Matt Neal grabbed pole position for the first of three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Thruxton with a time of 1.15.612. Neal was just over two tenths quicker than Colin Turkington who put in his best ever lap around Thruxton.
Thruxton has always been well renowned for being favourable to front wheel drive cars, with recent years, the Honda in particular. This proved to be the case yet again today with three Honda’s qualifying within the first two rows with Eurotech’s Brett Smith qualifying third and Dan Cammish qualifying fourth for Team Dynamics. Turkington’s BMW coming in-between what would have been a Honda 1-2-3.
On what was the first ever pole position for the new Team Dynamics Honda, Matt Neal said, “I was hanging everything out there!” He continued, “I’m really chuffed, it just shows the new Type R’s up for it.”
Speaking on the Honda’s impressive record around Thruxton, Neal stated, “Thruxton’s always like a home Grand Prix for us with Honda manufacturing in Swindon. It’s also Yuasa’ 100th Birthday so it’s a special event for us.”
He also admitted “It hasn’t been our year so far, but we’re always hopeful. It would be nice to get a win this weekend to break the duct.” Speaking on whether or not it’s possible, Neal said, “We did a good race sim this morning and that worked out well, it was really kind to the tyres. The trouble is Colin (Turkington) is alongside in the fast-starting BMW, so it’s game on!”
Colin Turkington said, “I’m glad he (Matt Neal) is worried already, but I’m really pleased. The BMW’s been fantastic all day. Thruxton isn’t one of our best tracks so it’s normally more difficult for us here but I’ve had a great car all morning and credit to Team BMW. They’ve kept making it a little bit better but front wheel drive over one lap is hard to match – it was a great lap!”
Turkington also admitted that “It was the fastest time I’ve ever done around here, so I’m really pleased with that one. The warmer the better it will be with the BMW, the race will come to us but it’s all about tyre management, so we’ll see tomorrow.”
Brett Smith was “chuffed to bits” with qualifying third for the opening race tomorrow. He added, “So far I think I’ve had two p 9’s in qualifying, Saturday’s not been a particularly big issue for me, but p3, I’m chuffed to bits with that!”
He continued, “I knew it was in the car and me, I’m not trying to big myself up too much but I ended up getting myself so worked up beforehand I ended up being sick – James Hunt style!”
Speaking on his dad, Jeff Smith not being at Thruxton this weekend, Brett jokingly commented, “I think he might be a bad luck charm, keep him away for a little bit longer.” Talking about his chances tomorrow, Brett concluded, “I want to get a podium, we haven’t got any ballast onboard, I’m not actually sure who’s p1 and p2 but hopefully they’ve got a bit of ballast onboard, but a podium minimum!”
It was another qualifying session with plenty of laps taken away due to track limits, including Championship leader Tom Ingram who got two on two consecutive laps in which were his quickest. As a result, Ingram will start tomorrow’s first race from sixth on the grid, not bad considering he had maximum ballast on board.
We should be in for three brilliant races tomorrow with tyre wear being particularly key, especially if it is as hot as it was today
Pictures courtesy of the British Touring Car Championship and Colin Turkington
By Jordan Hollands