The BMR Subaru of Ash Sutton took his fifth career pole position in tricky conditions for the season opener at Brands Hatch Indy.
The first qualifying session of the 2019 British Touring Car Championship began after lengthy delays, due to red flags and track clearance from support races held before the session.
Track conditions were cold and damp, giving a good debut for Dunlop’s new wet weather tyres, and with a packed 30 car grid taking to the 1.2 mile circuit, positioning would be key.
With six minutes gone, it didn’t take long for the first red flag of qualifying, as Motorbase Ford’s Ollie Jackson beached his car in the gravel on the exit of Clearways.
At the restart, WSR’s new boy Tom Oliphant was top of the session in the new BMW 330i M Sport, but as drivers got their eye in and conditions started to improve, it was far from over.
Halfway through the session, Ash Sutton took his Suburu to the top of the time-sheets.
But with 10 minutes left, the second red flag was brought out after Sam Tordoff crashed his AMD Honda Civic into the wall at the top of Druids, which subsequently ended his session and ruined the fast runs of other drivers in the process.
Shortly after the restart, the red flag was brought out again, when BTCC debutante Mark Blundell completed a carbon copy of Tordoff’s incident in his Audi S3.
When the green flag was brought out with six minutes left on the clock and it was all or nothing to get a good time in on final runs with fresh tyres, and saw some late improvements.
Jason Plato moved up to second on his first race with Vauxhall for over a decade. Tom Imgram also bettered his time to move into seventh with his new Toyota Corolla.
But no one could stop Ash Sutton as he secured pole position by just 0.167 seconds ahead of Plato, with the WSR pair of defending champion Colin Turkington and Tom Oliphant in third and fourth and Matt Neal completing the top five.
— BTCC (@BTCC) April 6, 2019
Neal’s teammate Dan Cammish was sixth, ahead of the aforementioned Ingram in seventh, Stephen Jelley in eighth, with Andrew Jordan in ninth and Tordoff finished tenth, despite his crash.
So with more changeable conditions forecast for race day tomorrow, can Sutton convert pole to victory and start the season in style, or will Plato be able to beat his former teammate and get redemption for the past 2 years of struggles?