It was a case of right time, right place for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing’s Jason Plato in what turned out to be a game of cat and mouse between the BTCC race teams and the damp-but-drying Knockhill track in the latest Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session at Knockhill.
A heavy downpour just before the start of the session forced some last minute strategy changes for all teams – with the majority of cars opting for the wet weather tyres to start the session. The opening laps of the session were a mere prelude to the final 10 minutes of an increasingly dramatic session.
As a dry line started to appear on track, several drivers took the gamble to switch to slick tyres, with Scotland’s Aiden Moffat and Rory Butcher among those. And, it was a lack of grip that ultimately forced Butcher into the gravel at McIntyre’s corner as he tried to avoid another car. There were also two red flag incidents to contend with, for the repositioning of some track furniture at the Arnold Clark Chicane – a corner synonymous with spectacular 2-wheeled action.
As the time ticked away, the lap times began to tumble and it became apparent that the driver with the last clear lap on track would likely be the one to claim pole. Indeed, the order had jumped up and down throughout the remaining five minutes so much that Jordan, Jackson, Chilton, Collard and Sutton all held that pole position for a ‘moment’ (with god only knows how many positional changes below that) – and It was literally a ‘moment’, with the timing screens going into overdrive with more shuffling of the order than the previous two sessions combined.
Ultimately though, just as it seemed the order would be Sutton, Turkington and Collard; with the chequered flag appearing on the timing screens, Plato still had one last lap to make it count… and make it count he did. Taking a dramatic last-gasp pole with a lap of 52.579 seconds to end up ahead of his Subaru teammate Ash Sutton by just 0.089 seconds.
Plato’s delight was obviously tempered by a number of frustrated figures including defending Champion Gordon Shedden:
“P9 is ok. I’m just slightly frustrated as there was more in the car. It was a difficult session and when it’s like that track positioning can play a key role and we were just in the wrong place at the time,” said Shedden.
That ‘what if’ scenario will probably be running through a number of racers heads this evening with the likes of Matt Neal (P21), Aiden Moffat (P27), Rob Austin (P23), and Andrew Jordan (P17) on the flip-side to Plato’s elation:
“Wow, 50 career poles. I never realised that. But do you know what, we have had a torturous year and in those conditions when you have to feel your way around, I love it. We still have to understand why my car isn’t doing what I want it to do, but if there is a win to be had tomorrow I’ll be driving accordingly. I also have to be mindful of Ash’s championship challenge and it’s good to have a Subaru 1-2 here this weekend,” concluded Plato.
With all that drama, and a bit of dubiety about Plato’s pole which may still have implications for the grid for tomorrow’s opening race of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Loking Northern (UK) sponsored raceday… one thing is for sure; with the likes of Neal, Jordan, Moffat and Austin having ground to make up… tomorrow’s racing will be pretty epic.
Tickets for the BTCC Lokring Northern (UK) Raceday can be booked online until midnight tonight – subject to ticket collection at the track and at the advanced discounted rate. Alternatively, tickets will be available on the gate for tomorrow’s bumper BTCC meeting.