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Newsham takes shock BTCC pole at Brands Hatch

Saturday, March 31 2012

Dave Newsham has taken a surprise pole position for the opening British Touring Car Championship race of the 2012 season at Brands Hatch. The Vectra driver took advantage of older equipment, with the new NGTC cars still building up speed, however the Honda Civic of Matt Neal will start alongside him on the front row tomorrow (Sunday), with Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan lining up behind on the grid.

Once again it was Rob Austin setting the early pace as others were fine-tuning their cars, however WSR's Tom Onslow-Cole and Nick Foster joined in as lap speeds began to match the times set earlier. Redstone's Mat Jackson also served early notice of intent but there was a great deal of anticipation over what the Hondas and MGs were capable of in the session.

Newsham was next to impress, almost half a second clear of Onslow-Cole after ten minutes and already the quickest lap of the weekend so far. As Jason Plato strapped himself into the MG, Neal set his first flying lap putting him momentarily third. Andrew Jordan was also straight on the pace and with Neal improving, Newsham's time looked to be under serious threat.

Gordon Shedden's Civic finally left the garage with half the session remaining after sitting out much of practice, but still needed more work before it left the pit lane. Plato, too, wasn't doing much to trouble the lap counters initially, but two strong efforts hauled the MG up to seventh and then fifth place. Shedden's progress was a little slower, but the troubled Honda driver left the back row of the grid behind and headed towards the top ten.

With five minutes remaining, Newsham sat out of the running for the final push, so the Honda Racing team mates provided much of the excitement. Shedden temporarily held fourth, before Neal retook the place and with Shedden's lap then disallowed for exceeding track limits, the reigning champion improved to take his place on the front row.

Meanwhile WSR's promising form yielded third place for Collard, with Jordan between him and new team mate Onslow-Cole. Plato ended up in sixth, a useful position for the new MG, and ahead of Austin's Audi. Frank Wrathall will line up eighth tomorrow, with Shedden and Foster completing a top ten separated by just half a second. Redstone Racing lost out in the session, with Mat Jackson starting 11th and Aron Smith 14th.

Newsham's pace confirms the promise shown by him in official testing, however with the Brands Hatch grid situated on a gradient, Neal may hold an advantage tomorrow. Race one will take place at 11:47am.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Qualifying

1, David Newsham, Team ES Racing.com, Vauxhall Vectra, 48.483s
2, Matt Neal, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic, +0.132s
3, Robert Collard, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, +0.215s
4, Andrew Jordan, Pirtek Racing, Honda Civic, +0.215s
5, Tom Onslow-Cole, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, +0.282s
6, Jason Plato, MG KX Momentum Racing, MG6, +0.385s
7, Rob Austin, Rob Austin Racing, Audi A4, +0.400s
8, Frank Wrathall, Dynojet, Toyota Avensis, +0.480s
9, Gordon Shedden, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic, +0.539s
10, Nick Foster, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, +0.595s

Raceday tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch are available on the gate for £30. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.