Jason Plato took the 51st pole position of his career at Silverstone on a strong Saturday for the Vauxhall Astra driver. Plato, whose last BTCC race win came in 2017 set the pace in both morning practice sessions before setting a 53.430s pole lap around the 1.64-mile national circuit.
Speaking after qualifying, Plato said “I’m really pleased for everyone here. We’ve kept chipping away all year. I’ve made a couple of parking errors that have cost us a couple of good results I think. We knew it was going to come, we just had to keep motivated and keep at it. It’s great. I started to look at getting a tow early on but it was just ruining my vision. I did all my times this morning in clear air so I just thought ‘let’s get on with it’. Lining up on the grid is easy here because it’s a straight piece of Tarmac. I’ve had two uncompetitive years – that hurt. I knew I hadn’t forgotten how to drive a car. I just needed the right equipment. This Astra is a great little car and it’s nice to be back with Vauxhall – where I won my first title. We’ve got a lot of that team here and it’s working nicely.”
Honda Civic duo Chris Smiley and Matt Neal followed Plato in 2nd and 3rd, and until the last minutes of qualifying it looked like the old Plato vs Neal rivalry would be reignited from the front row of the grid. Smiley split the pair in the closing minutes of the session.
Tom Ingram followed Neal in 4th as he set a fast lap before spinning at Copse Corner on his second run. Team BMW driver Tom Oliphant will line up in 5th after leading the way for much of the session. Turkington finished in 6th after spending much of the session outside the top ten marking the first of the 2019 championship contenders.
Dan Cammish, Ash Sutton, Josh Cook and Senna Proctor completed the top ten, with Turkington’s teammate and championship rival Andrew Jordan qualifying down the order in 14th. Both Jordan, and Rory Butcher in 12th face an uphill battle tomorrow to keep up with their fellow drivers in the top five of the championship table.
Quotes from Chris Smiley and Matt Neal after qualifying.
Chris Smiley said: “I’m happy enough. Second is good enough. There’s a little bit left in the car. We’re on the front row and the guys have done a great job. We’ve worked on the car in a few different areas and the lap time came to us. We’ve got the faster soft tyre for the opener tomorrow and we want to win races. The weather looks sketchy but it’s the same for everyone. I’m hoping it’s not changeable and a gamble. I don’t mind the rain, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Matt Neal said: “Old feuds never die. I was trying to get on the front row just to be alongside Jason (Plato). That gave me extra motivation and it looked to be on the cards for a while. Joking aside, I am really pleased with third. I was hoping we’d do a bit better as a team to get Dan (Cammish) up there as well, but the weight on his car was just a bit too much. Tomorrow, we need to see what the weather does. I imagine the BMWs will be all over us from the start, but we should have good race pace in the dry. If it’s wet then it could be a bit more of a lottery, but either way it will be a team game on our side.”
2019 – Qualifying – Silverstone
1 Jason PLATO (GBR) Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing 57.430s
2 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Racing +0.055s
3 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.059s
4 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Team Toyota GB with Ginsters +0.092s
5 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Team BMW +0.130s
6 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.138s
7 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.227s
8 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.247s
9 Josh COOK (GBR) BTC Racing +0.271s
10 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.275s
11 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.275s
12 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance +0.283s
13 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Cobra Sport AmD AutoAid/RCIB Insurance +0.318s
14 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.335s
15 Jack GOFF (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +0.347s
16 Michael CAINE (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.382s
17 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing +0.406s
18 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +0.407s
19 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.419s
20 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct +0.476s
21 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +0.529s
22 Jake HILL (GBR) TradePriceCars.com +0.541s
23 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +0.578s
24 Michael CREES (GBR) GKR Scaffolding with Autobrite Direct +0.597s
25 Daniel ROWBOTTOM (GBR) Cataclean Racing with Ciceley Motorsport +0.712s
26 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +0.762s
27 Carl BOARDLEY (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +0.843s
28 Mark BLUNDELL (GBR) TradePriceCars.com +0.933s
29 Rob SMITH (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +1.135s
30 Sam OSBORNE (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +1.529s