Former champ Jason Plato may well start the first of tomorrow’s British Touring Car Championship triple-header from pole position in his Chevrolet, but the Oxford-based driver had no hesitation in pointing the finger who he felt was the real winner: Fifer Gordon Shedden.
The Dalgety Bay racer, a 10-time BTCC winner before he was unceremoniously dumped by his Team Dynamics outfit after the first round at Brands Hatch this season, delivered a blistering display of driving to qualify second on the grid.
Piloting his Seat Leon for Glasgow-based Clyde Valley Racing, 30-year-old Shedden gave the Cartridge World-backed team its best-ever qualifying performance. The Scot drove the car for the first time a fortnight ago at Snetterton.
“This is brilliant, awesome,” the Dalgety Bay racer, a BTCC winner at Knockhill in 2007, beamed after lapping the 1.3-mile track in 53.443secs, just 0.073s behind Plato’s Chevrolet. “It’s the first BTCC front-row start for me at Knockhill, and the team’s best-ever qualifying performance. It definitely surprised everybody in the paddock, but just shows the potential the team has.
“The guys have worked their socks off to deliver a car which was fast right out of the box this morning. I can’t praise them highly enough. Team boss Colin (Neill) deserves all the plaudits he gets. He’s worked wonders.
“Sure, qualifying’s one thing and racing’s another. But to deliver the pace we showed today is a real boost for everyone. But we know tomorrow’s going to be tough, especially with three fast-starting BMWs behind me.”
Neill’s fledgling team, which only came into being in March this year, prides itself on being carbon neutral and runs on bioethanol fuel. And the team boss was quick to heap praise on Shedden, who outpaced the third-placed BMW of Kirkcaldy’s Adam by 0.045s.
“Gordon only came into the team a fortnight ago and he’s made a fantastic difference,” a clearly chuffed Neill said. “Everyone knows he’s a fast driver, what people don’t see is what he does behind the scenes.
“He’s a true team leader and is great at developing and setting up a car. The progress we have made is brilliant and it’s terrific to see us, and Gordon, get the rewards today. The whole garage is buzzing, but now we have to focus on the races.”
Plato, the 2001 champ and a double winner at Knockhill last year driving the Seat — which was diesel-powered in 2008 — was swift to acknowledge Shedden’s achievements.
“Yup, ‘Flash’ did a good job today,” the Englishman said. “God he made me work bloody hard to get pole. Twice he was at the top of the timesheets, and twice I had to go even faster to get ahead of him. He’s been the star today.”
James Thompson, who took Shedden’s seat in the Team Dynamics Honda, qualified a distant 13th, while Fabrizio Giovanardi suffered a severe dent to his championship hopes.
The Italian’s main rival, former Knockhill race instructor Colin Turkington who leads the Italian by 17 points, lines up fourth in his RAC BMW but Giovanardi struggled to post the 11th-fastest time in his Vauxhall.
“We’ve made it tough for ourselves tomorrow,” Giovanardi, who won twice at Snetterton said, “but I’ve won from further back in the grid than this. I’m going to have to get aggressive right from the start, so those in front better look out.”
Meanwhile Aberdeen’s Glynn Geddie put himself in with a chance of a podium finish in the Porsche Carrera Cup when he qualified second in class, and sixth overall, in his Team Parker Porsche 911.
The 19-year-old, coached by former Porsche champ Barry Horne from Dunfermline and backed by controldriving.com, clocked a best time of 56.896secs, just 0.430s off pole set by Tim Bridgman and just 0.209s behind class leader Robert Lawson.
“Hopefully I can close the gap further on Robert this weekend,” Geddie, who claimed two wins and two pole positions at the last double-header at Snetterton a fortnight ago to close cut the Englishman’s advantage to just 18 points, said.
“It’s always a good feeling to come back to Knockhill and race in front of so many family and friends. I’ll be doing everything I can to ensure they have something to celebrate.”