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Blink Once and You'll Miss It: Jackson Steals Rockingham Pole

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

In what was yet another classic qualifying session, Mat Jackson breaks his 6 year dry spell by storming to a sensational pole at Rockingham, despite an all or nothing last minute run from Shedden. After an all round disappointing outing at Knockhill, Team BMR complete a fruitful qualifying with Smith planting his car on the front row, while Plato and Turkington lie only a few places behind. While Jackson celebrates a long awaited pole, Tom Ingram acquires a career best 5th in his Toyota Avensis, having topped the times early on. 

To say that that Rockingham is far removed from the tight, twisty and undulating Knockhill circuit would be nothing short of a considerable understatement. The intricate demands of Knockhill are now but a distant memory; based on an ova,l Rockingham requires speed as the secret to success. The combination of sweeping turns and tight hairpins never fails to bring the excitement to the drivers, teams and fans.

As qualifying got underway, the timing screens were set ablaze as the times began pouring in. In fact, in my many years of following the championship, I don’t think I have ever seen such a fast jostling for grid positions. Look away for more than the time it takes to turn on the light and you have missed everything. However, as the session rolled on the contenders began to make themselves known. Jackson, Ingram, Plato and Neal were swapping time sheet toppers lap after lap. This was until Tom Ingram decided to kill it all stone dead and set a blistering lap that saw him get comfortable in provisional pole. A little too comfortable perhaps?

It was not long before Goff not only knocked Tingram off the top, but beat the lap record in the process. The Snetterton sensation would not get a chance to celebrate mind, as Aron Smith in the Team BMR Passat planted himself in pole, before being toppled by the flying Motorbase Ford of Jackson.

With 3 minutes remaining, the Infiniti of Palmer decided to have a little frollock in the sand pit, bringing out the red flags, resetting the time back to 5 minutes. Enough for one final crack at the top. In typical Flash-ion (yes, I have coined a new phrase), Shedden left it to the dying seconds before setting his final time. Despite smashing the first sector time, the rest of his lap was only enough to move him to 3rd. Still an achievement worthy of much credit!

Jackson’s lap marked the first time since 2009 that he will start the first race of the day in pole position, while also claiming the maiden pole for the Motorbase team. I have often compared the returning Ford team this year to that of 1993 when Rouse and Radisich entered the Ford Mondeo for the second half of the year. It would now seem that similar to 22 years ago, the Ford is once again causing an upset with the established championship contenders. They may come and go, but this is exactly why Ford may well be THE manufacturer that defines what the BTCC is all about.

Qualifying produced one of the most fast paced sessions of the year so far. Photo Credit:

Qualifying produced one of the craziest sessions of the year so far. Photo Credit:

The last few rounds have not brought much luck for Aron Smith, so securing second for race day comes as a massive relief for the BMR man. Perhaps this is the moment where his championship gets back on track? In the Speedworks camp, in a car that many think might have passed its best, Tingram has done a sensational job to get his Toyota Avensis into 5th. With every turn of the wheel, Tom Ingram is driving his way to many future championships. Building on his home town podium, Moffat produced a superb 8th in a car that many thought would struggle around the Rockingham oval.

Speaking of Mercedes, consistent top finisher Morgan found himself in a lowly 19th after struggling to gain a competitive time. I was also surprised to see the Rob Austin Racing boys not battling it out in the top 10, with Austin 13th and Abbott 18th. Rockingham has given Rob two wins in the past; despite his starting position there is no doubt he will be challenging for his third victory.

After his character building Snetterton weekend, Smith remarked that the further down the field you are, often the driving standards do drop some what. I am not normally one to be so damning of drivers, but after the incident between Stewart Lines and Kieran Gallagher during qualifying, I may take a slight diversion from my usual thinking. After the red flag, while both warming their tyres for a fast lap Lines weaved straight into the side of Gallagher who nearly lost control of his car. At first you may think that Kieran is free of blame, but as Tim Harvey remarked, it reflects bad driving on both sides. Gallagher could see Lines was weaving and should not have been driving so close to him. After all, Rockingham is a pretty wide track in places! The pair would finish the session 28th and 29th respectively. Perhaps Smith was right after all.

qualifying results

In what has become tradition for the BTCC in 2015, the top 19 were covered by less than a second, once again proving the success and excitement so prolific in the series! In what is becoming one of the most fascinating championship battles for years, will Rockingham be the catalyst for the champion to make himself known?

Expect BMR to return to their titan toppling best as race day rolls around, while Honda will never be far away from the top step of the podium. But let us not forget Tom Ingram who could be on course for his maiden win. Tingram has been on blistering pace since the get go; one would be foolish to bet against him. I will also put my neck on the line and say that Rockingham could well host a return to form for the Power Maxed Racing squad. Both Newsham and Cook have impressed so far, let us see what Sunday brings!

Most of all, all eyes will be on Jackson who continues his epic return to the BTCC. Can Ford cause any further upsets to proceedings?

BREAKING NEWS: Just as I finish writing this, Shedden has been handed a 4 place grid penalty for a pit lane infringement for speeding past the BMR cars as everyone returned to the track following the red flag. 

It is really rather hard to say that the BTCC does not excite! With Shedden now starting 7th, will the Scottish red mist descend tomorrow? With John Cleland also racing at Rockingham in the Historic Super Tourers this weekend, Flash may well be getting some pointers!


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Peace and Love!