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BTCC 2015: Priaulx's Perfect Pole

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

In what can only be described as an explosive return to form, the British Touring Car Championship returned to its majestic form as the cars took to the Brands Hatch tarmac to qualify for the first round of the series. Across the two free practice sessions, there was action a plenty that eventually saw returning touring car legend Andy Priaulx take pole position ahead of the BMR boys.

After what seemed like an endless winter the BTCC has returned to the welcoming arms of the British fans. As if almost to continue tradition, my arrival to the timeless Brands Hatch circuit was shrouded in a windy, cold and damp embrace. Throughout the day the teams, fans and commentators were taking their bets on the future of the weather; would the clouds release their race changing moisture unto the tarmac, or would the sun burst through the clouds? As it turned out, the day started miserably and would slowly improve, with the emphasis solely on ‘slowly’. Upon entering the circuit, I found myself walking in on the first free practice session for the touring cars. The combination of the sound of those two litre engines mixed with the familiar smell of petrol and exhaust created an almost homely feel, like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while. But enough of the emotional stuff, you are hear to read about the BTCC.

Across the two free practice sessions there were a good number of surprises; this may have been down to the fluidity of the weather conditions mind you. Of all the drivers, I was most impressed by the skills of Tingram himself. Tom Ingram was absolutely storming during the first two sessions, setting the precedent for the other drivers. While some of the big names appeared to wallow in the mid pack, Tingram and other surprises like Josh Cook were fighting for the top places. For Josh Cook, FP1 gave him a staggering 3rd place, alas in the second an issue with the car stopped him for going out on track.

Ingram showed impressive pace throughout practice and qualifying. Photo Credit:

Ingram showed impressive pace throughout practice and qualifying. Photo Credit:

FP2 proved fruitful for the BMR boys, apart from Warren Scott who suffered with what seemed to be a rather loose back end. From my vantage point at Clearways I saw him lose the car several time, almost chucking it away into the gravel. But credit where credit is due, every time he managed to save it masterfully. This was until he lost the car going into Paddock Hill bend and caused substantial damage to the front of the car. Questions were asked whether BMR would be able to put it back together in time for qualifying. The race was on.

As qualifying rolled around, it was like there was an unspoken agreement across the paddock to suddenly turn the volume up to 11. Times that had been set in similar conditions earlier in the day began to tumble left right and centre. The headlines were stolen by none other than returning world champion Andy Priaulx, who grabbed pole by 0.069 seconds in a rather spectacular manner. It was almost like 2002 had never ended; this also means that for the first time in his career, Andy is leading the BTCC (following his single point for pole)

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

”I thought anything inside the top six would have been nice. We were taking nothing for granted – this is a top series but we’re happy to have made the most of it. I just went into the first qualifying session with a really good, positive feeling. I actually think we’re stronger in race trim, because the car in testing has lacked a little bit of maybe that ultimate one-lap pace. This is my first pole position for a long time and I’m absolutely delighted. That’s where I want to be. I think I’ve improved a lot as a driver over the last four years and now I feel that’s showing.” – Andy Priaulx

Behind him, the BMR juggernaut dominated the next three places with Smith, Plato and Turkington respectively. I have been wondering how Colin Turkington will be feeling sitting in 4th place while in the distance he sees what was essentially his old car planted on pole. However, it is important to note that this is the first time Colin is carrying the #1 on his car, so he won’t be complaining too much. Weirdly, even though Plato got a solid 3rd on the grid, he has been frustrated with what he says is an ongoing power steering issue.

The new look Hondas only managed 7th and 11th for Shedden and Neal, but Neal is confident that the car will bring him race wins and even the championship this year. Seems hard to believe considering he only managed 11th. After impressing in FP1, Josh Cook in the #RacingForHeroes car could only manage 20th after what turned out to be a misfire he had been suffering. So to only be a second off the pace with an engine difficulty is nothing to be ashamed of. The potential he showed earlier in the day would suggest that with the car fixed, strong results will follow tomorrow. And in many ways he may have unwittingly made a good decision, by starting further down the grid, he will avoid the inevitable first corner of the year drama and can power through to the top places.

The biggest disappoints for me in qualifying was the Welch Protons and the Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing teams. With Welch out with a broken foot, it was all down to Andy Wilmot to impress in his Proton. Alas, impress he did not. The Proton was very much off the pace for most of the day, managing a days best of 52.665, 4.2 seconds off the pole time. This was almost definitely down to the Welch-built power plant, the same demon that haunted them in the 2014 season. Hopefully they can sort out their issues before the race tomorrow. I was filled with a deep sympathy; Welch Motorsport has always been a favourite of mine and I have long been hoping for them to find their form. Support Our Paras struggled throughout the day and will line up for the first race 24th. The manufacturer-backed team have been riddled with issues since their inception and have only been able to enter one of their two cars. Considering the media madness that has surrounded them I was expecting a little better, but I guess they can develop over time and ease into the championship.

It is a true testament to the championship that the first 20 cars were separated only by 1.1 seconds. For all the cars to be that close shows the genius behind the ever evolving NGTC regulations; one tiny mistake can cost you a whole handful of positions.

For full qualifying results:

Josh Cook may become a contender across the season. Photo Credit:

Josh Cook may become a contender across the season. Photo Credit:

Lewis and His Race Predictions

For some reason, while writing the title to this final section I decided that writing in the 3rd person transformed me into someone more edgy and memorable. That’s for future generations to decide (or not). Anyway, as the first race gets tantalizingly closer I would like to present some of my predictions:

  • Andy Priaulx will fast return to his season ending form of 2002 and put in some strong results, possibly even a race win
  • Jason Plato will rediscover his notorious “push-to-pass” tactics to get himself a race win (as he has become famous for doing in new teams that he joins)
  • Tingram will be one to watch after showing such monstrously impressive pace in the free practice sessions
  • Power Maxed will bank some promising results in what has been proven to be a highly competitive car
  • Aron Smith will end the weekend as the top BMR driver; with all the attention on Plato and Turkington it keeps him out the spotlight to deliver consistent strong results.
  • The reverse grid will provide a brand new winner in the championship, namely Jack Goff or Tom Ingram
  • With the competition improving every year, this may be the time when Honda’s seemingly lifelong dominance is broken and they will struggle to plant their new Civics at the front.
To Infiniti and.. 24th! Photo Credit: Adam Johnson

To Infiniti and.. 24th! Photo Credit: Adam Johnson

I could sit here presenting you my views for as long as I wanted, but until the day is done who truly knows what will happen? The greatest touring car series in the world has returned, and now it is time for action.

It’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. This is BTCC.

Let’s do this!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69 for all my reactions across race day

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!