Crisis – what crisis? appears to be the headline at Donington Park after the Subaru Levorg of Ashley Sutton took pole position for the second meeting of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship.
But after setting a lap-record breaking 1 min 09.412sec lap around the 1.9-mile Leicestershire track early in the 30-minute qualifying session, Sutton’s Subaru was later adjudged to have contravened technical regulations with its turbo overboost, and the car was put to the back of the grid.
The session had appeared a complete turnaround for Subaru, which just two weeks earlier at the opening round of the series at Brands Hatch had looked a team in serious trouble. Following a technical update during the off-season, aiming to even up the advantage of the Subaru’s low, compact engine with other cars in the field, had been further modified just four days before the meeting.
The changes caused much controversy, with driver Jason Plato describing them as a total ‘curve-ball’ though BTCC organiser TOCA insisted the second modification was in Subaru’s favour.
The rest of the four-car Subaru team continued to struggle at Donington, Plato the fastest but only in 17th place, 0.63sec behind his team-mate.
Sutton’s penalty promoted the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis of Rob Austin to the pole. Austin was the only driver to improve in the six minutes remaining after the session was red flagged for fluid on the track, a strong performance from a driver who had been consistently in the top five throughout Friday’s practice sessions.
Equally impressive was Jack Goff, who put his Eurotech Honda Civic Type R into what became second spot, well ahead of the expected title contending Team Dynamics Hondas of Matt Neal and round two winner Gordon Shedden who could only manage an eventual fifth and sixth.
Round one winner Tom Ingram took third spot in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis, with the Laser Tools Racing Mercedes A-Class of Aiden Moffat fourth. Shedden completed the top five after the TAG Racing Volkswagen CC of Jake Hill was also sent to the back of the 32-car grid when its rear wing was found to be outside of the regulation angle.
Among teams with work to do is the BMW squad – fastest of the trio is Colin Turkington, winner of the third race at Brands Hatch, but he could only take 10th, team-mates Rob Collard and Andy Jordan in 13th and 14th. And the Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra of Tom Chilton, which impressed in its debut at Brands Hatch, will start 12th.
The first of three 16-lap races is set to start at 11.37 on Sunday in front of a crowd that could be well over 20,000. Check back to The Car Expert for a full report on Sunday’s action.