrow.
“It’s going to be interesting. The new surface is playing a big part here at Donington Park, so tyre wear is a lot less than it used to be for sure. Obviously, our car is extremely good over a race run, with tyre wear and keeping the pace up, so it’ll be interesting to see if we can come at the Fords at the end there and maybe sneak a win. Let’s just see – overall, it’s still a great place to start.”
2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Donington Park
- Daniel Rowbottom, NAPA Racing UK 1:07.598s
- Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK +0.041s
- Jake Hill, Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport +0.100s
- Colin Turkington, Team BMW +0.212s
- Dan Cammish, NAPA Racing UK +0.329s
- Tom Ingram, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.416s
- Josh Cook, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +0.536s
- Adam Morgan, Team BMW +0.717s
- Andrew Watson, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +1.343s
- Ricky Collard, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK NO TIME
- Ronan Pearson, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.811s
- Daniel Lloyd, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +0.868s
- Rory Butcher, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +0.894s
- Tom Chilton, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +0.912s
- Stephen Jelley, Team BMW +0.923s
- Árón Taylor-Smith, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +0.951s
- George Gamble, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK +0.956s
- Aiden Moffat, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +1.958s
- Sam Osborne, NAPA Racing UK +1.161s
- Dexter Patterson, Re.Beverages and Bartercard with Team HARD +1.261s
- Mikey Doble, CarStore Power Maxed Racing +1.449s
- Bobby Thompson, Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils +1.465s
- Jack Butel, Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown +1.554s
- Will Powell, One Motorsport with Starline Racing +1.904s
- Nic Hamilton, Go-Fix with Autoaid Breakdown +2.064s
- Nick Halstead, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 +2.165s
- Jade Edwards, Re.Beverages and Bartercard with Team HARD +2.440s