BTCC season finale live from Brands Hatch on ITV4 tomorrow
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters' Tom Ingram claimed the final Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship pole position of the season earlier today (14 November) as the 27-year-old mastered the wet conditions on Brands Hatch's Indy circuit.
Not only was it a stellar display from Ingram, but it has also hauled the Toyota star one point closer to standings leader Colin Turkington ahead of tomorrow's triple-header finale.
With a quintet of drivers still in contention to claim the most coveted prize in British motorsport, it was the two title outsiders that produced the goods, as Motorbase Performance's Rory Butcher completed the front row positions.
Another pair of title chasers were next in the order as Laser Tools Racing's Ash Sutton pipped Halfords Yuasa Racing's Dan Cammish to third. Such was the competitiveness of the session that the top four cars were separated by just 0.083s.
Ollie Jackson made it a double celebration for Motorbase Performance as he grabbed fifth at the team's local circuit, fresh from his victory at Snetterton last time out and continuing his sensational run of form during the second half of the season.
The rain made for an exciting session for those watching but it was a nerve-wracking experience for the 27 drivers on track.
Paddock Hill Bend is one of the most notorious corners in the world of motor racing, but it was Surtees, Druids and Clearways that initially proved most tricky. Matt Neal (Halfords Yuasa Racing), Carl Boardley (HUB Financial Solutions with Team HARD), Senna Proctor (Excelr8 Motorsport), Jack Butel (Carlube TripleR Racing with Mac Tools) and Cammish all had off-track moments in the first half of the session before Paddock eventually took its first victim.
Neal – the most experienced driver on the grid – endured his second skirmish as he ran through the gravel at Paddock, before local man Jake Hill went even deeper into the corner and eventually made contact with the barrier, bringing about a second red flag stoppage.
Proctor's aforementioned incident caused the first halt to proceedings whilst Boardley's third and final incident brought the session to a premature end.
MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square's Hill lost his fastest lap – part of the penalty for causing a red flag – but had still set a quick enough backup time to take sixth on the grid ahead of Neal.
Defending champion Turkington had to make do with eighth in his maximum ballast-laden BMW 3 Series, but was rewarded with the Goodyear Wingfoot Award thanks to his superior qualifying positions across the season.
Paul Rivett (GKR TradePriceCars.com) starred to take ninth in his Audi S3 and will line up alongside BTC Racing's Josh Cook for tomorrow's opener.
Rounds 25, 26 and 27 of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship take place tomorrow with all the action aired live on ITV4 from 0920. The races start at 1000, 1232 and 1514 respectively with the title race set to go down to the wire.
Team BMW's Turkington holds a nine-point advantage over Sutton ahead of this unmissable finale, while Cammish is a further 16 points in arrears. Ingram is eight points behind Cammish, whilst Butcher only holds an extremely slim mathematical chance of claiming the crown.
Tom Ingram said: "That was super tricky, it was really slippery! It took quite a while to get into a rhythm because the circuit felt very different from Free Practice, so we were actually chasing some of the set up during the session. My engineer came over the radio with some really inspired set up choices which we went with and it just transformed the car. It was a challenging session but I’m very, very pleased to get it done.
"A lot of the time it’s about a bit of luck, maybe just catching it at the right time, you’ve got your tyre temp just at the right time and you get a bit of clear space. The wet tyre is a very good tyre but you get such a small margin for it to be at its absolute peak performance, especially on such a short lap, when there’s a bit of traffic and so many people going off.
"I feel really relaxed this weekend, more than any other event previously, I think it’s probably because there’s no direct pressure on me? I can do the best job I can, qualify on pole and win all three races tomorrow, but if everyone else we're fighting against is directly behind then it’s null and void. The team and I can only do the best job we can, and if it’s enough, it’s enough. So I feel very relaxed, very chilled, which actually is a nice place to be."
Rory Butcher said: "It was all about finding that window, I was setting up the car throughout the session and then it came. We got that lap at the end and for a moment we were on pole and then Tom just pipped us.
"It’s not my title to win this year, I’m a bit like Tom in that the pressure’s off now. We’re so far off in terms of points that our focus is just to have a good end to the year and go into winter feeling really positive. We’ve started the weekend really well with a front row start and we just need to keep that going."
Ash Sutton said: "We were caught out with that last red flag, we couldn’t respond to what Tom and Rory had put in. Obviously we were sitting pretty for about 75% of it so really happy. There’s a little bit left on the table, I didn’t want to be the driver again like at Croft where I went off, caused a red flag and lost my best lap. So there’s a little bit left on the table, we put in a good lap, we’re in a good position, unfortunately we just didn’t get to respond to Tom and Rory.
"I’m in my element, I absolutely love the wet. Whatever car, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, it’s my favourite. I feel at home, there’s a little bit of pressure for me taking off because obviously going against Colin in the BMW is hard, but I feel much more in my comfort zone when it comes to the wet."
2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Brands Hatch Indy
1 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters 54.950s
2 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.024s
3 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.034s
4 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.083s
5 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) Motorbase Performance +0.189s
6 Jake HILL (GBR) MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square +0.306s
7 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.329s
8 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.431s
9 Paul RIVETT (GBR) GKR TradePriceCars.com +0.454s
10 Josh COOK (GBR) BTC Racing +0.499s
11 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +0.531s
12 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Team BMW +0.534s
13 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.577s
14 Jack GOFF (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +0.772s
15 Chris SMILEY (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +0.819s
16 Tom CHILTON (GBR) BTC Racing +0.849s
17 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Carlube TripleR Racing with Mac Tools +0.916s
18 Carl BOARDLEY (GBR) HUB Financial Solutions with Team HARD +0.917s
19 Nicolas HAMILTON (GBR) ROKiT Racing with Team HARD +1.035s
20 Andy NEATE (GBR) Motorbase Performance +1.125s
21 Sam OSBORNE (GBR) MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square +1.204s
22 Michael CREES (GBR) The Clever Baggers with BTC Racing +1.363s
23 Ethan HAMMERTON (GBR) GKR TradePriceCars.com +1.378s
24 Glynn GEDDIE (GBR) RCIB Insurance with Fox Transport +1.540s
25 Brad PHILPOT (GBR) Power Maxed Car Care Racing +1.566s
26 Jack BUTEL (GBR) Carlube TripleR Racing with Mac Tools +2.445s
27 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Excelr8 Motorsport +2.496s