Jeff Smith has secured his first ever BTCC pole with Eurotech Racing after a dramatic session with interchangeable conditions. Smith, who was recovering from a wrist injury not too long ago, was able to pull out a solid lamp that was 0.062s quicker than Tom Ingram, who lines up 2nd in his Avensis.
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The opening qualifying session of the 2017 BTCC season saw drivers having to establish the edge of the short, snappy Brands Hatch Indy layout in mixed conditions, with several offs causing the session to be red flagged.
The conditions played into Smith’s hands, but he still put in a cracking lap nonetheless and starts in clean air tomorrow. Ton Ingram remained consistent in the tricky conditions after topping both practice sessions earlier in the day. The Honda Yuasa duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal secure the second row.
Colin Turkington is first of the BMW’s and lines up 5th, the conditions and various flags that stop/started the session throughout means that the true running order remains vague, but 5th is an ideal position to pounce for race one tomorrow, especially if the Honda teammates are cautious with one another heading into paddock hill bend.
Adam Morgan has started his 2017 campaign in the same promise that was show last season, his red Mercedes will start in 6th lace tomorrow, a promising start to the weekend for Ciceley Motorsport. Jack Goff also had an impressive run and lines up in 7th in the second Eurotech Honda, concluding a fantastic session for the independent, who have very much kept the works Honda team honest in this session, and will look to fight for some serious points tomorrow.
In 8th, a relieved Rob Austin, who at one point looked to be starting from the back of the grid after the red flags and weather seemed to be working against him, there was also damage sustained on his Toyota from a collision, but at the last gasp before the serious rainfall, Austin strung a lap together that puts him at the sharp end.
Jake Hill is the leading Team HARD Volkswagen in 9th, and Matt Simpson pulls of one of his best qualifying efforts and completes the top ten with yet another Honda.
Some of the big names missing from the top ten thanks to a very unpredictable and interchangeable set of conditions, with some cars, including Dave Newsham in his BTC Chevy and Vauxhall Rookie Senna Procter, who starts race one in 16th after locking up both front tyres and ending his session early with a trip into the gravel at druids.
There’s a very strong looking sixth row of the grid, with Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek BMW in 11th, with Tom Chilton’s Astra 12th. Mat Jackson could only manage 14th, and Rob Collard had a off road moment heading into clearways, he starts 16th. It was worse still for Jason Plato and the other Subaru Drivers. The experienced BTCC driver was only 18th, highlighting that there’s clearly something not quite right with the car as opposed to the drivers.
The mixed conditions have set up a grid that looks like a race three reverse grid. If the conditions continue to be changeable, it sets up a chaotic race tomorrow, with a lot of cars out of position. Jeff Smith will enjoy what must be a special moment for Eurotech Racing, who can think about podiums on race day tomorrow for both of their drivers. We said it was going to be unpredictable!