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Onslow-Cole steals BTCC title contenders' thunder in qualifying

Saturday, October 20 2012

Tom Onslow-Cole has taken a superb pole position for tomorrow's first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race in a thrilling session. The eBay Motors BMW driver headed championship contenders Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal, who were both in the hunt. Jason Plato ended qualifying in the gravel, whilst Gordon Shedden was unable to break into the top five.

There were spots of rain in the air as the session neared, a state of affairs that could finely affect the delicate championship balance. Aside from the variable it introduces, the MGs were not thought to be quite so effective when conditions deteriorate.

Meanwhile the eBay Motors BMWs were performing well once more, with Rob Austin and Will Bratt's rear-wheel drive Audis also in early contention. As Plato took his place in the top three, he headed Frank Wrathall, whose Toyota was smoking quite badly. Plato then took provisional pole and there was a sense of urgency in case Wrathall's car would be damaging the condition of the track.

The Hondas improved to seventh and eighth but Jordan's was now at the top, however a problem for Chris James, stranded in the gravel at Surtees, brought out the red flag. Poor Shedden had just started a flying lap.

As the session restarted, Wrathall continued to fill the air with smoke before returning to the garage opposite Surtees. The works Hondas ran together as they worked on heading up the grid. They took second and third places behind Jordan and with Plato fourth, the contenders were reunited on the timesheets, for the moment at least.

Neal improved to fastest time and with Shedden pitting, the reigning champion provided a counter for Plato, currently working on his position. The MG also pitted, as did Neal, whilst Jordan took advantage of a rapidly clearing track, but not before Tom Onslow-Cole put his BMW at the top of the order.

This left everyone one final chance to respond and Shedden was first to try but was unable to improve his time or place. Adam Morgan then surprised with fourth place ahead of the two top contenders. Neal went sideways at Paddock Hill on his next effort, as Plato redoubled his efforts for a final flyer.

The MG driver's attempt, throwing caution to the wind, was enough for just the second row but Jordan was really charging and missed out on pole by just a hundredth of a second. Plato tried to respond but ended up in the gravel at Paddock as Shedden missed a chance to improve.

All eyes, however, were on Jordan and Onslow-Cole. The Honda took pole but within a second lost it once more to the BMW by less than a tenth. It was a stunning end to a tense session, with the BMW very much the joker in the championship pack. Collard helped the eBay cause for Independent honours, with Plato further demoted to row three alongside Morgan. Shedden will need to stay with the MG however, whilst behind him there was a fantastic debut performance from Aaron Williamson in the Team HARD Civic. Redstone's Mat Jackson and ES Racing's Dave Newsham completed the top ten.

Race one will take place at 11:32am tomorrow. Fans can also enjoy a free pitlane walkabout at 9:10am, plus three giant screens showing all of the action throughout the day, including the three title-deciding rounds of the BTCC.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Qualifying

1, Tom Onslow-Cole, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, 1:31.615s
2, Andrew Jordan, Pirtek Racing, Honda Civic, +0.088s
3, Matt Neal, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic, +0.301s
4, Rob Collard, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, +0.557s
5, Jason Plato, MG KX Momentum Racing, MG6, +0.582s
6, Adam Morgan, Speedworks Motorsport, Toyota Avensis, +0.585s
7, Gordon Shedden, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic, +0.608s
8, Aaron Williamson, RCIB Insurance & HARD, Honda Civic, +0.737s
9, Mat Jackson, Redstone Racing, Ford Focus ST, +0.785s
10, Dave Newsham, Team ES Racing.com, Vauxhall Vectra, +0.807s

Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on 21 October are available on the gate for £30 on Sunday, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.